Continuing Education for Pastors: General Educational Approaches

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Preparing for ministry is never a one-time event. Instead we as pastors are constantly being formed for the ministry that God has called us into. Some of our learning comes simply through lived experience, but we also honor our callings to discern intentionally how we might grow into our callings as unique people serving in unique ministry contexts. These pages of continuing education and formation for ministry resources are designed to assist pastors and councils make plans for ongoing learning.

The Continuing Education pages are organized by the Five Callings that the CRC has adopted. While these callings are obviously not the total sum of our walk with God, they nonetheless provide a helpful framework for thinking about the breadth and balance of our own ministry experience. For example, if a pastor only engages in learning and growth opportunities related to Gospel Proclamation and Worship, it would seem wise to consider also deepening your capacities and understanding of Global Missions, Servant Leadership, etc.

Two cautions on council & congregational support of pastor’s continuing education:

First, some churches are not supportive of the ongoing learning of their pastor. They think that once someone is trained in seminary then the training ought to be considered done. However this doesn't pan out when we look at any other position in society: farmers are trained on new technologies in their equipment, house framers are trained in new building codes or the use of new products, psychologists are trained in new understandings of mental illness, physicians are trained in new cancer treatments. A well functioning medical system would never complain that an oncologist is staying current! So too with pastors.

Second, any organization has a right to expect that the training they support is actually useful to that organization. An oncologist would not dabble in general ongoing education for the sake of personal growth without some accountability for how it will impact their ability to treat patients in the hospital. So too pastors are encouraged to pay attention to the ongoing training they receive to be clear on how it will benefit the congregation they are serving. Sometimes, when councils fail to support continuing education, it may simply be that you as a pastor haven’t shown the value of it for the ministry setting you’re in.

To recognize these two challenges for council and pastors, we have included the “Learning Covenant.” It is designed to be a framework for having a healthy conversation together. As time moves forward and this project develops, we will also be asking classis people (i.e. regional pastors, church visitors, mentors) to find ways to be of support for planning ongoing formation for ministry.

Lastly, not every educational opportunity needs to be part of a doctoral program. Sometimes it may just be reading a book on a specific topic. Other times, it is just learning to live into healthy practices in certain areas of ministry. Sometimes it’s a one-off retreat. Other times it’s a week long course. Recognizing this, we have organized the opportunities around the level of commitment involved. We hope that this helps you access helpful opportunities.

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