There is no Syllabus for Life

(Read "Real Life column)


The AJ Thomas said...

1. In real life your assignments are never done. You don’t get to be finished. You plan Sunday worship or Wednesday youth or whatever all week and then you turn around the next morning and start all over again. The course never ends.
2. In real life you are expected to know more than the people who are grading you yet they still get to give you the pass fail so rather then simply finding out” what they want” and delivering you have to teach them what they need and then deliver that as well.
3. Sometimes doing the right thing will actually cost you marks.

ViaMediaHaze said...

I would be interested in seeing the students do one of these assignements on the condition that they can not use the internet as a source. In the sample given for REL468 I counted internet 7 times, google 2 times and 'the web', website, or web page 18 times. There are three basic reasons why I would like to see how they do without the internet.

First, the leaders of your churches most likely are not internet users. They might know how to check an email account but that is the extent of their expertise.

Second, you are not always going to have internet access to be able to look up an answer to your problem. You could be on the phone in the car, at a hospital, or on a trip when a situation arises that needs your input.

Lastly, not all internet sources are correct. There are many times when research done on the internet turns out to be just flat out wrong.

That is what I would like to see in your class Coach.

Anonymous said...


While I'm not as quick as you at thinking what I'd like to see, I have to say I was taken aback by your points

1. Why should others be held back because of the lack of skill in one sector of the church????

2. You may be in a car, on the highway, and unable to whip out you Bible, go to the library, etc. to get info.

3. Not all textbooks or "experts" folks would research are correct either, including Bible scholars.

So, tell me one more time, why they should leave the internet out???

Anonymous said...

I must say, I was impressed when I read the attachments.

The only think that missed my attention, and I may have overlooked it in the details was, I did not see any place where Biblical applications were noted.

I find that really important because one of the issues the emergents were looking at months back was, should the rules in the discipline be changed? Should we adhere to them or are we not bound by such rules today?

How does one make that determination? Where would the principle on which we make that determination come from?

Related to your budet example, how would one determine the appropriate use of budget funds from a Scriptural basis??? For instance, we are commanded to be like Christ was after He was resurrected. If you look at what that was, he was Spirit and had all power. Ok, then he commanded them, "Go, teach all nations, baptizing in the name of Father, Son and Holy Ghost, Teaching to observe all I command you. I will be with you alway, unto the end of the world.

Based on that criteria, what is the priority of our church spending???? Should we spend $$$ on a summer camp meeting if it is not making disciples??? Does church camp make disciples? What constitues an event to make disciples? What is a disciple really???

Maybe what you are really trying to teach them and the point Via may have been trying to make is, maybe you really want them to be principled (God's principles) problem solvers not just capable problem solvers.

ViaMediaHaze said...

Anonymous #1

First the question was posed by Coach D and I gave my opinion to what I would like to see the students do. Now I have nothing against the internet. I use the internet (obviously) but I would never do serious research with it until I had already began to look for books and periodicals with the subject I am searching for. I just heard a statistic in my theology class this week (I cannot remember the exact percentage) that shows a higher number of pastors every year download sermons from the internet to preach to their congregations. That scares me to think that they use the internet as a sermon crutch. Ten years ago we would not even be having this discussion but now I ask, can we as pastors, theologians, apologists, or counselors do anything anymore without having to go to the internet? Are we so dependant on the internet that if it were to be gone tomorrow would our churches be without a sunday sermon?

The internet has its place but in no way should it be a replacement, the fix-all to end all research tools.

The AJ Thomas said...

The internet is just the books of today. My dad is a pastor, he used/uses books all the time to come up with sermon outlines, illustrations, etc. A generation ago books were considered the main source for information. Now it's the net. Is it completely reliable - no, books aren't either. I think the average internet user is actually more critical about what sources they rely on. We know there is a lot of junk out there and so everything we read online goes through a filter. That doesn’t tend to happen with books. People assume that if it got published it’s true (James Frey anyone?). If the internet were removed I’m sure most pastors would carry on, they would definitely get less done but they would be fine. To say we shouldn’t use the internet heavily because “what if it were gone” is roughly akin to saying we shouldn’t use lights because what if the power goes out. As for using the internet for problem solving a pastor in any given location is more likely to have access to the internet than any other resource except their Bible. So I agree for that and other obvious reason Bible first but why not internet second? If I had the option I would use the Bible online for that matter so I can do topical and keyword searches, word studies, etc.

Chad said...

Viamediahaze: Before the Internet there were hundreds of sermonds books published annually which pastors used to develop their sermons, some preaching them word for word--would we then reject all books becasue of this practice?

