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Ministers/ Teaching Elders

Goals for New Pastor Seminars


These educational goals are intended as a beginning point for conversation about curriculum in New Pastor Seminar events. It is taken for granted that they will be revised in light of experience.                  

Understanding the Context of Your Ministry

Participants will examine case studies and congregational studies literature, especially with a view to learning skills of pastoral leadership that help a congregation develop local mission.

Participants will learn to use perspectives and observational tools of a cultural anthropologist to interpret the culture of a congregation “over the shoulders of the people to whom it properly belongs” (Clifford Geertz, Interpretation of Cultures).

Participants will practice ways of leading a congregation to address the question, “What does it mean to be a Reformed church in this context?”

Key questions

  1. What personal metaphors guide your understanding of an ideal congregation? How do your metaphors fit with the ones that guide expectations of the congregation? How much metaphorical stretch can you and the church tolerate, without sacrificing too much of yourself?
  2. Every congregation has an implicit or explicit understanding of what God calls it to be and to do. How open is the congregation to the possibility that God is calling it to be and do something different? How can you help the church grow into changed ways, without pushing too far and arousing resistance?
  3. When you interpret the cultural context where you work, how do you involve people in that culture in validating and correcting your interpretations?
  4. How can theological metaphors and language from the Reformed tradition be used to help a congregation assess its life and ask “why?” questions about what it’s doing?
  5. How will “wise people” from first call churches be involved in identifying needs and remedies for individual participants?

Self-understanding and the pastor's role

Participants will learn to integrate ongoing personal and professional development into a style of ministry that includes life-long learning as a permanent feature.

Participants will acquire skills for negotiating the transition from seminary culture to a church culture in a way that will prepare them for other cultural transitions they are likely to experience in ministry.

Participants will consider the fit between their personal traits and traits that play a central, organizing role in ministers who are resilient and effective over the long haul: e.g. integrity, spirituality, character, authenticity.

Participants will examine personal traits and dispositions that help or hinder their effectiveness in conflicted situations, when they are a party to a conflict or helping others to manage and resolve differences.

Participants will be encouraged to cultivate ways of being that will stand them in good stead in the stresses they can expect to encounter in ministry: imagination; capacity to live creatively with paradox and ambiguity; a disposition to practice “second loop thinking” (Charles Handy), that is, to begin anticipating the next important focus for their ministry while the present one still is working well.

Key questions

  1. What personal metaphors guide your understanding of yourself in ministry? How do your metaphors fit with the metaphors that guide expectations of the congregation? How much metaphorical stretch can you tolerate, without sacrificing too much of yourself?
  2. What is your comfort level with the prospect of life-long development and growth as a qualification for effectiveness in ministry?
  3. Do you believe God calls you once-for-all to be a minister, or can you imagine that God called you to something else before you were a minister, and may again call you to a different path in the future?
  4. Do you see and experience conflict as always morbid and destructive? How can you know when conflict is a normal part of coming to a common mind, and when it is likely to cause harm to you or to someone else?

An appropriate pastoral style

In conversation between the context where they serve and their image of themselves as pastors of a community, each participant will develop skills and practices (e.g. preaching and sacraments, teaching, pastoral care, crisis ministry, etc.) as an integrated whole in which all the tasks of ministry “work together for good” in, with and for the community that called them to pastoral leadership.

Key questions

  1. How will you grow from the “neck up” styles of theological reflection you learned in seminary into a “by heart, from the heart” style that congregations tend to expect from an effective pastor?
  2. The hidden curriculum of seminary education teaches compartmentalization of theory and practice: systematic theology is one thing, pastoral counseling is another. How will you learn to let theory and practice talk to one another in an integrated style of ministry?

From Strengthening Pastoral Leadership in First-Call Churches: Conceptual Framework And Goals, edited by Lewis Wilkins from Leadership & Vocation New Pastor Seminar Consultant Team.              

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