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2 years ago  ::  May 01, 2012 - 9:35PM #1
Beautiful_Dreamer
Posts: 5,156
When it comes to clergy, how important is formal education to you? I know that the liturgical churches' clergy are very well educated, but what about in other denominations?

Here's where I'm coming from. I was reading a book earlier today that mentioned a couple of Pentecostal ministers who were very influential in bringing about an interest in healing by 'praying and laying on of hands'...one of them, whose name I don't remember, was a woman with a tenth grade education. That reminded me of a friend of mine who went to an Apostolic church and was engaged to a man who was going to be a minister in said church. Thing is, he had no college at all! Just high school...he said that God would tell him all he needed to know. I've heard similar things said in other denominations, and about my friend's husband who used to be a Christian counselor/associate pastor despite being only 22 (I think) and not having any sort of degree in either.

I've known some very intelligent and talented people (like my friend's husband) who don't have much formal education, but I think when it comes to something as important as being a clergyperson who people look to for spiritual guidance, I'd like them to have more than just a high school diploma! But that's just me...I don't doubt that God can use all kinds of people for His purposes. But 'can' and 'would' are two different things.

What do you all think? Like I said, I know the liturgical churches have high standards in terms of training, but what do you make of people who claim they don't need to go to school, that they'll learn everything from God?
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2 years ago  ::  May 02, 2012 - 9:29AM #2
Ironhold
Posts: 11,515

The Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-Day Saints uses a lay clergy, in that any adult with the priesthood has an equal shot of being called in to a leadership position. Between this and the fact that the leadership positions are unpaid, there's actually not much call for advanced degrees in theology outside the world of academia.


Instead, the leaders generally hold (or have held) a wide mix of vocations over the years. In some instances, a person's skills are matched to the opening. But in other instances, it's a matter of serendipity.


For example, the minister of the congregation I go to is actually a dentist by trade. By virtue of being a dentist, he can see a good chunk of the congregation one-on-one twice a year when they come in for check-ups.

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2 years ago  ::  May 02, 2012 - 4:25PM #3
Beautiful_Dreamer
Posts: 5,156

But what kind of training do lay ministers have to have in order to do *that* job? Not their 'day jobs', but ministry? Maybe not formal academics, but are there any programs or whatever they have to go through within the church? Or can they be chosen out of thin air?


There are lay eucharistic ministers in my church who have taken a four-year course of study in things like the Bible and church history.  My sister is one of them. For ministries such as healing intercessors (I'm part of that), there isn't a whole lot of 'training' involved. We're not in charge of a whole congregation, though.


I haven't been in liturgical/hierarchal churches all my life or anything but it seems to me that 'being taught by God' in lieu of actual education simply wouldn't fly. I could be wrong, though.


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2 years ago  ::  May 02, 2012 - 5:47PM #4
Ironhold
Posts: 11,515

May 2, 2012 -- 4:25PM, Beautiful_Dreamer wrote:


But what kind of training do lay ministers have to have in order to do *that* job? Not their 'day jobs', but ministry? Maybe not formal academics, but are there any programs or whatever they have to go through within the church? Or can they be chosen out of thin air?




The church has a publication known as the Church Handbook of Instructions which spells out, in written form, how a congregation is supposed to function. In detail.


Each minister is given a copy for their office as a reference. Additional training materials can be found on the church's website.



Beyond that, the church is growing at such a rapid pace (2,000,000+ members in America alone since 2000) there's often not enough time to actually provide any sort of formal training. Instead, the people chosen to be local-level clergy are given the basics mentioned above and let loose to do their own thing.

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2 years ago  ::  May 03, 2012 - 7:44AM #5
jesusfreakgal
Posts: 938

For the most part I think it is important that pastors/ ministers are educated. I say this largely becase churches need pastors/ ministers who know what they are talking about. That doesn't necessarly mean that non bible school/ seminary educated pastors/ ministers wouldn't know what they are talking about, but IMO, it is probably more likely that the might at least to some degree. I decided to look up what a person learns at the Toronto Baptist Seminary (where my former pastor of the church I went to in toronto, as well as the same churches current pastor would have learned/ studied). Some of the courses that persons learn in the Masters of Divinity program (a graduate program designed for those who wish to become pastors/ church planters) are: Biblical Hermeneutics, Greek, Hebrew, Apologetics/Ethics (Intersession), Systematic Theology (these are the main subject areas that most lay persons would not know), plus they have  Mentoring & Ministry Practicums (Ministerial Field Work, Mentoring Group, Ministry Internship, which I highly doubt lay ministers/ pastors would have gone through). That doesn't mean to say that persons who have not received such a type of education can't be/ shouldn't be pastors/ minsters, but IMO, those who are educated will likely be better prepared for being pastors/ ministers. Now, it is different, IMO, when it comes to other positions in the church, as requiring all persons who work in the church (with a few exceptions) to be educated (christian education like bible school/ seminary), then that would probably mean for most churches that a HUGE number of opsitions would be vacant (such as deacons, teller, sunday school workers/ teachers, children's program workers, and so on), probably often to the point where a lot of stuff can't go on in the church because of that. IMO, only the position of the pastor (lead/ head, assistant, youth, etc) really should require a 'formal' education. Requiring a 'formal' education for too many church positions could cause a stumbling block for people, in that those would could do the work, and do it well, would be prevented from doing so, since most church members are not likely to have a 'formal' post sedondary Christian education.


