by Samuel Rowen
Various articles on missions.
During the early 1970s many articles called mission agencies to respond to the missionary potential of the new breed of youth. Charles Reich (The Greening of America) described the social changes that he saw coming. To what extent have those predicted changes been realized?
Surveys conducted by Daniel Yankelovich on the values and attitudes of American society give us some insights. Yankelovich reports in New Rules: Searching for Self-Fulfillment in a World Turned Upside Down (Random House, 1981) that a revolution has indeed occurred. He calls it the "psycho-culture." It is the shift away from self-denial to self-fulfillment. The ethic of self-denial counsels hard work, deferred gratification, loyalty to others. The ethic of self-fulfillment counsels that one discover the true self and actualize it.
The surveys "show unmistakably that the search for self-fulfillment is… an outpouring of popular sentiment and experimentation, an authentic grassroots phenomenon involving in one way or another, perhaps as many as 80 percent of all adult Americans." Except for the 20 percent still maintaining traditional values, it appears that the "greening of America" has occurred.
However, the age of self-fulfillment has not fully arrived; we are still in a period of transition. There is a conflict within the self between the desire to succeed in conventional ways and the new-born yearnings of self-fulfillment.
Materialistic values have not been abandoned, as Reich envisioned. Yankelovich says that Americans are far too practical for that. He suggests that the traditional values have only been "broadened to embrace a wider spectrum of human experience." The "new breed" experiments with new lifestyles, new careers, new living arrangements, and new personal relationships. The new rules have often been accompanied by disastrous personal consequences. Much of what passes as self-fulfillment is nothing more than narcissistic self-indulgence.
The rude awakening came with the clash between economic realities and the self-fulfillment ethic, which meant that something had to give. The economy could no longer supply the things demanded.
In missions, those who engage in missionary service are to some extent influenced by the values and attitudes of the social milieu in which they were nurtured. It took a long time for missions to adjust (some never did) to the changes brought about during the 1960s and 1970s. If Yankelovich is correct, the changes predicted have taken a slightly different direction. It means that the missionary of the future may be "a breed apart" from that which we have been envisioning.
It is not difficult to identify some of the ways that the ethic of self-fulfillment has affected missions. For example, young people are changing toward career options in missions. The rapid increase in short-term missionaries is slowing down. The rate of increase in the 1970s led to the prediction that the missionary force by the mid-1980s might be 80 percent short-termers. High unemployment forces young people to take career options more seriously earlier in life. Missions as a career will be more seriously considered before a commitment is made.
Second, the moderation of the ethic of fulfillment into an ethic of commitment will affect the conditions under which the new breed of missionary will want to serve. The idea of social commitment is seen in the new emphasis on forming and sending teams. Teams, however, are not formed as a result of administrative decisions. Gathering a group of applicants and calling them a team does not make them one. The dynamics of what moves a group of people to a place of "social commitment" need to be studied more vigorously. The new program of Youth with a Mission (YWAM) in Amsterdam may provide some insights. YWAM has started a program to form teams through prayer, training, a common vision and the blending of spiritual gifts. Worldteam is beginning a new pattern for the selection of teams. The new breed of missionary will be increasingly motivated by the new norms of social commitment.
Third, the effects on the present missionary task force are devastating. Most missionaries have been affected by the ethic of self-fulfillment. Probably every EFMA-IFMA agency has been hit hard by family discord, if not divorce, within the last year. A missionary was heard to say recently as he left his wife and children, "I am finally going to do something that makes me happy." The recent Gallup Poll reported in Christianity Today notes that the rate of divorce among evangelicals is approximately the same as for the population in general. The values and attitudes contributing to divorce influence missionaries, too. The New Rules are present, if not yet fully operative. They must be understood to deal effectively with the present situation, as well as to prepare for the coming "new breed."
BE SWIFT TO HEAR, SLOW TO SPEAK
Listening is the overlooked skill in foreign language instruction. It has not received the attention it deserves. Poor listening affects the learner’s comprehension, his speaking ability, and the likelihood of his dropping out.
James R. Nord in "Three Steps Leading to Listening Fluency: A Beginning" (in The Comprehension Approach to Foreign Language Instruction, edited by Harris Wintz, New-bury House, 1981) insists that language learners are pushed into speaking too quickly. Earlier experiments by James Asher (Modern Language journal, January, 1969) found that "the stress of trying to pronounce the alien utterance may retard listening fluency."
Pressure to speak hinders the development of listening comprehension. The learner’s concentration on listening is interrupted when he is required to put his thoughts in order and answer a question or change a grammatical form. When a language learner is under the dual pressure to develop two skills at the same time (listening and speaking), anxiety goes up and comprehension comes down. But if in the initial stages of language learning one is under no pressure to speak, then one is free to concentrate on listening and there is less anxiety. When listening is linked with doing (i.e., if commands are given, the actions initially demonstrated, and learners required to carry out those commands), anxiety is not only further reduced but comprehension is greatly enhanced as well.
