Pastoral education/preparation

Discussion in 'Baptist Colleges / Seminaries' started by TomVols, May 30, 2010.

  1. TomVols

    TomVols
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    In a pastor's formal education/preparation, some of us differ on what is integral and what is a mere appendage. Some of us believe Biblical languages are critical. Others view them as an appendage. Some say counseling is important, others say this is optional.

    What about you? What courses are indispensable and what courses would you like to see eliminated from traditional master's programs for the pastor? What would you like to see more of or less of in M.Div/MA programs?
     
  2. PilgrimPastor

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    More "doing" in mentor settings is a good thing.
     
  3. TomVols

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    I agree. Do you mean this formally in an educational setting or informally?
     
  4. Rhetorician

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    Tom Vols Response

    Hello Tom,

    Well you know me, and I bet you could guess what I would "leave in" and "leave out." I would like to see:

    1. MDiv with two years each of Greek and Hebrew;
    2. A 90 sem. hour MDiv with a required "30 Hour MA specialty degree" built in, like say for instance, Biblical Languages, Church History, Theology, et al;
    3. Or, maybe we need to go to a Dallas Theological Seminary model of a 4 year/120 hr ThM;
    4. And you just know this was coming, a survey of Aristotelian/Classical Rhetoric;
    5. Written out mss. for sermons using said rhetoric;
    6. Enough rhetorical training to be able to do rhetorical criticism of Biblical passages as well as other sermons, etc;
    7. An MDiv degree based on the Trivium.
    8. Maybe even a terminal thesis from the MA internal degree.

    Too much??

    And I am sure I will get many "cards and letters" over the Trivium item. Some will say it is "too hard," others will not even know what it is?!!! :BangHead:
    And I really do feel like I am beating my head against a wall here.

    I would like to see "left out" most, if not all of the "fluff."

    1. Church admin.;
    2. All of the Religious Education "fluff;"
    3. How to do a wedding, funeral, baptize, etc.;
    4. Etc.
    5. Et al.

    A person does need to know how to baptize, I am sure!! But to take precious hours from the Master's degree that should be spent developing the mind and have them teach "mechanics" is ludicrous to me.

    :tear: The way the MDiv is going really does make me want to cry!!!

    You have my opinion...

    "That is all!"
     
  5. Rhetorician

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    Pilgrim Pastor Response

    Hello PP,

    I "second that motion!!" Add it to my rant above.

    I would also like to see, especially in the Southern Baptist seminaries, see a better, bigger, stronger connection between the churches and the schools where this mentoring can be done.

    But, as it is, we are training "contractors" who must go out into the world and fend for themselves.

    "That is all!" :wavey:
     
  6. Havensdad

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    You would leave Church Administration out of a degree to prepare someone for the pastorate? :eek: Don't you think understanding how to run a church, is a somewhat important topic for a future pastor?

    And, what do you mean by "religious education fluff"?
     
  7. PilgrimPastor

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    The greatest advantage I felt that I had in doing a "Distance Learning" M.Div. with Liberty, well it was a two fold advantage:

    (1) I was in my later twenties. I had life experience that I think helps give more context to theological studies.

    (2) Closely related, I was active in ministry, in a growing and increasing way, every step along the undergraduate, M.A. and M.Div. degrees. It was more informal for the most part, I was pursuing the degrees and the ministry simultaneously on my own.

    However, there was a pastoral internship requirement and lots of "pastoral interview" requirements where the student has to seek out full time or retired pastors to interview for sources in ministry philosophy papers: very helpful for formation.

    I think it should be required in the M.Div. studies. An internship should always be a requirement, at least as a 3-6 credit hour course or as portions of other courses in pastoral ministry, praxis.

    It should really be both formal and required with reasonable expectations and / or help from the school in securing the internships, and a candidate for pastoral ministry should seek these things out.

    I was a solo pastor while earning both the M.A. & M.Div. and was an assistant pastor (active internship) during most of the undergraduate studies. I count that as invaluable.
     
  8. preachinjesus

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    I'd make a five year degree. Seriously.

    The first three are all classroom, three semesters a year, with two required years of apprenticeship.

    We need languages through exegesis courses (that's 12 hours of Greek + exegesis, 9 hours of Hebrew +exegesis)
    Required "capstone" pastoral ministry course that integrates everything
    A required church administration course where they are taught by a business professional and former church administrator
    No need for a counseling requirement if they are required to do apprenticeship
    In my coursework we had stuff like leadership, worship, etc...I didn't care for them and we can dump them for stronger theology courses

    In the apprenticeship we have the denomination pick up 50% of their salary and the church the other 50%. The pastor has a program to put them through, having them help in various facets of the church. International missions work would be ideal...its a big world out there.

