BEYOND WHAT WE LEARN AT SEMINARY?

 

         BEYOND WHAT WE LEARN AT SEMINARY?

 

Reflecting on nearly forty years of ministry, there are plenty of things I wish had been taught at seminary.   I enjoyed reading the article by church consultant Sarai Schnucker Rice (http://www.congregationalconsulting.org/what-should-a-minister-be-good-at/)  who lists many of the usual subjects taught at seminary:

 

Greek, Hebrew, Old Testament, New Testament, systematic theology, liturgy, preaching, teaching, pastoral care, all the spiritual disciplines, and 2000 years of church history…..”

 

But what about the administrative skills helpful for any pastor called to actually manage the ministries of a particular church?   Throughout my ministry, I found it was expected that pastors know how to manage the church as an organization. 

 

Some of the management skills discussed in this article:

 

  1. Framing the Vision
  2. Engaging the Board and Congregational Planning
  3. Leading the Staff
  4. Managing the Finances
  5. Developing Future Lay Leadership
  6. Creating Space for New Ministerial Leadership
  7. Being the Chief Communicator
  8. Supporting the Board

 

I would add to this list some additional skills:

 

 1.  Building Maintenance:   How to handle building emergencies:  leaks, plumbing crisis, power outages, floods and fires. 

 2.  Legal Issues—Risk Management:  

 

How to respond to an active member who insists on carrying a gun in church?   How do respond to felons or known sex offenders who may wish to join your church?  Child Protection laws?  Misconduct laws?  How to manage people who are disruptive in  worship?  What do you do when someone has a heart-attack during worship?  What do you do when personally threatened?

 3.  Stewardship Development

 

How to manage annual fund-raising campaigns?  How to manage special capital campaigns?   How to secure grants and loans to help fund programs?  How to manage investments?  Endowments?  Bequests? 

4.  Weddings and Funerals:   How to manage some of the special requests a pastor often gets outside the parameters of what most congregational manuals teach. 

 

I was once asked to bless a new light fixture outside a church building that had been destroyed by vandals.  Or what do you do when nobody is available at the cemetery to dig the grave?  How do you respond to the family that requests a 21 gun salute outside he church  (when there isn’t going to be traditional interment).  Just a few of the requests I have had to respond to over the years.

 

Granted, many of these things can only be learned through experience.   The value of Seminary Internships is in learning some of these practical aspects of doing ministry.  What should be taught at seminary?  I also need to ask:  What needs to be taught as clergy grow in their positions? 

 

Years ago and as a member of the Presbytery of Chicago (early 80’s) we had a Professional Development Committee (under the auspice of the Committee on Ministry).   This committee hosted regional gatherings of small groups of teaching elders in order to discuss tough situations (through case studies) encountered in doing ministry.  These were meetings designed to nurture trust among peers.  I found these meetings helpful in not only dealing with personal/professional issues but also in learning from what others were encountering in their ministries.  While I don’t know if these gatherings continued, I would think this could be a helpful model

 

This suggestion:  Create your own post-seminary group of colleagues to discuss, as the title in the Rice article suggests in asking:  WHAT SHOULD A MINISTER BE GOOD AT?  

 

My thanks to Sarai Schnucker Rice for her article.

 

 

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