Sunday, May 25, 2008

Reflections on Seminary & Real Church Life

In addition to classes you'd expect a pastor to have in preparation for ministry like Bible, theology & doctrine, prayer, hospital visitation, sermon preparation and delivery, how to conduct various worship services, how to conduct a meeting, evangelism, knowledge about one's denomination, etc. there are many "on the job" skills which must be developed. Whether seminary (which is usually a 3 year graduate degree) or local pastor training such education is ongoing.

Here are some classes I'd like to see offered for clergy training at both introductory and continuing education levels:

  • basic medical terminology so we'll be more helpful in medical settings with patients & families
  • best uses of electronic media including computer, TV, and essential practices for communication
  • carpentry, how to roof, plumb, or install electricity to a house, or some other practical skills. This could also be things like sewing, cooking, etc.
  • skill sets from the nonprofit world like how to be part of a management team & how to motivate and work volunteers
  • integrate Red Cross training to include CPR, early emergency response, and perhaps mental health certification for disaster relief

What are your great ideas? How could church workers be more effective through certain specialized training?

5 comments:

Mike Hardin said...

All very useful skills for a pastor. But let me ask you a question. Would you make the degree program longer or would you eliminate some classes that are already part of the program. I know of no other masters level program that last three years. I believe one reason that it is so long is that often the undergraduate degrees are unrelated to theology, so the first two years are really junior and senior college level, and the last year is truly the graduate level stuff. Doctors and lawyers have pre-law studies that eliminate the huge leap from the Bachelor's level to the Masters, though who could deny that the next level isn't arduous, especially for the MDs.

If you opt NOT to lengthen the time it takes to earn an M. Div., then what classes do you think could be eliminated in order to allow room for some of these useful skills?

Scott Parrish said...

Mike,
In United Methodism we are required to do ongoing Continuing Education. Some things are mandatory through the district or conference, and of course there are tons of other offerings from across the wide, wide world of Christianity. You'd think the mandatory sessions would be exceptional, but too often it's just the "same ol', same ol'. For instance we have a district "set up" meeting each August and then a January training meeting. It's always the same appeals for money, the same basic intro classes, and so vanilla as to be a waste of time. So, I'm angling to make sessions more meaningful.

Also, in UM life while we place much emphasis for clergy on the first few years in ministry we aren't as intentional after that. My experience has been that year 10, year 20, year 30, etc. is when many of us get in trouble, get bored, quit picking up skills. Many of us keep going to those newest fad groups on leadership skills (which occasionally share a little gold, yet generally don't build skills and are mostly rhetoric and hype).

And a guy has to do something while he's painting his house! :)

Does some of that context help?

Mike Hardin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike Hardin said...

"Does some of that context help?"

Sure. That makes perfect sense. I thought you were angling to change the MDiv curriculum.

Scott Parrish said...

Maybe change the MDiv for some seminaries! I like a fairly classical Bible & theology approach with a strong mix of practical "how to" at the MDiv level. Reality though is that so much of this work is on the job training! That's where some sort of ongoing education seems to be a key that's too often missing.