Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Filling in the Gaps

School for Discipleship and Renewal

Seminary does not and cannot prepare a person totally for the pastorate. I was better prepared to talk about Wesley’s view of sanctification than I was to conduct my first funeral. No one in seminary taught me the best way to use the coffee shop for ministry.

Apparently I am not alone, because people write books about this. In 1999 Angie Best-Boss wrote Surviving Your First Year as Pastor: What Seminary Couldn’t Teach You (Judson Press). And in 2011 James Emery White writes in the same vein with his book What They Didn’t Teach You in Seminary: 25 Lessons for Successful Ministry in Your Church (Baker Books).

The point isn’t that seminaries aren’t doing their job. The point is that effective ministers make a commitment to lifelong learning. Whatever knowledge or skills I need can be acquired. I have to seek out and make room in my life for learning. A proactive attitude towards lifelong learning is one of life’s most important skills.

I attended the Christmas Eve service at Lakeridge United Methodist Church in Lubbock, TX. Rev. Bill Couch is the founding pastor of the church that is now one of the largest in the Northwest Texas Conference. His proactive attitude towards lifelong learning has been crucial as he led the church from its beginnings and through its various phases up to the present.

The School for Discipleship and Renewal at United is developing online Lifelong Learning Modules. We want them to help fill in some of the gaps in pastoral formation, but we need to hear from pastors and graduates.

What are the greatest areas of need? With what knowledge or skills do you want help? I invite you to post your top five topics in the comments section of this blog. Together we can fill in the gaps and be more effective.

Rev. Mark Abbott, Ph.D.
Director of Non-Degree Programs


  1. There have been some great comments from United alumni/ae on Facebook. Topics mentioned:

    1. Web/social media
    2. Interfaith classes - overviews of world religions (especially in a more diverse/pluralistic society)
    3. Copyright compliance for churches
    4. Teaching/helping members become invitational
    5. Learning how to ask well (volunteers, giving, etc.)
    6. HR stuff (hiring, supervising, etc.)
    7. Long range worship design and planning (sermons, responses, team selection, etc.)
    8. Campaign running (annual budget, capital, debt reduction, etc.)
    9. Church finance/tax issues
    10. Guidance in how to not only survive but thrive in settings of multi-point churches as well as toxic churches

    Rachel H., United staff

  2. Thank you Rachel for passing these on from Facebook. These are helpful.