In 1996, George Kuh published a groundbreaking article in the Journal of Higher Education called “The Other Curriculum.” In this article Dr. Kuh explains various important skills students acquire through their time in college. Specifically, he is interested in articulating what students learn outside of the traditional classroom and demonstrating which types of extracurricular activities are linked to which skills. His findings have a profound impact for churches when we think about what happens outside of Sunday morning.
One aspect of the conceptual framework for Dr. Kuh’s study is what he calls the “involvement principle,” which simply argues that “the more time and energy students expend in educationally purposeful activities, the more they benefit” (“Other Curriculum,” 125). The example he uses is that someone who helps to plan a blood drive will benefit differently than someone who merely attends a basketball game. In the end, Kuh notes that involvement outside of the classroom contributes the following benefits to students: self-awareness, autonomy, confidence, altruism, reflective thought, social competence, practical competence, knowledge acquisition, academic skills, application of knowledge, aesthetic appreciation, vocational competence, and sense of purpose.
This research is interesting for a lot of reasons, but there are several immediate points of application in the church.
- How are you involving members of your congregation? Just as college students learn from extra-curricular activities, our parishioners will learn meaningful and significant things outside of the worship service. The implication is that we need to make sure that we provide various opportunities for involvement, and a convenient path by which congregants can become involved.
- How are your church’s activities specifically geared toward the gifts and interests of your members? Kuh found that different qualities are attached more primarily to certain types of involvement. Therefore, we have to ensure that we provide different types of areas for volunteer service in our churches. We can’t just expect that everyone will benefit from the same type of involvement. Not everyone wants to be an usher or a greeter.
- What does member involvement say about they way your church creates disciples? Kuh emphasizes that more significant involvement produces more significant gains for the student. This means that within the church we have to provide opportunities for our congregants to do meaningful work – to inaugurate programs, to effect change, to cast vision. Kuh’s involvement principle, and notion of the benefit of the “other curriculum” has changed the way that many colleges understand their task to educate students. We can very easily apply this interesting research into our understanding of how we ought to create disciples.