Theological Education vs. Ministry Preparation?

Minister PreparingShould seminaries engage in theological education or ministry preparation? Of course the initial answer should be "both."

But, Let's go deeper.
 
Should seminaries primarily focus on theological education with minimal practical, real-time ministry preparation? Or, should seminaries primarily focus on ministry preparation with just enough theological reflection to be sure they are not producing heretics?
 
On a scale of one to ten, with one representing the position that seminaries should engage only in theological education and let students get ministry preparation on their own, and ten representing the position that seminaries should engage only in ministry preparation and let students be theologically grounded elsewhere, where along this scale should seminaries focus?
 
Why? Explain your answer.
 
Beyond this straightforward dichotomy are additional questions. Should seminaries provide theological indoctrination that fits the generally focused perspective of the seminary faculty? Should seminaries teach a style of ministry their perspective says is the generally accepted—perhaps even the only accepted—pathway to a successful ministry career? In other words, should seminaries seek to produce graduates in their image, or graduates in the image of God for engaging in with the unique set of spiritual gifts, life skills, and personality preferences each person possesses?
 
Perhaps the reality of these last three questions is to watch the graduates of seminaries that faculty and administration point to as examples of their best graduates, or those who they invite back to speak or teach, or alumni who they honor with some recognition, or those who they continually recommend for ministry placement throughout the ministry career of the graduate. This may say more than anything else where the seminary is along this continuum of theological education vs. ministry preparation.
 
What is your story about seminary? To what extent did you receive a theological education? To what extent did you receive ministry preparation?

Common Sense Security for Houses of Worship

Church Security

This is a repost from the summer of 2015 that is still relevant today and points to a resource that is still active!

In light of the mass murders this week at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC many congregations will think about, perhaps rush to deal with, security issues for their congregation. In the midst of their response congregations need to seek some common sense about security.

I recommend congregation download the Download Guide to Developing High-Quality Emergency Operations Plans for Houses of Worship  published by FEMA. It is a helpful comprehensive, common sense piece.

Here is the FEMA site: https://www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/documents/33007

I also recommend congregations contact their insurance provider. Many have developed or have recommended material and guidebooks for houses of worship. 

Be wise. Be loving. Be inviting. Be careful. Be safe. Be Christian.


Who is the Primary Client for Seminaries?

Clients  Only for Our ClientsI am part of an accreditation team from the Association of Theological Schools for an Chicago area seminary this week. I am pondering various questions about seminaries and covet your insights into various issues. Respond by posting a comment, sending me a private message, or write me and e-mail to BulllardJournal@gmail.com
 
Who is the primary client of seminaries? Does the seminary I am visiting have clarity about who its client is, and who its client should be? In the case of this specific seminary, is the primary client they are serving and the primary client they ought to serve the same
 
Share your perspective. In your opinion, who is and who should be the primary client of a seminary—the primary people or entities they serve? Here are some choices to stimulate your thinking. In your answer choose three or less—one is best--and distinguish between who is and who ought to be the primary client. Provide not only your answer, but why that is your answer.
  • The seminary faculty.
  • The seminary president/administration.
  • The board of trustees.
  • The small group of the largest financial contributors to the seminary.
  • The denomination with which they are affiliated.
  • The agencies/association with whom they seek accreditation.
  • The students.
  • The congregations from whom the students come.
  • The congregations to whom the students are going to provide ministry leadership.
  • The persons in the pews/chairs of the congregations to whom the students are going to provide ministry leadership.
  • The preChristians, unchurched, underchurched, and dechurched people not actively participating in the congregations to whom the students are going to provide ministry leadership.
  • Other ministry organizations to which the students are going to provide leadership.
  • The educational and/or leadership institutions/organizations to whom the students are going as faculty.
  • The founding mission, purpose, and/or vision of the seminary.
  • The historic global Church, in general.
  • The future, emerging global Church, in general.

Extra Credit: Who is the primary client of the primary client of seminaries? Explain.


What About Location Partners? More Than Multisite--Learning One on Barna Report

Multisite ChurchesI am just having an opportunity to read the 2016 Barna Report produced in partnership with Cornerstone Knowledge Network entitled More Than Multisite: Inside Today's Methods and Models for Launching New Congregations. I will likely post several times about it.

One term I have already learned that I like very much is "Location Partners". I am going to use it here forward as a replacement for "Nesting Congregations". Location Partners are defined in the report as "a separate congregation meeting at, and sharing resources with, another church (for example, a ministry reaching a specific demographic groups, such as a young adult congregation or an international group with services in a different language)." [p. 10] 

The only thing I would change is to indicate that Location Partners can be several congregations sharing facilities and other resources. I have visited church sites where up to six congregations meet for worship, discipleship, fellowship, and other activities.

I also like Location Partners as a title as Nesting Congregations as a term has implied in many cases a parent/child relationship. Location Partners should express more of an adult/adult relationship. For some churches who own their facilities, however, this is a stretch when a group of a different ethnicity or socio-economics is their Location Partner. Perhaps some growth in relationships can happen in this case.


Yes, Virginia, We Need Baptist Associations

300 Years of AssociationsOr, Other Forms of Local Denominational Organizations

My denominational tradition—Baptist—and specifically my denominational tribe of heritage—Southern Baptists—has three dimensions of denominational structure. They are known as associations, state (or regional) conventions, and national agencies and institutions.

Associations are the local entity which I categorize generically as dynamic spiritual and fellowship organisms. State conventions and the national expressions are organizations.

In historic order associations came first. The initial association of Baptists in my tradition was the Philadelphia Baptist Association established in 1707. The first association in the South that was ultimately part of my tribe was the Charleston (SC) Baptist Association established in 1751.

The first state convention in my tribe was the South Carolina Baptist Convention established in 1821. Finally, the Southern Baptist Convention came into existence in 1845. These two entities did not replace local associations, but carried forward the work of Southern Baptists from a different dimension and with somewhat different foci.

With the transformation of denominations in the past 40 years, it is a legitimate question to raise as to whether all three entities of my tribe’s denominational structure are still essential and needed. It is certainly a question discussed in formal and informal settings, and acted on by congregations in an autonomous denominational movement such as Southern Baptists.

With significant transition and changes in how congregations and individuals financially support the three dimensions of denominational life among Southern Baptists, one observation can be made without fear of successful contradiction. Southern Baptists are unwilling to financially support all three dimensions of denominational life unless they see added value expressed by each for the fulfillment of the mission of God.

If three dimensions of denominational life are not sustainable, and one needs to disappear, which one is that?

To read the full article, Download Yes Virginia We Need Baptist Associations