This week, I'm hanging out at The Princeton Forums on Youth Ministry here at Princeton Theological Seminary. It's always a great time hanging out with and learning from folks like Kenda Dean, Mark DeVries, and Blair Bertrand, but this week's been especially awesome because my good friends Wes Trevor (who's now the youth director at CENTRALongmont, near Denver, CO) and Jeremiah Knabe (a pastor at Christ Presbyterian Church in Carlsbad, CA.) are here to check things out too! I always learn a ton from these guys when they're around, I probably learn more from the conversations I have after the seminar than I do during them, and I'm reminded of how important it is to have people to process things with. The real education at things like this is in the cracks between the content where friends with different experiences can wrestle things into coherence together and contextualize the things they're taking in. A case could be made that friendships and the conversations which come forth therein, is the real location of theological education.
I am big into the content of education. I think it's über important to dive in, to actually pick up and read Barth and Tillich and Cone and Fiorenza. I've got a reputation for caring greatly about content. But even I am willing to admit that if content isn't mediated carefully, its value is greatly decreased. This goes for private study too, I should say. I definitely need private, or at least personal, space to think. But even there, there are things in me, separate for the content itself, which will help or hinder my the mediation of that content (things like attitude, openness, and charity). But even where personal space is good and necessary, community is indispensable. It's so important to mediate content through connection, in community, with friends--to have a safe and sacred space to lay it out and to hear the critique. Communal pedagogy mediates theological content better than static individualism ever will. Openness to the perspectives of others, an openness that wouldn't be natural outside of friendship, is at the heart of good education. As I said, it's in the cracks between the content that the real education happens, especially at ministry conferences like this one.