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Checking It Out

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Checking it Out

Blog 5 in the series “Obeying Jesus 1st Century Command in the 21st Century.” 
Blogs two through five address what needs to be done and how to do it in four scenes.

Pete: (Botching “Good morning in Italian) Boo-own jornou.

Laura: (As natural as can be) Buon giorno, come stai oggi? (Good morning, how are you today?)

Pete: (Clueless and not sure what to say) Uh-huh.

Laura: Hey, I think it’s great you guys are talking about Good Soil, but just remember, we need to leave to catch the boat for Murano in an hour. I know Rebecca wants to see how they blow the glass, and she’ll definitely need lots of time to shop.

Pete: Yes, ma’am. (Pete salutes in mock military style.) Becca is getting ready and will be here shortly.

Laura: Okay, I’m going to blow dry my hair, and I’ll be ready to go soon, too. Have fun.

Jerry: (Jerry already has some papers out on the coffee table ready to show Pete. He motions for his friend to have a seat on the couch beside him and picks up the first page he will show him. Knowing their time is short, he jumps right in.) What I have here is some research the guys at Good soil did last year. But first you should know that Good Soil began as a training department of the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism (ABWE) to answer a need. They had conducted a survey of the 2004 Candidate Class which revealed that 57% of the candidates had never led an adult to Christ and 90% had never discipled someone in a systematic fashion. As you can imagine, they realized they needed to train their missionaries in evangelism and discipleship. Their survey also revealed that an even smaller percentage had been involved in cross-cultural church planting—also an issue with which the mission had to grapple.

So ABWE’s president and some administrators pulled together 18 missionaries from around the ABWE world who were experiencing fruit in the areas of evangelism, discipleship, and cross-cultural church planting. This event in the life of ABWE is a story in itself, but suffice it to say that two major projects grew out of those meetings: a cross-cultural church planting course called Essential Mission Components (EMC) and Good Soil Evangelism and Discipleship (GSED).

GSED really began with the development of a first-steps discipleship tool called The Way to Joy.[1] The group originally thought they would simply encourage the use of existing tools for evangelism such as New Tribes Mission’s Firm Foundations[2] and Good Seed’s The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus.[3]

But as good as those tools are (by the way, ABWE missionaries and others are encouraged to use these tools during Good Soil seminars), the Good Soil team had at least two reasons to develop their own evangelism tool. First, they wanted something more flexible; something that could be used quickly or that could be used over time, depending on the previous biblical knowledge—or lack of it—which the one being evangelized has. Some people need the kind of exposure to gospel truths that may take weeks or months. But some could have their hearts prepared already so that a shorter presentation (as little as 15-20 minutes) could bring them to Christ.

ABWE also wanted to be able to translate their resources into the languages in which they work around the world without having to get permissions and legal rights. So work began on The Story of Hope. By 2007, GSED had the first editions of their principle evangelism tool (The Story of Hope—TSOH) and their principle discipleship tool (The Way to Joy—TWTJ) written and printed, and they were able to conduct their first seminar.

Since then, the books have gone through several editions,[4] and the seminar continues to be tweaked as the leaders debrief and evaluate after each training. However, by late 2010, the seminar was refined into what is virtually the present version of the seminar. Gil tells me that another refinement of the seminar and its workbook will be forthcoming in October of 2016.

The books have been translated into 25 languages, and several additional translations are in progress. The English versions include the initial TSOH, a Global English version, a children’s version, and a TSOH Condensed. The seminar has been taught in many countries on five continents and continues to spread through missionaries and internationals training others. The Good Soil website has dozens of stories of people coming to Christ through Good Soil methods and resources.[5]

Pete: (When Jerry stops for a breath Pete jumps in.) Wow! This really has become quite a widespread ministry. I didn’t realize.

Jerry: And in recent years, they have added a lot of high quality auxiliary resources to those first two books. (Jerry shows Pete the Good Soil website which displays the many resources for sale.) Some of the resources are offered as free downloads.

