The best leaders are ALWAYS growing. Yesterday we took a look at five different ways that we can grow in the context of the ministry we lead. Today I want to talk about structured learning environments.

I’ve been in ministry for nearly 20 years now and I’m absolutely amazed at how much there is to learn. Incredible resources are being created every day and new best-practices are being developed. How we do ministry today will probably be different a few years from now. This is the case with everything and we would be good to continue to learn and train in new methods that prove to be more effective.

One of the best ways to learn is through structured learning environments. There are so many options in this area. Structured learning environments include attending classes in person or online, attending an online seminar or even attending a local or national conference. Whether it’s a four year degree, a two hour seminar or a three day event in another city, these learning environments can be very effective.

Here’s what I know about human nature. About ten years ago I went back to school and got my masters degree. It was a fantastic experience. The required online conversations pushed me to interact with my classmates. The weekly reading assignments exposed me to new ideas. Papers with due dates pushed me to accomplish things. In the end, I earned a masters degree in 18 months and I’m very proud of this accomplishment. One of my classes really intrigued me around the subject of brain-based learning. At the end of the class, I purchased about a dozen books on the subject. I had decided that I was going to really understand what brain-based learning is all about. Ten years later, all of those books are still sitting on my bookshelf… unread.


There was no due date. There was no required interaction with a classmate. There was no grade.

Most of us need structure around learning, otherwise we don’t prioritize it. This is why I really love a good conference. Next week I’m attending Orange for my 9th year. I know that it’s a three day event where I’ll learn far more than I can actually digest in three days. I realize that it will take weeks or even months for all the information to sink in. However, it’s three days where I get to learn from the best and brightest in ministry. It’s three days where I’m not following my normal schedule, but I’m learning the things I need to learn.

Did you score low in “structured learning environments” from the growth quiz in yesterday’s post? If so, I’d encourage you to find ways to prioritize this kind of growth. Take a look at your calendar and make plans to attend a conference. Here are some really great ones:

The Orange Conference
The Gathering
D6 Conference
Group’s Kidmin Conference
Lifeway’s Kids Ministry Conference
Group’s Kidmin Conference
Children’s Pastors Conference

Maybe you don’t have the budget to attend a big national conference. Hey, I get it. I’ve had to get creative to get the money at times in the past. I’ve even spent my own money to get there. I’ve never regretted the investment into my growth and you won’t either.

Other options are seminars or local events. They tend to be less expensive.

Maybe it’s even taking a class online.

Whatever it is, whatever your time allows and whatever you can afford, make structured learning environments a priority!