Keeping your learners fully engaged feat. Jim Galvin

Rick Duncan and Peyton Jones interview Jim Galvin on how to best engage learners. Listen as they speak through best practices for training adults.

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Introduction: Hi everybody, welcome to Send Network’s ongoing Training for Trainers resource. Thanks for joining us on our journey to learn together, how to make your transformational training even better. We want to encourage and empower you to keep growing in your confidence and competence as a trainer. Now, here are the hosts for today.

Rick Duncan: Hi, everybody. I’m Rick Duncan with the Send Network training for the North American Mission Board. My responsibility is training the trainers of church planters along the East Coast. And we want to welcome you here to this podcast. With me today is my co-host, Peyton Jones, who’s out there on the West Coast. Hello, Peyton. How you doing today?

Peyton Jones: Good, man. Good to be here.

Rick Duncan: Yeah, it’s good to hear your great voice. And then our guest today is Jim Galvin. Jim is an award-winning author, has written books published by Zondervan and Tyndale and Thomas Nelson. We’re going to be focusing on his latest book, which is called I’ve Got Your Back. We’ll talk a little bit more about where you can get that book. It’s wonderful. Jim has a master’s degree, and a bachelor’s degree from Wheaton. He’s got a doctorate of education from Northern Illinois University. So he’s wonderful, and probably a thing that is most intriguing to me about his authorship is that he was one of the original authors of the study notes with the Life Application Bible. Mac Lake is the guy that invited Peyton and me on to this Send Network training team. He made a strong recommendation, because my responsibility is to help ongoing Training for Trainers, that we talk to you, Jim. I think it was because of this particular book, I’ve Got Your Back. So if you could summarize, in just a couple of minutes or so what this book’s about, why it’s important. What would you say? How would you describe the heart of the book?

Jim Galvin: Well, the central message is, whatever position you serve in, to follow well. So who’s your leader? Who are you responsible to? And how do you follow well? How do you do your job fairly? How do you make his or her job easier? And you can do that on a scale of one to five. And the other point is, it’s not just our job, but we are following in many different capacities in life. Who’s leading us? Who are the other leaders in other aspects of life? How do we work together? How do we make their jobs easier? And how do we live every part of our lives following at level four or level five? So level three is just being compliant, just doing your job. The point of the book is, it’s probably not good enough. You can do better than that.

Rick Duncan: All right. So as trainers of church planters, and I’m particularly thinking about the cohort, what we’re looking for are level four and level five planters to be trained. Sometimes, what we get in our training are guys that are just going through the motions, because maybe the denomination has said, “”You have to get this training if you’re going to get the money from us.””

Jim Galvin: Right.

Rick Duncan: So they show up to the training. They might be level two or level three guys.

Peyton Jones: Yes, but they’re highly motivated.

Rick Duncan: Yeah, right. So how can we, as trainers, help guys move from levels two and three to level four? How can we help a level four guy get from level four to level five? How can that happen?

Jim Galvin: Yeah, so level five learners and followers, well every industry has the same challenge. How do you get people engaged? The first thing you need to realize is you’re dealing with adult learners. So there isn’t that college student seeking a degree. They’re adult learners. So they have their own goals. They have their own motivation. They have their own learning style. And if someone says, “”Hey, you have to come to Nashville and do this training.”” Okay? Sure, so they’ll go. Or they have to do, okay? And if that’s their mindset, then they’ll be present. They might check out mentally. They might listen attentively, but they’re not fully engaged yet. So, as trainers, you need to engage them. There’s a couple ways to do that. First is recognizing, they’re adult learners. They’re not learning this because you want them to learn it, or you need them to learn it. They have their own goals. They’re going to just find the tips, find the techniques, find the tools that help them with the goals that they’re trying to achieve. So you need to start out with individual concern. The training doesn’t start with the first session. The training starts before, welcoming people when they come, getting to know them, finding out where are you at in a church planting process? Are you already starting a congregation? Are you training? Still waiting? What are your biggest fears and concerns? And being totally focused on them as an individual and finding out what their challenges are, what their goals are and what they need right now. Sometimes they don’t know what they need. So engaging individually and deeply with each of the learners before you even begin would be one of the keys to increasing engagement.

Rick Duncan: Sounds a little bit like love, loving somebody else.

Peyton Jones: You know, it’s funny you say that, Jim, because when we do a cohort, we do train the trainer. We train the trainers to lead their cohort. So we do what’s called a model session where we become the trainer. They are the church planters. One of the things that almost always comes up, is we always start every session asking, “”How’s your life going?”” You’re not allowed to say, “”Good, fine.”” You’re not allowed to talk about the ministry. We want to talk about you. How are you doing? Almost always, people come back to that when we do the session review. They say, “”We really picked up that you actually … If you’re going to be a trainer, you care about these planters.”” Our response has always been, “”If you don’t care about these planters, then why are you doing this in the first place?””

