Participants emerge from within the context of a local church and receive most of their ministry education while in this context. The congregation is also the place to which they will likely be appointed as pastoral leaders. Participants begin this journey of ministry preparation from the highly experiential environment of church life. Consequently, by design, their education focuses on enhancing and achieving ministry competencies as they serve. In view of these factors, an approach to education that is generally “non-formal” characterizes the program. At the same time, formal education coursework and the verification of learnings through informal education experiences are welcome as evidences of competencies that have been achieved.
Non-formal is a category for education that is often used to describe non-schooling approaches to teaching and learning. It is differentiated from the other two categories; i.e., “formal” and “informal.” Following is a brief description of the three categories.
- Formal education: the hierarchically-structured, chronologically-graded ‘education system,’ running from primary school through the university and including, in addition to general academic studies, a variety of specialized programs and institutions for full-time technical and professional training.
- Informal education: the lifelong process whereby every individual acquires attitudes, values, skills and knowledge from daily experience and the educative influences and resources in his or her environment – from family and neighbors, from work and play, from the market place, the library, and the mass media.
- Non-formal education: any organized educational activity outside the established formal system – whether operating separately or as an important feature of some broader activity – that is intended to serve identifiable learning clienteles and learning objectives.
The distinction made between the three categories is largely methodological and administrative. Formal education is linked with schools and training institutions; non-formal with community groups and other organizations, such as churches; and informal covers what is left, e.g., interactions with friends, family and work colleagues. (For further reference see: Combs with Prosser and Ahmed ; Coombs and Ahmed , Srinivasan  and Encyclopedia of Informal Education: http://www.infed.org/biblio/b-nonfor.htm.
Three Categories of Education
|Teacher/StudentDynamic||Pre-established hierarchy||Equal partnership amongfacilitators and participants||Learning may take placeindividually, or can beshared within a group|
|Environment||Classroom environment||Learning groups are more casual and participatory||Learning may occurin any environment|
|Content||Determined by teacheror other authority||Participants actively identify learning needs and methods, guided by a facilitator||Determined completely byparticipants who assess their own needs and identify solutions|
|Lecture primary source of information delivery||Primarily participatorytechniques||Completely participatory methods; participants assess and reflect ontheir own learning|
|Formal test or “proofof learning”||Formal tests, papers, or projects are supplemented with students’ application of learning within the community||Learning is practical and related to real needs; applied in the lives of people within the community|