Serious research IS being done on the Internet--and the best educational institutions in the country accept Internet research equally with paper books. And, of course almost all serious scholarly journals are available right there in your IWU library--on the INternet: would that make them unreliable since they come across a wire instead of chopping down trees in Canada and printing letters on the resulting paper? Of course not--the issue is reliability of source, not the media the information is packaged in.

The issue with the Internet (like traditional books) is reliability. Anyone can publish anything on the Internet, so it has given scholarship at colleges and universities the opportunity to teach students how to test reliability: some sources are more reliable than others on the INternet (and in books) and not simply quote sources.

Recently we are seeing the growth of self-publishing at places like Lulu.com and elsewhere where anyone can now publish anything on paper just like they do on the Internet. So paper does not make a thing more reliable. The issue for scholarship is not the Internet versus paper vs oral interviews... it is learning how to test the reliability of any and all of these sources. THIS is what I was not taught in college that needs added.

Chad said...

(Sorry for following that rabbit trail on the Internet--back to your question)

5. In real life ministry you often get the grade for what others do. In college you can get an A by just doing your work well. In the church your grade is often based on your effectivenss in getting others to perform well. If you can't motivate people to show up, prepare, do the job well, YOU are the one who fails. You get the grade byut THEY take the test!

[LESSON: learn in college to work with other people, just "getting an A" may not even help you in the most important work in real life ministry of all: people work. Learn to work with people--your job will depend on it.

(Another rabbit trail: Is this why some straight A students flop in ministry?)

Anonymous said...

Wow, sounds like Jesus, they take the test and you get the grade! A minister or teacher with no complaints. Imagine that.

ViaMediaHaze said...

I guess I stepped on some "internet toes" with my post and for that I do apologize. Though this topic of internet is now getting off Coach D's original post but I want to make one more observation. I do not beleive I would have the mentors that I have in a Bill Ury or John Oswalt, college professors like Bud Bence or Ken Schenk if they primarily (besides Bible) used internet as their main research. There must be something said about all those pages written by Irenaues. All those days journaled by John Wesley. How would we know about Augustines City of God or Calvins Institutes? I am sure many now will just look up all those things up online now and maybe they will all be written completely in unedited form, but maybe not.

(sorry if i stepped on any more toes)

Justin said...

In real life:

6: You are not graded based on how relevant and cheeky you are, or even how innovative. Sometimes you get negative marks for not doing things "the way they have always been done."

7: Your family ultimatly determines if you pass or fail. You can get A's everyewhere else but if you fail at home you should have dropped out along time ago.

8: You job description is a lie. There is a vast difference between what they say they want and what they really want.

ViaMediaHaze said...

I really like that last question you pose. A paster friend of mine said that when he walks into the meeting with the board for the interview process and they present him with their expectations and requirements he always lifts up the paper and ask directly, "now what is expected of me that is not on this paper?"

I am glad you brought that point up here.

Kevin said...

9. In college YOU PAY THEM thousands of dollars a year to learn; in the church THEY PAY YOU thousands to teach them.

(I thought we needed some positive news for the students)

Anonymous said...

Dr. Drury:

Maybe Kevin hit the nail on the head, maybe you need to teach them what Godly leaders really do. I doubt that anyone really expects pastors to teach???? Maybe that is the misconception!

At least for those who know God for real anyways.

dnephew said...

Kudos for another intriguing article with which I disagree--almost completely.

1) On a trivial level you say "an educational process that was invented before the printing press." Accuracy in these kinds of trivial details don't typically bother you; however, for the record, our current education models, even at the university level, are of much more recent vintage and were generally developed by the same crowd that gave us phrenology and eugenics.

2) More substantively, your 3 differences between real life and college are not accurate--except possibly in some idealistic sense of how college is supposed to run. Maybe you have now taught too long and are too far removed from the reality of student life.

(a) 1. In real life there is no syllabus and few assignments.

While I don't disagree with this statement per se, your interpretation contains a deeply flawed assumption. Namely that in college a syllabus brings clarity and communicates accurately course expectations and assignments. My experience having attended three different universities and taught in two others is that almost no professor actually sticks to a syllabus. The vast majority of syllabuses are no more accurate or reliable than an average church job description. While many syllabuses carry an appearance of clarity, I found out very early on (especially with the more thoughtful and effective professors) that their syllabuses were more of a tool to weed out slacker students early in the semester--a "please drop my class" invitation. Moreover, the syllabus was their legal document to justify flunking or otherwise downgrading students who they believed to be slackers and were apparently not bright enough to accept the invitation to drop before the drop/add deadline had passed. This "legal" use of the syllabus also applies with special force to the less thoughtful and occasionally downright mean professors who use the apparent airtight syllabus to bludgeon reasonably hardworking students. This then provides ample legal justification for flunking or otherwise dowgrading a student the professor subjectively dislikes for some reason. I offer this as the explanation for your students who bleat for more clarity. If you talk to them about their prior experiences you will likely find that they have been burned badly by one or more of your esteemed colleagues in the past and are desparate to avoid that kind of unpleasantness again.