Pete: (Letting out a low whistle.) There are a lot of tools here. This is really something.

Jerry: But even with all these great resources, the Good Soil team still believes that the training is the most significant piece of the puzzle. I’ve heard them say, “We’re excited about the wonderful tools God has seen fit to provide, but if we had to choose between the tools and the training, we’d pick the training. The principles taught in the training help people put the tools to good use.”

Pete: And people are seeing good results through the training and tools around the world?

Jerry: Yes, the stories they post on the website and on their Facebook[6] page attest to that. What’s interesting, too, is that they are convinced that for every story they are able to share, there are at least ten more like it. The team will see people at conferences and get phone calls from people who tell them a great story of how God changed the lives of people, and they’ll say, ‘Hey, write that down for us and we’ll post it.’ But many people get busy and never send in the stories.

But even with all the positive results around the world, one of the guys, my friend Gil, wanted to see if the training really does make a difference. Oh, he was convinced of it, but he wanted to answer questions like yours: ‘Is there any hard data?’ So he laid down a plan to do a little research.

Now these guys are busy: traveling around the world training people, developing new resources, overseeing translation projects. So he determined that the scope of the research would be limited. Still, he hoped the scope would be large enough to give an idea of the possible change that could be realized if someone took the time to train his people and let God work. So he decided to evaluate three training venues:

An international setting—Since Good Soil seeks to have an impact globally and believes that the principles are cross-cultural and will work in most, if not all, worldview settings, he wanted to evaluate at least one training event in a foreign country. He chose a Good Soil launch in Asia which was conducted in Bangkok, Thailand, with 10 countries represented.[7]

The appointee training at ABWE—Because this is the group for which Good Soil was originally created, he felt it was necessary to measure the effectiveness of the training with appointees. The seminar was team-taught by Gil Thomas, Wayne Haston, and Fred Seiferth in July of 2015.

He also wanted to research a Gaining Ground Setting

Pete: (Interrupting) ‘A Gaining Ground setting,’ what’s that?

Jerry: That’s um,” (Pausing for a few seconds to think) a situation like yours, for example. A pastor or other leader who wants to teach evangelism and discipleship to his people, but doesn’t necessarily have the opportunity to teach a full two-day seminar. Since Good Soil is encouraging the use of Gaining Ground as an option for communicating Good Soil principles, Gil wanted to evaluate this kind of setting. Participants read a chapter per week in Gaining Ground with Good Soil; then they meet together weekly to discuss what they learned and study related Bible passages.

Pete: So three different settings—one overseas, one with missionary appointees, and one in a local church setting with a big part of the learning taking place through reading a kind of text book. Is that the idea?

Jerry: That’s exactly it. And in each of those settings, my friend wanted to try to measure each of ‘the four levels’ in at least some way.

Pete: (Looking confused) “The four levels?” What four levels?

Jerry: Well, that’s a huge subject with a lot of books written about it. The key author, though, is Don Kirkpatrick,[8] whose four levels have been the standard for evaluating training for more than 50 years around the world. His books are translated into several languages. Let me see if I can do his work justice with a short explanation. (Pausing for a moment, thinking) Okay, here goes, and after I touch on each level, I’ll explain how my friend decided he would try to measure the four levels.

Now, the first level is called ‘reaction.’ This level could be called “customer satisfaction.” The evaluator simply tries to determine if the participants enjoyed the training. A positive reaction doesn’t necessarily mean participants learned anything, however, a negative reaction nearly guarantees that learning will be quite limited.[9] To measure this level, Gil decided that he would try to get 100% participation on a “smile” sheet immediately following each of the three training events.

Pete: A ‘smile sheet?’ What’s that?

Jerry: Oh, that’s a nickname given to the reaction sheets given out at the end of any training event. It asks questions such as, “Did you like the training?” “Did the trainers know their stuff?” “Was the venue adequate?” The objective of a smile sheet is to see if they are “still smiling” after the training is over. Did participants enjoy the seminar?