Jim Galvin: Yeah, that’s good.

Rick Duncan: You said we need to start by trying to figure out what they need, but sometimes they don’t know what they need. I totally agree with that. How do we help them see what they need so we can help them meet that need?

Jim Galvin: Yeah, well, in training, you should organize each unit around tell, show and do. So tell, you’ve got to deliver some information. Show, you’ve got to have an example, a case study, whatever. And then a do, they have to have a chance to use it, apply it, think about how they’re going to transfer this to their workplace. And so, one thing you can do is start with a do instead of a tell. So if you want to engage people, say, “”Okay, Mike, you lead this session. I’m going to sit here and be a participant. You have to engage me.”” And so sit there, slouch in the chair and put your hoodie on. Look down at your paper. Okay? And then after 10 minutes, they’ll figure out they can’t engage you. And have someone else lead the session. They can’t engage you. Okay, now they know what they need. Or the other way, you start with a case study of a really jacked up situation in a small congregation with this stupid conflict that’s going on around the worship service, or the worship time or whatever. And just say, “”How would you guys solve this problem? How would you come in have help this congregation figure it out?”” And then when they can’t solve it, okay? Now that part of their brain is lit up, and they’re really interested in some principles for how do you resolve conflict?

Rick Duncan: Yeah, and you kind of do that very thing in your book, is you’ve got four people who have varying problems. And because they went to the same university, somehow they connected with each other. Somebody points them to a coach. That coach guides them expertly through a process. I love the fact that it’s kind of a case study, slash, strategic narrative, slash, scenario-

Jim Galvin: Parable.

Rick Duncan: Yes, a parable, exactly. So obviously, you believe in the power of story. How can our trainers leverage the power of story better, because we do have some content that we’re trying to get across, some expertise that we want our planters to have. But how can our trainers leverage story better?

Jim Galvin: Yeah, stories from the life of the trainer can be very powerful and illustrative. So tell, show, do, show is telling a story. You’re showing them how you handled this particular situation, how you planted a church, how you got to know your neighbors, that kind of thing. But another part of story is, and especially for adult learners, is drawing out their story. They learn from each other when they share what they already know. That often is just as powerful as the trainer sharing what he or she knows.

Rick Duncan: That’s good. I’m writing this down. So how do you draw those out? One of the temptations is, for me, as a church planter, to tell my war stories. I end up talking too much. The glaze comes over the eyes of the learner. How do we avoid that temptation?

Jim Galvin: You talk too much because you’re a pastor.

Rick Duncan: Thanks for the compliment.

Jim Galvin: And that’s probably one of the biggest hurdles to get over if you’re going to train church planters is, in some sense, you’re … A pastor is a pastor. But when you’re in training situation, you’ve got adult learners who don’t want to sit passively and hear you lecture all the time. There’s only one thing less effective than a lecture. Of all the learning activities that you can implement, case study, role play, discussion, sharing stories, lecture is the next to last in terms of effectiveness. Worse than a lecture, is a video lecture. I think we can throw podcast into that category. You need to use a variety of teaching methods, provide a variety of learning experiences and cut the lecture down to the least amount of time possible. So before we had printed books, lecture was very important. After the printing press, it became less important, but university education did not change. Now that we have everything available electronically and on computer, we need to flip the class room universities, and there’s really, unless nothing’s published on the topic, there’s no need for a lecture.

Rick Duncan: Wow.

Jim Galvin: Because you can get that, right? And so in training, let’s do the same thing. Let’s flip the classroom, and have the content read ahead of time. And then when you bring everyone together. It’s, “”Okay, let’s start with the book by, okay? What would you give that book? A, B, C, D, or F? And why?”” They’ve prepared. They’ve read the book. And now you’re helping them process it. And in that processing, that’s where that advanced learning happens. The reading the book is the first exposure. And then processing it together with your peers. It’s like, “”Oh, that’s good. That’s good. That’s good. I’ve got to remember that. Okay.”” So solidifying the learning.

Peyton Jones: Jim, how did you come up with the need for this? I know that we talked about how you got it out of the scripture. But obviously, once upon a time, you were probably very glued to lecture, and probably thinking you were doing great like most of us. At what point did you shift and realize, “”Hey, I’m challenged by the limitations of what I’m doing. And I think there’s a better way.””

Jim Galvin: Yeah. Well, I’ve never been really good at lecture, so I think that handicap.

Peyton Jones: Nothing like self-awareness, right?

