New models of Ministerial EDUCATION & TRAINING

Charlie Alcock and Keith Drury thinking about new models of ministerial EDUCATION and ministerial TRAINING. in light of emerging adulthood.


Pete Vecchi said...

It seems to me that one of the key issues that should be dealt with is length of tenure by a minister-in-training. Practical training--especially in university/seminary-required service--really doesn't (as Keith said) give all that much experience to young ministers. This is especially true because most people who serve in these types of positions know (and the people in the congregation know) that these are short-term positions. These students (again, as Keith said) aren't likely to have to deal with issues such as major conflict in the church, because they'll likely never be outside of the "honeymoon" period with the congregation.

Maybe the entire system needs a re-thinking and an overhaul. Although I learned much in Bible college (I didn't attend seminary, so that might automatically make my comments dismissible in some people's minds), I have learned far more while serving in practical ministry than I did in college. Honestly, I have learned more practical, usable things through post-college continuing education experiences than I did in Bible college.

Maybe something needs to be done to call pre-ordinands into lengthier terms of service in one congregation. Perhaps these people should be appointed by districts as associates to congregations for a 3-year period of time. This would not be someone "hired" by a local congregation. This person would stay with the congregation through the entire time--even if the senior pastor should accept a call to another assignment during that time.

Of course, issues would have to be worked out with this (such as if and how this person would be compensated, what types of duties would be expected of this person, etc...).

I could and should develop this more, but I've said enough for now. If my comments here generate more comments this week, I'll try to address it more. Otherwise, this will probably be all I'll say on the subject.

steve elliott said...

Keith ... it seems to me that the great danger in the model you have articulated is that so much of the 'training and imprinting' is provided by a local church.

Given that 80% of churches are plateaued and/or declining. Given the next 19% of churches are only growing due to 'transfer growth or the birth of babies'. Given that 99% of the local churches are NOT effectively reaching or transforming their communities for good and for God ... do we really want the next generation of pastors to be trained and imprinted by local churches?

On the flip side ... the 99% of churches that are not growing, are lead by pastors who were trained by Bible colleges and seminaries. Thus, our colleges/seminaries have, in recent years, not been doing an admirable job either.

Thus .. a big dilemma. Where do we train and imprint the next generation of pastors?

In defense of Bible colleges and seminaries, I will say that the college I attended (or more accurately ... some very sharp professors) provided some life-changing principles and skills that made all the difference in the ministries I eventually had the opportunity to lead. AND I purposed to never stop learning and growing throughout my 25 years in active, front line ministries.

alee said...

One of the problems it seems is that most college students are looking for a staff position under a dynamic senior or executive pastor who would teach/train them like their professors have, but many of the positions open to new graduates are leading small congregations that experienced senior pastors do not want. They can be stuck with too much responsibility as a result of having to pay the bills, and psychologically/practically may not have even truly understood or accepted their call yet.

There is a kind of cultural dissonance between those in power and responsibility in denominations and the students/ministers that are being turned out. I like pete's idea of having the district or denom. assign ministers for three year terms, and I also like the internship/residence model the two authors share. I think what everyone seems to be seeking is mentoring. All of these models would require huge investment from everyone involved, but things do seem kind of broken.

tim said...

Hey Coach,
Great to see your comment over on AJ’s blog. I’m sure he was encouraged by it.
We’ve been wrestling this issue to the ground here @ Crosspoint. We’ve almost doubled in the last two years and it is churning up a new crop of world-changers who are feeling called. I’ve been sensing for awhile that there must be a more responsible approach to full time ministry or missions than the old “you need to go to Bible College” slap on the back.

We just finished a 6 month internship with a student and, although it went well, it leaves you wondering how they would do in a church much smaller than ours. Many of the young guns who are throwing in their credentials 2-3 years in - are either on staff with an insecure senior pastor or they are in a small church. They’ve sat around a dorm room for 4 years talking about how they are going to make Willow Creek look like a prayer meeting. Then they get 2 or 3 board meetings in the real world and realize that maybe they aren’t as equipped for changing the world as they thought they were.

We don’t have an answer yet but we’re sensing some type of new hybrid model that will provide real experience and preparation without the suffocation of college debt.