JFG

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2 years ago  ::  May 03, 2012 - 6:23PM #6
Beautiful_Dreamer
Posts: 5,156

I agree, JFG...I'm not so concerned about other positions in the church, but I like my pastors/priests/rectors to have more education than I do and/or to know what they are talking about! Being here and also around other friends in my life has showed me that the Bible is a lot more complex than just some 'simple, pat answer'...context matters *so* much, and yet is so easily ignored.


I don't mean to sound dismissive, but whenever I hear of a church that does not require their clergy to go to any type of school for training (and I don't mean just a handbook), well, let's just say I don't trust it. I've heard too much harmful stuff (or pure BS) under the guise of 'being told what to say by God' to be comfortable with that.  Sure, God can and does give people words to say, but it is just too easy for someone to push their own agenda or flat-out lie and get away with it by saying 'God told them to say it.'  Televangelists, anyone? I guess it makes more sense if the clergy is volunteer-only rather than paid, but I'm still wary.

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2 years ago  ::  May 03, 2012 - 10:25PM #7
tawonda
Posts: 4,367

An educated clergy has always been a priority in Lutheran circles, particularly considering the state of the Church when Luther began publicly criticizing it -- stuff like diocesan priests who'd never read the Bible and who weren't literate in Latin, the language of the Church -- who simply memorized what they needed to know to say the Mass. 


In any Lutheran denomination I can think of Lutheran pastors have an MDiv, which means they've been through a four-year college plus another three years of seminary study. This study includes Hebrew, NT Greek, biblical studies, theology, proclamation (aka preaching), counseling, church history and other classes, and it also involves two stints of practical work in a parish or chaplaincy situation...one comes toward the beginning of their seminary career and is concurrent with classes, but that is followed by a formal internship where a student is placed in a congregation for a year, where s/he is mentored by the hosting pastor and evaluated on a regular basis both by that pastor and by the student's mentors back at the seminary.


In order to get into seminary students must undergo a psychological profile to determine if they have any issues that would make a pastoral vocation problematic. Throughout their time in seminary their progress is evaluated by a committee. And before they can be ordained they must pass a final evaluation by a candidacy committee.



That's how seriously we take having an educated, competent clergy.


(Sidebar: Our church body has a couple of experimental programs designed to help exceptional individuals in underserved churches fast-track an MDiv...the one  I'm aware of, if you have a bachelor's degree or even only demonstrate an equivalent level of education/life experience/professional expertise, you can be part of a low-residency MDiv that involves three weeks a year on the seminary campus, plus distance education at home, plus mentoring by a local pastor. I can only think of two people I've met who've gone through this.) 


I'm a commissioned lay minister in the ELCA, which is a totally different track; my education involved a three-year part-time lay ministry training program with quarterly retreats featuring biblical studies led by visiting seminary professors and theology/praxis classes led by a pastor/mentor, intermittent "skill days" (on topics ranging from how to lead small groups to prayer/spiritual formation to classes on multicultural and gender sensitivity and maintaining appropriate boundaries as a lay leader). A college degree was not a pre-requisite; while I have a degree, my classmates included everyone from an older man with cognitive issues whose one goal in life, after graduating from his community's adult literacy program, was being able to read the lessons aloud in church and lead Bible studies, to a retired doctor/medical school professor who was an active lay leader but felt the call to do something more. 


In the ELCA we also have diaconal ministers and AIMS (associates in ministry) who've gone through master's level study at seminary, on their own academic tracks. AIMs can do any number of things but tend toward Christian education and music ministry. Diaconal ministers are a rare breed tasked with helping the Church interface with the greater world in some way. We have a deacon in our synod whose expertise is in environmental issues, who's been working to raise congregations' consciousness about the environment and responsible chruch practices in that regard.


I think it's absolutely essential, at least in my tradition, to have an educated clergy. It just avoids a lot of the ridiculosity regarding biblical interpretation, theology and engagement with social issues that I see in churches with an anti-intellectual slant. Or as Forrest Gump so eloquently put it, stupid is as stupid does; and every day on Facebook I see news articles spotlighting a lot of stupid said and done by ministers with little real education. (And echo chambers like Bob Jones "University" do not, IMHO, equate with a real education, as the rest of us understand it.)