(b) 2. In real life there is not much feedback on your work.

Again, I don't disagree with your statement here, but you assume (wrongly I might add) that college classes contain meaningful feedback. This, of course, is hogwash--almost silly really. I will grant you that there is a great deal of feedback in college classes--in particular grades; however as my student career progressed, I found that most of the feedback was meaningless in any qualitative sense. Often professors use grading and the occasional critical comment as justification for rewarding students they like and penalizing students they dislike. Even when a professor lacks ulterior motives, grades are deeply subjective and little more than a random way to assign value to various student performances--often as a way to placate the administrative bureaucrats and/or justify their position as an expert in their given field. If you disagree, just think to a time when a student challenged a grade. In my experience whenever a student challenged a grade, the professor's response was almost always immediate and visceral. By the deep emotional reaction you would have thought the professor had been personally attacked. Why would such an objective and helpful tool of feedback generate such an emotional response in the professor? I would suggest that the Wizard dislikes having the curtain pulled back. In my personal experience, the most refreshing and truthful statement about grading I ever heard in my student career was a professsor who opened a three hour essay exam by wittily saying that we shouldn't worry how much we know about the material in an objective sense since all we really need to know is a little more than our fellow classmates--classic subjective grading. (By the way, no one ever cheated on those kinds of subjectively graded exams). And what of grade challenges in this case? He could simply point to the other students and say--"I liked their essays better than yours."

(c) 3. In real life you are graded secretly.

Again I agree with the statement but argue that this is also quite true in college as well. My comments in (b) above also apply here but I would like to explore your analysis that grades in ministry are based upon "likeability." I ask: are college grades given on some other basis? Of course in undergraduate school, there is a masquerade of objectivity; however, the graduate level--especially doctoral level work--unmasks the subjective truth. Masters and doctoral level work is all about being admitted to the guild. If your professors and committee like you and you are willing to kiss their bishop rings, you will make it--if not, you won't. It's that simple. If you don't believe it poll all of your abd (all but dissertation) friends. The dissertation is that great subjective barrier used to weed out the unlikeable ones.

Well I've done enough venting for now. Thanks for being thought provoking. In the interest of playing ball with your question, I will add one.

4) In real life no one likes a know-it-all. In college know-it-alls thrive--usually as professors.

Pastor Rob 23 said...

In real life class may end at anytime. Your final grade in the minds of others will be assumed at your funeral. Your actual grade will be revealed by the Real Teacher.

Aaron said...

In real life

You don't get summer break or winter break after finals. It is one large project after another, after another, after another.

The work day never ends at the "end of the day". Class is always in session and you are expected to be ready for a test at any given moment.

Anonymous said...

In the real world, you are expected to produce, not just think, write and tell everyone else what to do and how to do it!

In the real world, folks don't cotton to ivory tower attitudes!

In the real world, perfection no longer is of the highest priority, getting the job done is.

In the real world, nobody will really care whether or not you succeed or fail, except maybe your parents.

In the real world, folks live in the real world, idealism quickly fades into the truth that folks like things just the way they are, otherwise, they would not be that way.

In the real world, kindness and respect effect the important changes, not a pious justification of right and wrong.

In the real world, you are just another person who comes and goes and your dreams and hopes will matter little to those who hire you.

In the real world, if you expect to make it, you had better stand on the word of God alone because there will come a day in every life when that is all you have and that is all you need. So, prepare early!

In the real world, the text of God means little, even to the lay people who hire you.

In the real world, you will find that you can and will be sacrificed on the altar of the church's ambitions, egos and mistakes.

In the real world, you will learn that there are two sets of laws/rules in the church, one for the leaders and one for everyone else.

In the real world, folks who give the $ expect to control you. Everyone in the real world expects a return on their investment regardless of how pious they sound.

In the real world, they celebrate your failure!

Also in the real world, God is awesome beyond what you could ever imagine or dream! The world is His play ground. He walks around picking up His little ones who have fallen off their toys, breaks up fights, fixes broken toys, kisses booboos, puts salve on the wounds, laughs, crys and best of all, pushes you down the slide!

Anonymous said...

The one thing I've struggled with the more scars I get from life is you just can't drop out, there is no summer vaction.