JonS said...

In the Wesleyan church the denomination has an exact list of the "education" requirements that colleges must offer --even those exact courses. The list has practical courses on it (like counseling) but the denomination has no list whatsoever of practical experience that a student must have before ordination. It seems we need such a list if we want students to have more practical traiining. All we're working off now is a list of courses.

Burton Webb said...

I don't know a lot about this topic, but I can comment on the medical residency process.

After college our graduates do 4 years of medical school. The first two are "education" in the basic sciences. The last two years are mostly "education" in medicine with a little bit of "training" thrown in.

Then comes residency. Depending on the specialty (That's something else to consider in ministry) students will spend 3 - 6 years working within a group of practicing physicians. Residency works because there are several hundred programs around the country specifically designed to train physicians. Residency programs are not haphazard, they have curricula and specific learning outcomes. Sometime during this process the really good student/doctors get to try their hand at leadership - they become chief residents.

Eventually they complete the program, pass a few hundred skills proficiencies, take a final licensure exam, and open practices of their own.

What lessons can be learned from this?

1. Ideally, students should go to seminary. No matter how good college is, it cannot cover everything. There is simply not enough time.
2. Denominations/districts will need to create sites where resident ministers can work in groups with experts. These experts must be secure and strong enough to handle a bunch of know-it-all residents.
3. Denominations need to know what they want out of residency programs. (Outcomes)
4. Denominations should consider offering specialty training. Preaching, Counseling, Budgeting, Management, Conflict Resolution, Senior Pastoring, etc.
5. Residents should pass proficiency tests. These can be done in real and "mock" settings.
6. There should be a licensure exam based on the desired outcomes.

Then, you have a fully qualified, practicing minister.

Just two cents worth of parallelism from the medical profession.

Pete Vecchi said...

I have to comment on Burton's reply.

Much of what he says makes sense--at least logically.

However, I must disagree with the idea of making seminary mandatory. My experience tells me that seminary "book learning" is not what is needed. I would much more likely go along with the idea of "specialty training" for people who feel called into a certain "specialty" area of ministry. But then you'd have to be careful, because, much as has happened in medical practice, you get more people specializing and fewer "general practitioners." And why wouldn't we? In medicine, the "specialists" make more money, and only have to concentrate on one area. That's part of the reason why medical expenses have gotten so high. The general practitioner in medicine is generally lower paid and has to be more of an "expert" in all types of medicine, where the specialist is higher paid and can concentrate on one area.

Put that into play in ministry, and the church would not be able to afford it--especially if the amount of schooling that Burton mentioned is brought into the picture. Only the "larger" churches would be able to afford the ministry "specialists" while the smaller churches would have to "settle" for the lower paid "general practitioners" of ministry.

And just one more observation from medicine: some doctors have terrible "bedside manner" and lack good communication skills. We really don't need many members of the clergy who are "book-wise" but don't relate well to people.

I could say more, but I need to do something else right now.

David Drury said...

Neat article and good replies here.

Looks like Charlie is showing you some of our plans at CWC too. :-)

We launch our first "Resident Pastor" position on June 1, 2009 at College Wesleyan Church (This is a paid position for post-ministry program graduates and one level above the paid internships we also have available). Those interested can contact Charlie Alcock or myself.


And we'll send you the release information.

This will be an exciting experiment in what you're talking about. (FYI - What they're doing down a 12Stone church in Atlanta has some parallels to this, and I know Charlie has worked with them as they are launching their new 2 year post-grad internship)

With our program at CWC, we hope to have a half-dozen "Resident Pastors" on the team in a few years.

Ok. Commercial over. :-)

-David Drury

Karl said...

My denominational seminary requires a one year internship before graduation. This can be a great opportunity to serve under the watchful eye of a seasoned pastor. But too often interns are placed into open rural congregations where the supervising pastor is in a nearby community and therefore cannot provide hands on supervision. This situation gives experience (sometimes good, sometimes bad) but little training.

On the other hand, one of my seminary classmates went on to serve a Lutheran denomination in Czech Republic. There, seminary grads must serve as a Vicar (Assistant Pastor) for seven years before becoming eligible for full ordination.