Our conundrum these days, though, is that it's very difficult for some congregations to afford a full-time pastor with traditional credentials. In our church body, our guideline for pastoral salaries, suggested to congregations, is to make the salary similar to what a secondary school principal in their community earns. That's a lot of money for, say, a small rural or inner city church. And it's harder and harder for students to afford a seminary education.  My pastor thinks we're moving to a model, in underserved areas, with a pastoral team serving a region, supervising trained lay ministers who would actually be doing a lot of the boots-on-the-ground visitations, worship leadership and small-group leadership. Or we may be seeing more part-time pastors who also have another job. One of my friends compares her seminary experience to Hogwarts, LOL, and notes that it's very hard to leverage an MDiv into another job unless one has another master's in some other discipline.

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2 years ago  ::  May 05, 2012 - 3:38PM #8
weberhome02
Posts: 1,818

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Well, personally; I certainly wouldn't recommend having your teeth drilled by someone who's never been to dental school, nor surgery performed on your heart by someone who's never been to medical school, nor get pulled over for a traffic violation by a cop who doesn't know the vehicle code, nor be defended in court by a lawyer who's never been to law school, nor share a fox hole with a soldier who's never gone through basic training, nor fly coast to coast at 35,000 feet with a pilot who's never been to flight school, nor hire a welder to perform X-ray quality work on nuclear piping that has never been to welding school; but then, that's just me. Others, I guess, aren't so particular.


At Eph 4:11-12 Paul explains that Christ gifted his church with apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers-- for what? Answer: to equip his people for the work of the ministry. So then, I would have to conclude that someone in the ministry who has not been trained by an apostle, or a prophet, or an evangelist, or a pastor, or a teacher is ill-equipped for the ministry and maybe ought to seriously consider stepping down until they are.


Cliff
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2 years ago  ::  May 05, 2012 - 10:36PM #9
Beautiful_Dreamer
Posts: 5,156

I wonder why it would be considered acceptable (some even think it honorable) for someone to take the helm of a ministry without education or training when it would never be *thought of* in most other professions that have that level of influence over people. And it's only few certain groups at that. I never understood the anti-intellectualism towanda talks about.


I have bipolar disorder (as if you couldn't already tell), and it's not uncommon at all for people with this disorder to think that they have some sort of special Godly insight...someone with this sort of grandiosity can, in the right settings, convince other people of the same. I've kind of fallen into that trap myself*, so I'm extra-cautious because I know how easy it would be for someone like that to convince others to follow them simply by saying what the people want to hear, whether it's biblical or not. At least if you know your clergy has some sort of training or education, you know that s/he had to complete a program of study and thus be accountable to someone other than themselves. Especially if they go through as long of a discernment process as in my denomination. 


*I'll explain later if need be.

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2 years ago  ::  May 06, 2012 - 8:26AM #10
weberhome02
Posts: 1,818

.
I got my first .22 rifle at eight years old. My dad showed me how to load it, how to cock it, how to align the sights, how to cross a fence with it, and how to carry it safely; but he never really taught me how to shoot it; and there is a difference,


I joined the US Army at 17½ and it was only then that somebody actually trained me how to shoot a gun; and they spent a lot of time training me how to shoot a gun because a soldier who can't hit what he's aiming at might just as well fire his rifle straight up in the air as shoot at an enemy for all the good his poor marksmanship will accomplish other than make a loud noise.


In other words; shooting is a skill. Anybody can pull a trigger and make a gun go off; I mean, even little kids can fire a gun; and often do; sometimes with fatal consequences to a sibling. Well; I liken self-taught ministers to be little more than eight-year old kids with their first .22 rifles. They go through the motions; but they can't hit the mark because they lack the training and the skills to be any good at it.


I've been a Bible student since 1968 but I'm not self-taught. I listen to J.Vernon McGee six days a week on radio and been doing so since 1972. I've completed his five-year through the Bible program going on the eighth time; plus I've  attended something like 21 years of Conservative Baptist Sunday school classes; along with a pretty good number of special seminars and lectures. Does any of that make me qualified to be a minister? No. It only makes me knowledgeable rather than qualified because ministerial occupations are a calling; and I can tell you with 110%  certainty that I have never been called to the ministry and I can also tell you with 110% certainty that I don't ever want to be called because I am not a ministerial kind of guy.


For one thing, Peter says that ministers are shepherds. The role model for that occupation is Christ; who defined himself as the "good" shepherd. Well; if I were to be a shepherd it wouldn't be a "good" one I can assure you. The job would be a chore rather than a labor of love like that depicted in Psalm 23 because my heart just wouldn't be in it.


Cliff
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