I am in the process of retooling my ministry in the context of the culture in which we live. The greatest tension I live with as a pastor is the tension between what I have been called to do (and to be) and what I am expected to do (and to be).
—Pastor in Georgia
I will be real honest: I believe our culture is being dumb downed. The church may be being dumb downed faster than the culture. Thirty years ago, if a pastor came out with Hebrew and Greek and theology, he was revered as kind of a leader—it was part of his clout. Now, we are into megachurches and printing T-shirts.
I think sociology is a very important part of leadership. We are not living in a society where there is belief in one God and people are culturally alike. I think to be able to lead in these days we have got to understand that there are some people who are linear thinkers and some people who are mosaic thinkers. Values are drastically different. I think we need to be students of the times. To create leadership, we really have to study our community and our times.
—Pastor in Virginia
I would argue that the languages actually serve the cause of leadership. [Certain groups] are using Greek like crazy. My leadership is threatened in my church if I can't say this is what this means. Having a working knowledge of Greek actually assists in the whole leadership process.
—Pastor in Alabama
Are you not making use of your language training when it comes to reading and evaluating good language-driven commentaries? I wonder if just exposure to ancient languages—languages wrapped in ancient cultures—would not help us contribute to [how] to deal with people and things that are foreign to us. Is that not a derivative benefit when it comes to the study of ancient history, language, or culture?
—Professor of Hebrew
There is such a difference between the perspective in preparing for ministry and studying for ministry. Students don't serve in church while in seminary because they don't want it to take away from their studies. Field education can and never will take the place of serving in a place of ministry while you are in seminary. It's not going to take away from studies—it is actually going todo just the opposite! It's going to enrich students and bring an understanding that can't be found anywhere else.
—Pastor in Alabama
Continuing Education for Pastors:
Seminaries need to offer forums for pastors and church ministers. A pastor taking a homiletics class after being out for ten (or twenty) years is a much better student than one who hasn't even preached his/her first sermon. The role of continuing education is vital.
—Pastor in Washington, D. C.
Everyone knows seminary cannot teach pastors everything. Some things are best learned in the "real world." But it would be nice to have a place to come (seminaries) for refresher courses and courses in how to deal with changes in ministry.
I would like to see more thought and attention given to preparing pastors who are unable (for whatever reason) to attend seminary. Some do not have the appropriate educational background; others are unable to find adequate sources of funding. Not every denomination requires seminary, but all would agree that some preparation for ministry is essential. What can be done to help [these people] be better leaders?
—Pastor in Ohio
Increased attention should be given to spiritual formation in the seminary curriculum and in nonacademic programs (such as small groups, etc.). The forming of one's spiritual life is an ongoing, holistic endeavor and should not be relegated to the back seat; but neither should it be stressed to the neglect of the other disciplines. Seminary should be the foundational place for gaining appreciation that spiritual formation is a lifelong process and involves personal discipline, theological reflection, meaningful relationships, and trusted mentors, in addition to formal courses and chapel services.
Secular Leadership Materials:
Most pastors seem to be unaware of the revolution in secular literature within the past ten years. It is not just a revolution in the production and the higher quality of materials. It's a revolution in philosophy, a huge revolution in philosophy. The best secular literature of the day clearly condemns autocracy. The two most common words that you see in secular literature catalogues would be team-building and coaching. It harks back to the marvelous philosophical principle that all truth is God's truth, and when you really work hard to find out what is true you are going to sound a lot like the Bible. Secular leaders who do not have a Christian point of view are coming around to what I call "biblical principles," because they [the principles] are right and true and work. It is an amazing turnabout to have watched over the 40 years I have been working in the field.
—Retired Academic Dean