Learning to preach: social learning theory and the development of Christian preachers
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In this thesis I investigate contemporary education theory as a way of understanding formative influences in the development of Christian preachers. I suggest that concepts of communities of practice and legitimate peripheral participation, along with recognition of role models and mentors, have a part to play in the life-long project that is learning to preach. In my Introduction I consider a definition of preaching for the purpose of the research and some historical approaches to developing preachers. I examine in Chapter 2 adult learning principles and cognitively-oriented concepts, such as learning styles and the theory of multiple intelligences. In Chapters 3 and 4 social learning theories that I examine include imitation, the effect of role models, and the influence of the mentor or the coach. Further, I ask to what extent the development of the preacher, as in many other professions with agreed standards of competency, does and should take place within communities of practice where legitimate peripheral participation (as developed in the work of Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger) marks the developing preacher‘s sense of his or her own learning trajectory. After a fifth chapter on methodologies, these concepts are tested in three field studies that use a range of sociological research methods. I conduct in Chapter 6 quantitative analysis of questionnaires returned by Church of Scotland ministers, in Chapter 7 qualitative analysis of the published testimony of fifteen experienced preachers, and in Chapter 8 qualitative analysis of interviews with twelve young Methodist preachers. In my conclusion I develop a theologically nuanced version of Lave and Wenger‘s concept which I term a community of agreed sermonic enterprise. Principal practical recommendations deriving from this centre on creating supportive networks of reflective preaching practitioners, enhancing the provision of mentor-mentee relationships, and educating congregations for their role in shaping preachers.