Last week I got an e-mail from a friend who is in leadership in his local seminary. While some seminaries are theologically focus, this one is a pastor factory whose primary mission is to produce pastors. Years ago if you remember, I talked about a Personal MDiv and I was asked for some feedback. I didn’t have that much to add to the conversation but I offered this up.
- An understanding of how communities work: The church can be a prophetic voice in a neighborhood or city but unless it is a big box mega church outside of town, it is often a neighbor and therefore has an impact on how that neighborhood interacts with it and each other. Some churches are amazing neighbors while others can be jerks. Each neighborhood has a different vibe and feel to it. I walk the 15 blocks to work quite a bit and just by walking through Mayfair, Caswell Hill, and Riversdale and I can feel the differences. Jane Jacobs may be the best pick to start with if you are talking about an urban context but there needs to be a framework for understanding the ebb and flow of a local neighborhood and community. I am not sure how we missed this but I imagine that for long the church was the centre of the neighborhood that we haven’t adjusted to being ignored or looked down on by the neighborhood. As Darryl Dash wrote in Christian Week, at one time being near a church meant a higher property value. That isn’t the case today.
- How to start something: After reading Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch, you realize that many of the missional examples are not churches but are businesses, NGO’s, or non-profits. Believe me, nothing I learned in school taught me how to deal with funders, investors, or banks. How to write a decent business plan, bootstrap, when to go for angel investment or a loan, when to hire. Those are skills that need to be learned somewhere. I can imagine AKMA disagreeing that this should be a part of any seminary’s curriculum and he may be right. If it isn’t a part of a formal education, make it readily available to those that do need those skills. Guy Kawasaki and Garage used to do a Bootcamp for Startups. Perhaps something like that offered occasionally from a denominational perspective would be helpful.
- Ethics: A lot of church leaders I know of have odd ethics. Maybe it is just me that finds it odd but hiding money from the taxman, lying to avoid conflict or accountability, a love of money, or just going through the motions is considered okay. When I worked at Lakeview Church, we posted the full script transcripts of sermons there. Friday the site was busy but on Saturday it was even busier. Most of the traffic was from outside Saskatoon and it was all browsing and downloading sermons. A friend of mine used to joke that if you wanted him to preach better sermons, Max Lucado had to preach better sermons. It isn’t just out of the way pulpits where this happens. I listened to one speaker who has written on leadership and integrity steal a litany from Len Sweet without credit. Although to his defense, he probably never wrote the talk himself or his books. My point is that ethics seems to have been lost along the way. Either that or we are doing a horrible job of vetting clergy.
- Cost: At what point do we have to find a new way of training clergy or accept the fact that only the wealthy or the heavily indebted will be able to enter pastoral ministry. Tom Sine has talked about this for years and he is right. The impact will be that only affluent congregations will be able to hire seminary educated clergy and smaller rural, inner city, missionary organizations will be priced out of the market.
- Common Sense: A friend of mine wanted to plant an inner city church yet decided to move into a middle upper class neighborhood. Does this strike anyone else as idiotic. He wanted to be their pastor but not live around them. (yeah, I just realize that I offended some of you) I hesitate to add this because
I am oversimplifying the issues quite a bit and these were real simple off the top of my head answers but I thought some of you may find them interesting.
I am sure you have your own opinions. Feel free to leave them in the comments.