Pete: Oh, okay. What’s the second level?

Jerry: Well, the second level is “learning.” The idea is this: learning has occurred if knowledge has increased, one or more skills are improved, and/or attitudes have changed. In a Bible teacher’s world, we emphasize application and might say that our job is not complete unless behavior has changed. Kirkpatrick would agree somewhat, but insists that learning may have occurred even if behavior has not changed.[10] Gil’s plan, to make an attempt at finding what learning occurred at each of the venues, was to do a pre-test and a post-test. He wanted to see which basic Good Soil principles—things he considers to be Good Soil “big ideas”—may or may not have been common knowledge before people took the training. Then, he wanted to see if those concepts that were not common knowledge were learned through the training.

Pete: I think I’m tracking. So, the first level is reaction—how participants like the training itself. And the second level is learning—how much knowledge and skills they take away from the training event. That makes sense.

Jerry: (Encouragingly.) That’s right. Now, “behavior” (level three) is the extent to which a change in behavior or performance has occurred as a result of a training program. While a training program itself can contribute greatly to a participant’s motivation to change and the knowledge he needs to implement change, often it is not enough to make change happen. Many times, management’s creation of a proper climate is necessary to prevent, discourage, encourage, and even require behavior change.[11] My friend understands this and is encouraging more involvement of missionary administration before and after the missionary training events, but that’s another subject.

Let me explain what the final level is now, and then show you what Gil did to measure these levels. Level four is “results.” Increased productivity, improved quality, decreased costs, etc.—these are all the types of final results trainers, managers and executives are seeking to measure at this level. The tendency for evaluators is to skip the first two levels and jump right to behavior or even results since corporate leaders seem to be more interested in results. Because of the high number of variables inherent in producing results, this is the hardest of the levels to measure with any degree of accuracy.[12]

My buddy sent response questionnaires to participants of each of the groups trained in the three venues two months after the respective training events were over. This questionnaire primarily targeted level three (behavior). This was to see, for example, if people were sharing the gospel more often than they did before and if they were applying other principles learned. The hope was to get some idea of level four (results) as well, but because of the difficulty in controlling variables, his survey did not emphasize level four. Being able to say for sure if someone trusted Christ because the gospel was shared in a certain way—and not another way—is impossible! But if behavioral change could be demonstrated, if people were more active in sharing their faith, for example, then he would be able to point to some significant findings that couldn’t help but make a difference in results, also. Gil and the others at Good Soil figure that sharing stories of trainees using Good Soil training and resources effectively to make disciples can give people some idea of the results that may be occurring as a fruit of the training.

Pete: And rightly so. I hated to admit it yesterday, but some of those stories you were sharing are amazing! Before going to bed last night, I got online and read several more. I went to sleep praising God for what He is doing around the world through people who are dedicated to reaching others and making disciples.

Jerry: (With a big smile) Amen! I didn’t realize I was getting through. Well, those are Kirkpatrick’s four levels and Gil’s plan to measure them in a simple, limited way that would hopefully demonstrate the value of Good Soil training. These are the instruments he used.  (Jerry shows Pete the Pre-test, Post-Test, Reaction Sheet, and Two-Month Responses Gil used in each of the three venues. Rebecca taps on the door with the code that Pete used earlier.)

Laura: (Shouting from the bathroom.) Coming! (She glides through the room and to the door.) Are you ready for some Murano glass? (Asking as she gives her good friend a hug.)

Becca: (Enthusiastically.) I am ready! (Turning to the men on the couch who are still deeply involved in conversation) You guys ready?

Pete: (Jumping up) I’m always ready to go places with my sweetheart! (Turning to Jerry.) We can look at the results of these tests and things later tonight, can’t we?

