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PHD - Doctor of Philosophy




This qualitative dissertation seeks to explore the impact of short-term mission (STM) travel on American Christian volunteers, leveraging the small group structure already present in many churches. Using a participatory action research approach, small groups from two different Protestant churches engaged in cycles of dialogue, reflection and action. The group process was framed by Habermas’ concept of communicative space with emphasis on emotional knowing, cognitive reasoning, and creative expression. Data were collected from session recordings, written documents and process field notes. Content and process analyses were guided by transformative and situated learning theories. Findings were unique to each congregational group, although common themes were not inconsistent with the STM and adult learning literature. Conclusions were as follows: With competent facilitation the small group format can assist adults in learning from their experience, second, because the “mission” in STM was not clear, participants were committed more to a concept than to a situated practice consistent with the mission of their congregation, thirdly, emotion and specific congregational narratives shaped meaning making, and finally, it is especially difficult to be in relation to others in an unfamiliar culture when participants do not practice being in relation to others in their own communities. Recommendations were made for re-envisioning theological education so that STM travel is situated in an accessible missiology, the trips are structured for learning, and small groups are operationalized for exploring and supporting the missional life of the congregation- locally as well as overseas.



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