Nord’s work confirms Asher’s findings and takes it one step further. Nord contends that not only is one’s listening comprehension impaired; "there is evidence that attempting to speak before listening comprehension is acquired may cause problems in speaking" itself, as well as in listening. "High anxiety has detrimental effects on speaking because of the tendency to force the speaker back to his native grammatical structure or vocabulary when he becomes over anxious (and this in turn usually leads to greater anxiety.)"
Highly stressful experiences increase the chances of dropping out. In "Listening Fluency before Speaking: An Alternative Paradigm" (a paper presented at the Foreign Language Conference, University of Kentucky, April, 1977), Nord states that "the dropout rate for students taking foreign language courses in a formal school setting is 70% after only two years of study and 90% after three years of study. … I suggest that now may be the time to change the paradigm, to change from speaking to listening as the focal skill, to change from a response-oriented learning paradigm to an input, or stimulus-oriented learning paradigm."
Asher’s major contribution has been to require learners to do nothing at the initial stages of language learning except carry out commands. The command form is in most, if not all, languages the simplest grammatical form. Spending a lot of time at that level (not discussing or describing the form grammatically, but actually practicing it by carrying out commands that are given) gives learners the opportunity to do a lot of listening-in the context of doing. Learners are not forced into counter-productive activities of pronouncing the alien utterances. Energies are focussed rather on listening and doing. Anxiety is reduced while comprehension leaps forward.
Asher has discovered that after about 16 hours of carrying out commands, learners naturally begin (or beg) to give commands to each other and to the instructor, thus demonstrating a readiness and eagerness to speak. There is a definite distinction between allowing students to speak and forcing students to speak.
Two significant findings came out of an experiment in the first year German program at the University of Texas at Austin, incorporating Asher’s "Total Physical Response Comprehension" strategy. (1) After only one semester, students scored very close to the national norm for students who had completed two semesters of the regular German program. (2) The dropout rate was less. The percentage of students enrolling for the second semester in the experimental program was 21 percent higher than those enrolling for second semester in the regular German program. (Margaret Woodruff, "An Experimental First-Year German Program Incorporating the Total Physical Response Strategy," mimeograph, University of Texas, Austin).
Missionaries drop out for many reasons. One of the major reasons identified in surveys is the difficulty of language learning. If language teachers would take seriously these findings and incorporate listening comprehension in the way Asher, Nord, and others indicate, some of the stress of the early years on the field would be reduced. -Dwight L. Gradin, Missionary Internship, Farmington, Mich.
MANAGEMENT IN CULTURAL CONTEXTS
Is management North-American? Pierre Casse, a Belgian working for the World Bank, says no. In Training for the Multicultural Manager (Society for Intercultural Education, Training and Research, Washington, D.C.), he says it is appropriate to borrow many materials from the managerial field. The difference is that a "systematic attempt has been made to present it from an intercultural perspective. One looks at the same thing but from a different (wider) angle." Four different styles of management are described by the author:
1. Factual. These managers are basically "cool, patient, collected, down-to-earth, oriented to the present, precise, realistic, able to document their statements, sticking to the facts that speak for themselves, content-oriented."
2. Intuitive. These managers are "charismatic, imaginative, innovative, creative, future-oriented, quick in their reactions, witty, jumping from one idea to another, idea-oriented."
3. Analytical. These managers are "systematic, logical, with a step-by-step way to look at things, people and ideas." This style looks for "options or alternatives to problems, weighing pros and cons; rather unemotional in their approach to management; past, present, future, and process-oriented.
4. Normative. These managers are people-oriented and stress the importance of communication, relations, teamwork, feelings, emotions, expectations, individuals’ uniqueness, understanding and improvising.
Casse relates these four styles to planning, performance appraisal, decision making and coaching. He classifies the cultural features inherent in managerial styles. He then applies the model to five cultures: European, North American, African, Asian and Latin American. In this step Casse brings into focus the critical aspect of the cross-cultural "angle" on understanding management. There is not one management style that is exclusively appropriate to a given culture. Some styles are more appropriate than others in a given cultural context. However, there is an application of each style in every culture.
Difficulties arise when we make any one of the styles right and declare the others wrong. When a manager uses one style to relate to his organization and another style to relate to his tasks on the field, there’s trouble. Leaders who focus exclusively on one style are bound to cause stress. Not only do people differ, but so do cultures. Missionaries working under the managerial style of the dominant person in the mission agency will possibly have conflicts for two reasons: first, because of the difference between the style of the home office manager and the missionary himself; second, because of the differences between the dominant management style of the missionary and the dominant style of the culture.
Management is not neutral. It is packed full of value commitments, both cultural and ethical. The ethical values determine what happens to people when we organize our resources to accomplish the task. The cultural values are entwined with the ethical values. We can, as Casse suggests, now look at the way cultural values interact with management styles. We can avoid some of the debilitating, harmful experiences of missionaries. It’s tragic when these things happen because of our failure to accept differences that are not a matter of right and wrong.
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