Jim Galvin: Yeah. Like how come everyone’s eyes just glazing over? But in college, I was a Christian Education major. My doctorate is in curriculum, which is teaching of learning. So, I’m a teacher. I still though, with PowerPoint, you get a PowerPoint up there. It’s easy just to start telling people stuff. You want to get a lot of content in. You want them to like you. And so you want to deliver a lot of information, so you look really smart. And so all those feelings creep in there, which is all about me and not about the learnings. And so if you can get your eyes off yourself and onto the learners, it’s a little easier to talk less. Ask more questions. Ask people to share more life experiences they’ve had or values and principles that they’ve found helpful.

Peyton Jones: Pretty good. Are there things right now … We talk a lot about interaction. We always want the learner to arrive at a truth, kind of like the parables, when Jesus tells the parables. He wants them to arrive. He celebrates. I know this is kind of hard for people that are in lecture, and the one way information system. I’m going to cram as much in your head as I can. Jesus celebrates that these things have been hidden, and they’ve been revealed to babes, and the parables are really so that ever seeing, they don’t see. But you have seen and you’re blessed. I think for me, knowing what I know of Learning 30, which is very little compared to what you know. At least seeing that in the parables, it seems like something that Jesus desires. His whole teaching was, “”I’m going to let you arrive at these truths internally. I’m not just going to tell you everything externally. Some of you are going to have to go away and think about the stories.”” So that’s automatically revolutionary. What are some of the things that Christian trainers or trainers in general ought to be thinking about that they’re not? What are some of the things that are the cutting edge, or even ahead of the curve things that they’re finding out in Learning 30, that people still, in the church, haven’t grabbed on to?

Jim Galvin: Yeah, wow. Nice question. Take it down to level of biology. Okay, is you have a neuron that has to grow a dendrite out and make a connection to another neuron. And then that neuron has to grow a dendrite and make a connection to another neuron. And then it happens again. That is called a thought. Then, you have to sleep at night. Your brain doesn’t fall asleep. Your brain performs maintenance. It actually eats cells it’s not using. It gets rid of waste material from all your thinking during the day, and cells that have died. It’s busy growing new cells even when you’re old. So it reviews that connection and strengthens it overnight. That’s called learning. To help that process happen, you need a guide alongside approach, not a mountain experience. I’m using that facetiously. So you go to a theology lecture. The professor’s on top of the mountain saying, “”Students, there’s four main views of eschatology. Here’s what they are. This view, this view, this view and this view. I’m going to tell you more about it.”” And we’re all down at the base of the mountain going, “”We can’t see those four views. We don’t understand it.”” “”That’s right. That’s because I’m up here, and you’re down there. I’m going to tell you what it looks like from up here.”” Instead, it’s better to come down to where the students are, at the base of the mountain and go, “”Wow, that looks pretty high. Do you think we can make that in one day? Let’s go for the hike. Which path do you guys think would be best to get up? Let’s pick this one. Okay? Let’s start going up. What do you observe? What do you see to the left? What do you see to the right?”” So you’re helping them learn rather than just telling or teaching. So just help them learn.

Peyton Jones: That’s great. What are some of the ways that you come down the mountain for the learner? What are some things that we can do to make sure that we’re not up on the mountain, but we’re down at their level?

Jim Galvin: Yeah, that can be challenging. For the book I’ve Got Your Back, the challenge there … I had written a whole book that was a little bit too academic. After I’d written it, I realized my own kids wouldn’t read this. So the challenge with that book was how do you teach leadership to millennials who largely are not interested in the topic? So that’s what forced me to create the fictional story the leadership parable, so that I could come in at their level. Their level was, we have bad bosses. We don’t like parts of our job. We don’t know what to do. So that was relating to young adults, freshly graduated from high school. What kind of challenges and things are they facing in life? That was my attempt to come off the mountain and come down to their level, and to help them discover it along the way. What’s interesting is, people over 50 read the back of the book and skip the front. A lot of millennials always start with the story, and sometimes never bother with the back of the book, because they’ve already got it.

Rick Duncan: That’s wild. Yes, I must confess. I read the back of the book first, but I did read the front of the book also, and enjoyed it very much. Actually, there’s some nuggets in the front of the book with the story that you don’t get in the back of the book. So if you’re going to read this book, you need to read them both. It’s really good. Thank you so much, Jim, for joining us today and sharing your heart, sharing your expertise. We appreciate it as we seek to move forward to train our planters well. Given us a lot to think about, and a lot to apply today. Thank you very much.

Jim Galvin: You’re welcome.

Closing Remarks: Thanks for listening today. Our mission at Send Network training is to equip multiplying leaders with reproducible systems to plant more healthy churches. You can follow us on Twitter at Send Network trainers, or on Facebook at Send Network Church Planter Trainers. You can also find our podcast on iTunes. This podcast was made possible by the Send Network of North American Mission Board.

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Published March 28, 2018