The best you can hope for is that someday you get out of the valley

Anonymous said...


True, there are times you can't just drop out but there are times you have no choice but to drop out and at those times you have to learn to swallow your ego, trust God and ignore all the advice you get!

In the desert, they only followed the fire and the cloud! There are times in life one has to do the same, listen only to God.

Anonymous said...

In the real world, there is always someone who thinks they make a better god for you than God.

Ken said...


My favorite "add on" here was from someone who wrote that "In real life, your grade depends on others."

As a senior pastor for the past six years, I've seen how true that is. If I'm doing a good job but my staff is not, I get the grade. If I'm NOT doing a good job but my staff is, I get the grade.

It was true when I was a youth pastor, and when I was a music pastor, and it's an incredibly true statement.

I would add... In the real world you're graded on who you are as an ENTIRE person (mentally, socially, spiritually, physically) not just for what you can submit on paper or via presentation. Your character, integrity, and overall personal discipline are of invaluable significance as a leader.

Anonymous said...

In the real world, when hired for a job, you are expected to not just be familiar with what the organizational charters, supporting documents and regulations say, you are to "know" them -- how the organization originated, how regulations changed over time, how the regulations impact every aspect of the organization for which you work, and based on those regulations be able to support/defend any decision you make, and you must ensure that everything you do is w/in the boundaries of those regulations/supporting documents.

I will not attempt to number the pastors who are obviously not even close to that criteria and not even trying to meet such a criteria.

Few really know their supporting/charter document, the Bible. Maybe that would be a great place to start.

For those concerned with the use of pre-written sermons, your concern would no longer be valid--to your great joy I am sure. God would then write every sermon. Folks are only incapable when they don't know the material. The pastoral leadership movement, while greatly needed to fix character flaws and teach folks how to deal with people, will not and cannot do what a set number of hours in the word of God with no commentaries can do!

Jeanine Long said...

In the real world, when you fail -- you almost always get a re-do. The most wonderful thing about that is that if we shift our paradigm just a little, failure becomes our best teacher and only then do we learn and appreciate success.

Anonymous, I think you are wrong that in the real world, they celebrate your failure. In college there is more celebration of failure. In real life there is celebration of learning from failure and not repeating it. By the way, that my definition of success!

Anonymous said...

Wow, in the real world there is more celebration of your failure!!!!!

Now that is scary.

Anonymous said...

Here is somethhing to think about: No matter how much you learned or paid for that knowledge, or regardless what H.Q. says how things should be done, a student will face a church board where at least one or more will not care what they know, or even what HQ says, certain things have always been done in a certain way. That is called the WNDITWB syndrome. (We never did it that way before!) A good idea for a reality show would be to follow a student who graduates from college and goes to a church and has his or her first board meeting.

Brian said...

I'm bi-vocational, so my comments will reflect not just ministry-related things, but also "regular" job-related things:

In the real world, perception is reality. In other words, if a person perceives you to be a rotten pastor, then you are - to them. And little you can do (if anthing) will change that.

On the other hand, if someone perceives that your the greatest ministry leader since Jesus Himself, then you've got a good thing going...(Dream on!)

In the real world, Christmas vacation and summer vacation don't exist. You're expected to be at work during holidays unless the company says it's a holiday.

In the real world of ministry, "vacation" simply means "away from the office but close enough to a phone so we can get hold of you in case of an 'emergency' (if your a solo pastor)."

In the real world, if you skip too often, you don't flunk the class, you get fired (and should!).

In the real world, the feedback you get from bosses is not usually couched in politically correct terminology. If your work stinks, they'll tell you - as they're firing you.

In the real world, your opinion about life and Jesus may not always be welcome. Co-workers and bosses don't want you rocking the boat, and if you insist on continuing, you will find yourself looking for another place to exercise your "first amendment rights."

On a related note, you will find that in the real world, it's okay to have an opinion, as long as it's not a Christian one...

Sorry for all the negative. I really enjoy the ministry and its challenges (most of the time).

Maybe part of what's behind this is that I am also a second-career guy, getting into ministry in my mid-30's, and having graduated from a secular college 20 years ago.

I've worked in the marketplace that entire time, and pastoring for the last seven years.


Anonymous said...

Technology, the internet, has little,if anything, to do with Truth. It is similar to the relationship between a power tool and craftsmanship. Some of the finest craftsmen I know still use 200 year old technology. More and faster does not necessarily translate to quality. Truth is what it is whether it is communicated on the internet or in a book. Our challenge as Christians is to know the truth and be able to recognize it. Funny thing about reality (Truth) is that even if we don't recognize it, it still exists.