    Oh, at completion of their coursework (prior to apprenticeship) they have required comprehensive exams.

    I don't understand how we can let doctors and lawyers be the ones with academic and intellectual credibility and let pastors, who handle souls, to be let off the hook.

    Just like doctors who have a required residency, so too these pastors learn the ins and outs of the ministry. We are simply losing too many pastors these days for a lot of reasons, some which might be dealt with in a situation like this.

    Now this degree isn't for everybody...but it is the degree for pastors. Everything else pales in comparison.
     
  9. TomVols

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    Rhet, I overwhelmingly agree with you. However, I wouldn't sacrifice things like church admin, education, and the more practical things because so many of our M.Div students aren't learning this in the mentoring. That said, if I had to choose between a person who understood the credobaptism vs paedobaptism and a person who had done 20 practice baptisms in the seminary pool, I'll take the former every single time. Anyone can learn how to dip a person in water. The pastor, in order to be approved unto God, must rightly divide the Word and must thus be taught how.

    So when I say I wouldn't sacrifice these things, I obviously mean we need to either wade out the fluff or we add these hours back in. Like you, I'm getting more and more frustrated with the fluffiness of the pastoral curricula at our seminaries. We do not have to sacrifice the practical on the altar of the theological like so many want to do.

    I've had two of those courses in my ministry prep career. A course in ecclesiology is better apt for "running a church." I'm not discounting topics like zero-based budgeting. But it's far better to understand polity. I've pastored churches without budgets. I've never served a church that didn't practice ecclesiology.

    And this is the bane of our churches. We have church runners being minted with M.Divs who have no theological/textual moorings. CEOs, not theologians, are entering our pastorates. And we're reaping what we sow. Again, it often comes down to those of us who prize theology vs those who would rather be taught how to do and leave the thinking to someone else.

    Back to the topic at hand. I think a course on Pastoral duties is fine (integrated with pastoral theology, something almost unheard of). Church admin could go under this umbrella. Church education/discipleship is fine. But most of these courses cover Rick Warren type fads which change from day to day it seems.

    I think two sems of theology, the languages, and preaching (for pastors) are minimums. One course each at least in church history, baptist history, and Christian Ethics (pastor more than five minutes and you reach for your Ethics text more than you'd care to count). One course on Pastoral theology and duties is good enough. One in hermeneutics, maybe two (some pastors need about eight after listening to them). And I'd require CPE. My undergrad program did and it proved invaluable. Ironically, one of the best curriculum models I've seen is from Whitefield Seminary.

    I've often wondered about the secular BA/BS guy, if a four year master's isn't more appropriate. Guys like myself for instance, who had significant theological/biblical/pastoral education could concentrate in a 60 hour program allowing for specialization.

    As for those who'll cry foul at the lack of "practical" education, remember that we're pretty much the only denom that doesn't formally require mentoring where you learn the day-to-day stuff of ministry. I'm not against learning how to lead a wedding rehearsal in seminary, but those who would sacrifice this on the altar of learning how to interpret the Bible leave me full of sorrow.
     
  10. Martin

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    ==First, I think M.A. and MDiv. programs should be separate. The M.A. is more specific while the MDiv. is more general. Therefore the necessary classes would depend upon what program the person is in.

    Any degree (M.A. or MDiv) in Biblical Studies, New Testament, or Old Testament should include a strong focus on the languages. MDiv. degrees for "average joe" pastor should include basic introduction to the languages but I see no reason, in the modern context, for a deep introduction.

    The M.A. degrees should be more goal focused. As I stated above, any degree in a Biblical Studies field should include detailed work in the languages. M.A. degrees in fields such as Christian Education, Apologetics, Church History, Missions, Youth Ministry, etc, should not require work in Greek/Hebrew (unless the students chooses to). M.A. programs should be career specific and include only the courses that are directly related to the major. Such programs should be between 36-65 hours in length. Academic PhD programs at seminaries should accept graduates from such programs. There is no reason for someone wishing to earn a PhD in Church History to be required to get an MDiv. first. It is a waste of time and money.
     
  11. Crucified in Christ

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    There are so many outstanding ideas here; some of them I agree with, others not so much.

    First, let me say that I do think that our seminaries need to rethink the way they are offering these programs. I agree with Martin that the MA should be a more acedemic program than it currently is in most seminaries. In this regard, it would be more equivalent to secular MA programs. I also agree with Martin that, given this change, it would be the entry degree into serious acedemic courses of study- i.e. the Ph.D. So many are forced to go the M.Div., followed by the Th.M., followed by the Ph.D. route. While this provides excellent credentials, it is rediculous overkill by equivalent standards. We often compare it to MD training, but MDs do not spend (3+2+3 years) in graduate training. A tough academic MA followed by an extremely rigorous PhD course of study is more than adequate.