I think the Czech system meets the needs of the church and pastoral candidates.

Keith Drury said...

Thanks for the good feedback on this article. On Friday the Board of Trustees of Indiana Wesleyan University voted to found a new seminary at IWU and tossed a dozen million dollars at it to show they were serious about tackling this major challenge of blending practical training with ministerial education. This is a totally new idea for a seminary--a radical approach requiring the students to be working at least half time in a local church continuously all during their seminary experience. This creative approach is perhaps the most innovative attempt to combine both education and practical training in the last 100 years. More to come on this later.

Pastor Al said...

Greetings Keith...

First, I see some implied assumptions. In an ideal world, every Christian will be born or at least reborn in a vibrant, fully functioning local church body.

Ideally, they will all be Wesleyan Churches (because now we have a generation who has been to several mainline churches). And might we add, many students are not opting for Weslyan colleges(which I think is sad)because denominations are somewhat out of favor. Over the Christmas holiday, I also spoke with an IWU grad in Wilmington NC...who has no interest in attending a Wesleyan Church in that area.

Overall, I agree with your spirit and excitment for the new MDiv program. It certainly is a step in the right direction. I strongly agree that it will be one of many tools to equip new generations.

Would also caution that life is messy. We need to support each and every person called...and some are validly called from all stations and ages in life...often to full time service. I spoke with a man today that has four more years remaining before military retirement; he has a definite call upon his life.

I'll graduate from the masters in ministerial leadership program in a few months (IWU). I'm all about life long learning and creating practical internship experiences. I am also a huge FLAME supporter.

Trust we will not become too constricting in the development of the ministry...nor too formal in our constructs. There is a fine line in developing avenues for growth and setting up barriers for ministerial entry.

I will also stick my neck out and say that we are not mobilizing our lay people, as we ought, in the pursuit of reaching this generation for Christ. The formal ministry cannot fulfill ministry for the community by itself...lay ministry fills the gaps. John Wesley would have put more of his money on training lay people. We are in danger of creating another professional church.

Overall, I think the Wesleyan Church is creating viable options for the called. I am in great favor of the new MDiv program. If I were ten years younger...I would be beating the doors down to participate. Congrats. Praise God we are seeking to give Him our best.

Posting late...I trust these thoughts to fall on deaf ears.

Best Easter wishes.

Michael Cline said...

Sounds like the "practicum" curriculum has been revamped since I was attended IWU (just 4 years ago). At that time, the "practicums" were a little haphazard. As long as you put in your 6 hours a week, whether it was setting up chairs and meeting one on one with a single student (I was a YM major), or programming an entire outreach event -- you got credit. Everyone I knew was taking shortcuts just to "be done with it."

I'm excited about the new seminary and everything that IWU is doing to address the 20 somethings that are still trying to grow into their call post-college. Consider me one of them. I know seminary is not for everyone, but for me, it was such a blessing. If good for nothing else (which is was), it at least gave me 3 more years to grow up a little bit and learn to love Jesus as much as I preached.

Keith Drury said...

M the practicums are a BIT reorganized--but they still lack a significant "training" component--and perhaps always will. As you know IWU never intended to have seven practicum courses--the committee actually recommended a full-semester internship--something like student teaching.... but the practical considerations of sending 50-60 students a year all over the place for a semester... forcing married students to move, engages couples to separate for a semester, and finding 50 churches who would provide good places for this mob finally defeated the recommendation--and our fall-back position was to go with seven semesters of 1-hour practicum courses in a local church.

They do have the advantage of washing out people who like to study the Bible but dislike the church ;-) And they provide some "exposure" to local ministries (before we had these a decade or more ago there actually were some seniors who interviewed with DS who admitted they "hadn't yet found a church in Marion"!!!! At least ministerial students have to attend a church now and be around even if for low-grade counseling with youth) seven semesters ;-)

But they do not in any sense "train" a person for real ministry. I think that has to happen in a local church..and not just for 3-5 hours a week--it comes in full-time work or at least 30 hours a week. That's what Charlie and I have a burden for--some format that seriously offers to 20somethings ongoing local church training... and West Michigan, and 12Stone and others are now making that happen--we're thrilled!