Monday, November 12, 2012

New experiments in training clergy

The Alban Institute has an interesting article today on the role churches and judicatories are taking in training clergy.  A number of larger churches have developed training to help prepare individuals to serve in ministry roles in their churches as well as in others.  Some denominations and judicatories have developed similar training opportunities to help prepare persons called into ministry be ready to serve in a local church.  In the region in which I serve we created the Church Leadership Institute about ten years years ago to help develop our lay leaders and persons specially called to bivocational ministry for improved leadership in their churches.  It has been a successful effort.

Some may question if training clergy is not the role of seminaries, and it is a legitimate question.  The fact is, both churches and seminaries have a role to play.  Seminaries do an excellent job of preparing persons in certain areas of pastoral responsibilities.  Churches and judicatories can further develop the young clergy person in the more personal responsibilities.  Most seminary graduates will admit they were not prepared by their schools for some of the hands-on responsibilities of pastoral work.  Local training programs can focus on some of those more personal elements of pastoral ministry.

As the number of bivocational ministers continue to grow more of this localized training will become even more important.  Many of these ministers will not have the opportunity for seminary education.  They may be second career or even third career ministers.  In mid-life with growing families they simply cannot take the time for a seminary education, but they also know that God has a call on their lives that they cannot ignore.  Schools led by churches and judicatories can be the answer.  While such schools often will not provide the opportunities for some of the more advanced academic courses, they will offer good basic ministry training.  This training will serve many of our bivocational ministers very well.

As I speak with leaders from many of our denominations about the growing numbers of bivocational ministers in their churches, the issue of training often is discussed.  Many of them currently offer such training through various programs, but some do not.  Some are looking at how they can improve what they do offer.  I believe this will be one of the emphases in the future for many of our denominations, and it will be an important one if we are going to provide our churches with trained clergy.

To read the article by The Alban Institute please click here.

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