Sunday, May 15, 2005

Prayer = successful placement?

As I continue to think through the idea of successful placement-- and consider what factors lead to it-- then I must address a question I've been asked several times: what about prayer?

This seems like a no-brainer. And the last thing I want to do through my research (or the things I write about my research) is suggest that the spiritual dimension is not a factor. The Holy Spirit is an incredibly important “factor” through the process (and in ministry generally), and certainly pastoral candidates must be men who pray, read the Bible, worship regularly, etc. If any of you candidates (or pastors!) are not doing these and other essential spiritual disciplines, I would suggest that you get busy.

And while I'm at it, if you're wrestling with this, true to form, I have a book recommendation:

“Disciplines of a Godly Man” (R. Kent Hughes)

That said, prayer strikes me as a non-factor with regard to my focus on successful placement. Before you cry, “Blasphemy!” and write me off, then let me qualify my remarks. I've blogged before (see Next Steps) about the research methods of Jim Collins and Thom Rainer, who are in many ways the models for what I want to do with this research. One big problem that they both work hard to avoid is identifying “factors” (so-called) that are not actually factors. Collins calls this discovering buildings: if he simply were to look for the common aspects of all businesses that fit his “great” model (from Good to Great) then he might discover that all of them had buildings. But those things which are true of just about everyone are not necessarily the things that lead to great companies, unchurched-reaching churches (as in Rainer's Surprising Insights from the Unchurched), or in my case, successful placement. Thus, these common aspects should not be viewed as true “factors.”

So I think prayer may be the “buildings” of my study. And rather than “discovering prayer,” I need to include into my research some comparison aspects that will show me what is different in those who placed successfully from those who didn't.

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