3.3 Growing Capacity
The third descriptor for leading the team is growing capacity. This involves growing the knowledge, skill and leadership capacity of others. It includes providing space for thoughtful reﬂection and support, as well as presenting effective learning opportunities that stretch the capacity of others. At its deepest, it involves creating an environment where team members are encouraged to take responsibility for their own self-care and self-development. It includes fostering both their wellbeing and enthusiasm as they serve students in Lutheran education.
Growing capacity is at the heart of a Christian educator. We want to grow professionally in our capacity as teachers and staff, but we also want to grow holistically as people of God who care for our own wellbeing and the wellbeing of others. For a Christian, our whole lives are about growing in Christ. Growing our capacities through prayer, through reflecting on the Bible, through a lived awareness of the presence of Jesus who effects our relationships with family, students, as well as our teaching and staff colleagues.
We want to grow in our knowledge and skills, in our enthusiasm for teaching and learning. We want to grow in our care and concern of others as well as each person’s wellbeing as we serve students and their families. We all know from our students that one of the best ways of growing in our learning is through making mistakes. Being comfortable with that, taking the risk of stuffing up and learning from it, that’s quite a process for anyone to learn. Whether it is from a failed interview for a job promotion to blundering through a public presentation, to students not fully completing an assessment task, these are all struggles that can be viewed catastrophically or as an opportunity to grow. Having the capacity for this perspective comes from a growth mindset.
Martin Luther had a similar mindset when it came to theology. Luther said a person learns theology not through the wisdom of philosophers or through reading multitudes of books on God. Rather a person learns theology through lived experience in the school of hard knocks, through mistakes and failures and through journeying specifically through the pain and suffering of life. Luther famously said while commenting on Psalm 119 that a person learns theology through engaging in prayer, meditation and testing.
Luther shows us two things here. One, theology is no ivory tower experience for academics but is for real people involved in the daily grind of life who learn from their mistakes. Two, Luther’s thinking is quite modern as it reflects some of the principles behind a growth mindset. When people come to life with a fixed mindset learning is a chore, growing from your mistakes is avoided. Rather proving yourself and hungering for approval becomes pivotal.
In a growth mindset people have a passion for learning; they are not discouraged by failure but see their responses to failure as a key to learning and developing character. Luther realised that this is also the case in our spiritual formation. God makes himself known to us and grows us as people of character and depth as we learn to deal with disappointment, failure, even suffering, pain and death. All the things our society encourages us to avoid are used by God to grow us as his people. If you are being tested, what will be your mindset? Will you persevere and let God grow your capacity through it?
Luther reminds us that we do theology as we communicate with God in prayer. We do theology as we become still and reflect on who God is from encountering his Word. And we especially do theology when we are stretched and encounter the challenges and disappointments of life. When we experience testing and trials, Christ the crucified who suffered on the cross dwells amongst us, as we are directed to the wisdom of his weakness.
Luther’s concern here is that people can grow in their awareness of God and how he is present for us in Jesus throughout all the joys and sorrows of life. This is “doing theology”. No ivory tower academic experience but practically wrestling with questions in real life situations like where is God in my suffering? How am I growing and learning as I experience this life situation?
Gracious God, you know our limits and our capacities. You know the hard lessons we need to learn and how far we can be stretched before we succumb to the pressure. Grow us in our capacity to teach the children entrusted to us but also grow us in awareness of our own wellbeing. Help us to support and inspire one another as we grow in the grace and knowledge of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
 Luther uses the latin term ‘tentatio’, which can also means trial or temptation.
As indicated on previous posts, making a temporary labyrinth is easy. Whether on a carpet, wood, or lino floor, a temporary tape labyrinth is easy to install with the right tool. I regularly make these labyrinths at camps, in our early learning centre and in classrooms. In this video I am using a packing tape dispenser I have modified on a long handle to make a simple six circuit spiral labyrinth in a kindergarten setting. With this tool I can make it in a couple of minutes and not break my back. Even the youngest of kids can walk it and the best part after they have each had a go at practicing stillness is that I invite them to help me rip up the tape off the floor, which they love.
About this site
"Meditations & Musings" is my humble attempt to share what I have found useful in ministry in an Australian Lutheran School setting. It contains chapels, devotions and other resources I have written, used and adapted in my K-12 school context. If you would like to also share your ideas, resources or start a conversation about mission and ministry in your church- school location, feel free to contact me.
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