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Facilitated learning in the local church

Updated: Jul 28, 2020

An interview with Pastor Craig Bailey, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, Charleston, S.C.

Pastor Craig Bailey discovered facilitated learning about 12 years ago. Since then, he says, he’s “never looked back.” We chatted with him recently to find out why.

What is your family situation?

I’ve been married to Kathy for 32 years. We have five children and one grandchild. 

What kind of church do you pastor?

It’s a PCA church. My wife and I came to Charleston in 1997 to plant this church; we really got kicked off in 1999. In 2006 we were blessed to get a historic building in the heart of the historic district. I guess you’d say we have an urban setting. We’re a building of about 300, mostly younger. Lots of millennials.  I used to be the same age as the congregation. I keep getting older, but they keep staying the same age. We’ve had lots of members through the years … a lot of students and medical school students, they come and go in and out of Charleston. Every two or three years we have basically a new church. Many of these people are taking Entrust with them where they go.

I often get phone calls from former members who say, “Can you come to my church and teach them how to do Entrust?” 

The people of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in downtown Charleston

How were you introduced to Entrust-style facilitated learning?

I’ve been connected from when it was called BEE, before it became Entrust. In 1986, I had the opportunity to visit friends in Vienna who worked for Entrust. While I was there, I got to visit the Entrust office and meet a lot of the staff. I kept my Entrust connections. In 2008, I asked some Entrust staff if they would come and do training for our church. We had 12 or 15 participants and we’ve never really looked back since. All of our Bible studies and community groups use Entrust-style facilitation.

When you say Entrust-style, what do you mean?

Facilitating Relational Learning, which is the training we had in 2008. 

What drew you to this? And, what did you find questionable about it?

I was an education major before I was a pastor. I was an English teacher. So, it always resonated with me. I didn’t find anything objectionable, actually. In my experience, lots of people … they just want to sit and be lectured to or talked at. They are more familiar and comfortable with that kind of learning, so that is what they advocate for. I’m not really fighting that anymore at our church. 

But the thing that drew me, and it draws everyone, is the idea that every believer is made in the image of God and indwelled by the Spirit of God. Entrust gives so many opportunities for the Spirit of God to work in a group.

Let me give you an example. We had a Ugandan family at our church. [In a Bible study] the topic of the passage was persecution. Both this woman and her husband grew up under Idi Amin and both had fathers arrested by some of his henchmen. Christine watched as her father was taken from their home in the middle of the night. He asked if he could get his shoes and they said, “Well, you’ll never live to see the sunrise again. You don’t need your shoes.” But the Lord delivered him. A remarkable story. He’s alive now, 89 years old.

Anyway, the example I use is, you might have a “lesson” on persecution and here sits in your group a Jimmy and a Christine who actually experienced persecution. The Bible study leader might have a wonderful lesson prepared, but what do we all lose if the teacher does all the talking and this couple is not given the opportunity to share what they experienced? And that really happened. I’ve used that as an example for many years of how we have to create that verbal space for people to be able to share, not only personal experience, but insights into scripture.

Sometimes when we learn new ways of doing things we jump in with both feet. Sometimes we gradually ease into things. What was your response? How did you use your training and how was it received at your church?

I was already both feet in, which is why I invited them to come in 2008 to train more people at the church. And everyone, without exception, loved it.

I always hear this comment, “Where has this been all of my life?” Especially with older people. We had a couple, mid to late 60s, they’ve since moved away. She’s in education, not only in public schools but teaching women’s groups, Bible studies. And it’s kind of funny because she got a little angry when she was first introduced to Entrust-style facilitation. She was like, “Why haven’t we been taught this before?” So, she’s a huge Entrust fan. Her husband was able to come to a training that we had at our church a couple of years ago. Now they are both big Entrust ambassadors. 

[Facilitated learning] is difficult. I’m not saying people find it easy. A lot of people find it challenging to be able to craft the different types of questions.  It’s a lot of work. But once they get the hang of it, they love it. They love it. You know why they love it? Because it’s so effective. They see the difference when they’re facilitating in a group and they see the impact it makes, how it draws people out and everybody benefits. And it’s not a free-for-all, it’s not “what I think” or “what you feel,” it’s “what does the text say.” And it really is just win-win.