Human developmental theory fascinates me. It’s why I majored in it. I took more than enough random classes in every different field of thought my freshman and sophomore year and it wasn’t until I landed in a human development and family systems (HDFS) class that I knew I had found home.
To be frank I don’t know how well known or understood the theories are outside of it’s own sphere. I am aware of a bit of crossover between HDFS and sociology and psychology, maybe economics, but from what I can tell it’s mostly crossover and certainly not interdisciplinary.
What I do know is that I do not see HDFS theories being a driving force behind a lot of the thoughts, strategies and thinking in my particular field of work – professional ministry. Further, from what I remember, it wasn’t significant aspect of my theological training either, except as a background aside to James Fowler’s faith development theory since he rooted his own theory in developmental theory.
Frankly, I find this a bit sad. This is not simply due to my affinity for HDFS theory because I love it and majored in it. It’s sad because professional ministry is inherently people work and people work requires an understanding of people. Yet that understanding of people cannot only be “people skills” be they relational or empathetic. Though people skills are certainly important for a ministry leader – or anyone – to have, the missional needs of people of all stripes goes much deeper than the information derived from people skills can offer.
In light of this, one of the recurring themes I will be touching on is how human developmental theory can inform, guide and support the church’s mission – be it outreach, education or otherwise.
Of course, I think it prudent that I clarify my thoughts on the church’s mission first before jumping right into applying theory.