Jerry: Of course, or even tomorrow. We want to have you see the sights while you are here. I could even mail these things to you, if we didn’t get to it this week.

Pete: No, no, I want to look at the results while we can talk through the findings. Let’s see if we can carve out an hour or so tonight or tomorrow. But right now, let’s head to Murano. I want to see these guys blow up some glass!

Laura: Well . . . (She starts to correct him but decides to let it pass.) Let’s go!

With that, the couples walk to the Fonte Nové pier to catch the vaporetto for the 10-minute boat ride to Murano. Even though the rest of the day is filled with tours of the glass blowing factory, a walk through the Museo del Vetro (Glass Museum), and shopping for necklaces and earings for family and friends, Pete kept thinking about what he had been hearing from Jerry about Good Soil. Could this be something he could use to teach his people about reaching others and making disciples? Could Good Soil also provide the resources his church could use in their evangelism and discipleship efforts? He would be sure to talk more with Jerry about this before they left Italy.

Epilogue:

Pete was able to look at the data gathered from the three different Good Soil venues as the two couples traveled from Venice back to Milan, the city of Jerry and Laura’s church planting ministry. The four surveys (pre-test, post-test, smile sheet, and two-month response) provided a wealth of information—much more than can be dealt with in this brief report, however, a few of the conclusions drawn from the research are listed below. If the reader is interested in knowing more, he may ask for information by writing to gthomas@abwe.org.

1. “Good Soil Big Ideas” (The Gospel Communication Process, Worldview Noise, The Good Soil E&D Scale, Tilling, Planting, Reaping, and others) were generally not part of participants’ knowledge or experience base before the seminar. Participants had high marks on the posttest and on the survey taken two months later; they remembered the content.

2. The majority of participants demonstrated a positive increase in the amount of evangelism and discipleship they did after their training and a positive change in the way they went about it.

3. The majority of participants believed the training positively impacted their evangelism and discipleship ministry.

What About You?

Will you call or go to www.GoodSoil.com to investigate the possibilities of ordering resources and/or getting your leaders to the training?

What is holding you back from taking the next step to get the training and/or ordering resources from Good Soil?

Do what you can to obey Jesus’ 1st century command in the 21st century and help your church to do the same.

[1] http://www.goodsoil.com/resources/the-way-to-joy-english-version

[2] Trevor McIlwain, Firm Foundations: From Creation to Christ, (Sanford: New Tribes Mission, 1991).

[3] John Cross, The Stranger On the Road to Emmaus, (Olds: Good Seed International, 1997).

[4] The Way to Joy and The Story of Hope are each in their 6###sup/sup### English edition as of 2013 and 2014 respectively.

[5] Go to http://www.goodsoil.com/blog to find the latest story as well as pages of others.

[6] To view Good Soil’s Facebook page, go to https://www.facebook.com/Good-Soil-Evangelism-and-Discipleship-172072646806/?fref=photo

[7] This particular training took place at the Asia Institute of Technology in Bangkok, Thailand, in April, 2015. The trainees from 10 countries represented 25 different language groups.

[8] Donald L. Kirkpatrick and James D. Kirkpatrick, Evaluating Training Programs, (San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 2006). This book is the standard in this area, but Donald Kirkpatrick has been writing about evaluation of training since the 1950’s. Other books which the author of this dissertation read to bring understanding in this area include: Jack J. Phillips and Ron Drew Stone, Measuring Training Results, (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2000); Donald L. Kirkpatrick and James D. Kirkpatrick, Implementing the Four Levels: A Practical Guide for Effective Evaluation of Training Programs, (San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 2008); James D. Kirkpatrick and Wendy Kayser Kirkpatrick, Training on Trial, (American Management Association, 2010).

[9] Kirkpatrick and Kirkpatrick (2006), pages 21-22, 27-41.

[10] Ibid, 22, 42-51.

[11] Ibid, 22-24, 52-62.

[12] Ibid, 25-26, 63-70.

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