    As to the MDiv. I think that it is a reasonable length if we see it as a vocational/professional degree. Still, I agree with Tom that we need to account for students who have had significant undergraduate training. I find myself very unimpressed with many of the advanced MDiv programs that attempted to meet this need. I think that the MDiv needs to focus on the Pastor's greatest need- learning to faithfully and accurately handle the Word of God. So I agree with Tom that the MDiv should be a rigorous course of study. I would like to see it focus on language, language tools, hermenuetics, theology, exegesis courses on some difficult books and passages, pastoral theology, Ethics and preaching. If I were starting a seminary, I would make the MDiv a 66 hour program covering the things previously stated. I would not recover UG level material, but would make the MDiv classes much more advanced than they typically are. Admission to the program would require extensive UG work in religion or theology. For those that did not have such training, they would have a bridging year of courses to get them up to speed. Thus the program would be roughly two years for those with UG training; three for those without. Both programs would require a final year of placement as a Pastoral assistant/intern. This would bring the total program to 3 years for those with UG prep...4 years for those without. I agree that the addition of an internship year would diminish the need for practical ministry classes as these things would be encountered and covered in the real world. Plus, lets be honest, studying about entering situations of serious grief, never quite prepare you for them. Actually going to the home of someone who just lost a spouse or child is a learning experience...no class can really prepare you for such times.

    I think that such a program would not cost significantly more time than the current programs, but would exponentially better prepare our seminary students for service as faithful pastors in the field.
     
  12. PreacherTeacher

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    I agree with much of what has been said about the MDIV. I wouldn't make it longer than it usually is, and in fact I would shorten it for those with undergrad experience. I would add more courses in counseling, strategic planning, and apologetics. I would make language requirements a little shorter, but would link them better in the process with hermeneutics and theology. I would fashion a MDIV degree for those called to large churches, and for those called to small ones. As a small church pastor who grew up in a very large mega church, I know that pastors of churches with 75 on staff are really just preachers or speakers. They are too busy writing books or traveling elsewhere to visit people or actually know their flock, and they have people to do that for them. Small church pastors need more courses in leading a flock. I cannot remember ever needing advanced Hebrew or Greek to sit at a hospital bedside to hold a hand and pray...The languages are critically important for sermon preparation and study, but as a small church bivocational pastor that isn't as important as "rubber meets the road" ministry tools.
    I'll shut up now.
     
  13. TomVols

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    I've never had my Greek NT or my Erickson's Christian Theology at a bedside of a dying saint. However, the fact that these inform my preaching Sunday after Sunday gives me divine authority to be at that dying bedside and know where the saint will be and how he got there. The most practical classes I ever took were theology and languages, because the Bible is a book for living and dying. So I'd disagree with your small church/large church dichotomy. But I'd agree that the small church pastor wears many more hats in a week than the megachurch CEO ever will. But since there are so few of those churches, to tailor a degree for these pastors (and who, going into seminary, would know they need this) would be a waste of time. All mega church pastors at one time were in a small church. You can't say that the other way around :)
     
  14. PreacherTeacher

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    I have no question that biblical preparation enables us to do our ministry work, but there are some seminary-trained ministers who have biblical knowledge only. I know of many men who graduated from a "Big 6" SBC seminary that are no longer in ministry, and some of the problem seems to be that they were ill prepared for what they encountered. They were "A" students, and they knew their languages and doctrine, but they were clueless in other areas.

    Also, while I agree that most mega church pastors started in a small church, most of them had no intention of staying in a small church. Little churches where I serve have been used as a "minor league" of sorts for the big churches. The pastors stay there until they can move up. I am the 65th pastor in 133 years in my church, and most stayed less than 2 years (I've been there 6).
    I think that seminaries would do well to tailor a degree for those specifically called to smaller churches, and allow others to go for a degree plan that is more suited to mid-sized and up church staffs. I think in terms of curriculum more than some here, since I have been a school teacher for 18 years. I know that subjects can be taught more effectively than some are now.
     
  15. preachinjesus

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    All the more reason we need a denomination wide, denominationally supported mentorship/apprenticeship program for all seminary graduates who want it. I had this kind of a program and it has made all the difference in the world.

    I am thankful for your consistent ministry! :thumbs:
    Maybe a younger generation will move away from the farm-league system of church service you mentioned, but I doubt it. It is part of the natural process in ministry. Its been around for eons.

    This is a nice idea, but how many people do you think will sign up for the "small church leadership" track? Just saying, some will but most would sign up for large/mega church leadership. :)
     
  16. TomVols

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    Agreed. And I think mentoring needs more empasis too
     

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