Sunday, October 29, 2006

Leadership skills for future pastors

I've blogged before about how one part of an ordination exam tests how well a man is equipped for ministry, and another part examines him for readiness for ministry.  I'm beginning to think that this division applies much more to seminary than a lot of seminarians would be comfortable with.  I was visiting with Bob Burns, Director of the Center for Ministry Leadership, a few days ago, and he mentioned a major hole in seminary training: leadership skills.
Bob works with pastors who have been in ministry for 5-15 years with the stated goal of "sustaining pastoral excellence."  As a result, Bob is a huge resource for the research and ideas that I'm working through.

At Covenant Seminary, M.Div. students take a class called "Ministry Leadership" which addresses many difficult leadership decisions with regard to philosophy of ministry, the practice of strategic change, dealing with conflict of preferences, etc.  It also exposes students to decisive factors like different types of churches (as in the evangelism-focuses church or the mercy ministry-minded church) and how to identify which church is right for you as a pastor.  I don't know what other seminaries offer along these lines, but this is a great start.

What Bob means, though, is not just leadership in terms of knowing yourself and your strengths or understanding the dynamics of church ministry.  Seminary students could stand to get more exposure to things like strategic planning, leading effective meetings, decision-making processes, conflict resolution, and how to mentor others (and how to be mentored).

I've been working on financial information at Wildwood Christian School, where I teach and work, and I would count things like budgeting and financial management into this mix.  Would the average seminary graduate understand how to compile a budget or develop a reliable forecast?  Maybe-- but I sure didn't.  Yet, the pastor(s) in a church are the ones who are finally responsible to determine what the expenses should be, and they are also the ones who will be keeping expenses in check.  (They are also a lot more responsible for the money a church takes in than most people realize.)  In a church there is usually someone-- probably a Deacon-- who has some expertise in accounting and can keep the church from venturing into areas of questionable legality, but that doesn't absolve a pastor from the need to understand how to read a financial report.

If seminary falls on the side of "how well are they equipped for ministry" with regard to theological and biblical knowledge, where does the other half-- the "readiness for ministry" part-- come from?  Field Education and Internships.  After that, guys, you're on your own.  How will you get the readiness you need?

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1 comment:

Bobby's blog said...

You have found a huge gap. I don't necesarrily think that leadership skills have to come from Church related internships/jobs. One advantage I believe I have going for me as I begin the candidating process is the fact that I have experience in management.
Seminary students, especially in St. Louis, can always choose to work a year and a half at UPS (where I work), go into supervision (low level management) where they are responsible for strategy, business plans, conflict resolution, leading groups, inspiring people to actually respond to your leadership, and deal with some of the messiness that happens when you lead (screw-ups, etc).
I may not have 4 years experience interning at a PCA church during seminary, but I can say that I am able to do some of the dirty work I wouldn't have been exposed to if I had worked as an intern the entire time. (it will also pay dividends when I talk with search committees/sessions and they ask about how I can relate to them)

On a side note: I wonder if M.Div students believe that the leadership abilities will come? (just throwing out a question)