Notes in the key of E: Educate and its false cognate, Inform

The nonprofit sector’s commitment to informing is best seen in its love of newsletters. Newsletters are great for informing donors. They are not so great, however, for educating champions.

What is the difference between education and information?

I like the way the difference is described on worldeducationsites.com. Information, says the site, is the acquisition of new knowledge. Proper education requires information but goes beyond it–way beyond it, as the site notes:

Education has as one of its fundamental aspects the imparting of culture from generation to generation. Education also refers to the, facilitation of realization of self-potential and talents of an individual. It is an application of pedagogy, applied research related to teaching and learning and draws on many disciplines such as psychology, computer science, linguistics, sociology and anthropology.

That, my dear champion, is hard to pull off in a newsletter.

(It is not, however, impossible, as Mission Increase Foundation Regional Giving and Training Officer Matt Bates notes in his Thoughts on the Nonprofit Newsletter.)

The fundamental difference between informing and educating is the outcome:

  • When a champion is informed, s/he possesses knowledge.
  • When a champion is educated, s/he possesses not only knowledge but the critical judgment and values maturity to know how to act upon that knowledge in such a way that the cause is advanced.

Nonprofit ministries tend to make two heinous errors by conflating information and education:

  1. Nonprofit ministry leaders say, “I don’t ask anyone for money. I just share the need and leave it to the person to pray how to respond.” Sounds holy, but it’s really an exercise in wholesale negligence. We who know the cause well have the responsibility not only of informing our Christian brothers and sisters about the need but also of educating them why the need exists, what the Bible calls each Christian to do in relation to the cause, and the range of options of how the listener can respond. Else how will they reach full maturity in Christ in relation to the cause?
  2. Nonprofit ministry leaders typically inform Christians about a situation and then ask them to give and pray. But such an approach also leaves out the education step. Even if I give and pray, I am in most cases no more able to understand and act upon that challenge in the future than before I was asked. The nonprofit ministry may be better funded and supported with prayer, but the giver himself or herself is still wholly dependent on the nonprofit ministry to know what to do and when to do it. That state of permanent adolescence is never commended in the scripture.

Education, then, is one of the three key components of Engagement. You know that you have educated rather than simply informed when the end result of the process is that the champion is able to bring others to full maturity in the cause–the state of champion development known as “O”, or ownership.

We nonprofit ministries would do well to ponder Hebrews 5:11-14 as we ask, Are our champions living on the milk of information…or the solid food of education in relation to the cause?

We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

About Pastor Foley

The Reverend Dr. Eric Foley is CEO and Co-Founder, with his wife Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, of Voice of the Martyrs Korea, supporting the work of persecuted Christians in North Korea and around the world and spreading their discipleship practices worldwide. He is also the International Ambassador for the International Christian Association, the global fellowship of Voice of the Martyrs sister ministries. Pastor Foley is a much sought after speaker, analyst, and project consultant on the North Korean underground church, North Korean defectors, and underground church discipleship. He and Dr. Foley oversee a far-flung staff across Asia that is working to help North Koreans and Christians everywhere grow to fullness in Christ. He earned the Doctor of Management at Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management in Cleveland, Ohio.
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