What Works in 21st Century Ministry: It Depends

It used to be true in my denomination (and it’s still true in some denominations) that every seminarian was required to follow the exact same path to ordination and every congregation was required to follow the exact same path to find a new pastor and every pastor was expected to be like every other pastor.  Although there are still many “shalls” in my denomination’s Constitution, there are more “ordinarily-s” and this is a good thing.

  • Should seminarians be required to take Clinical Pastoral Education? It depends. CPE is great for discovering insights about ourselves, for practicing our bedside manner and for familiarizing ourselves with Hospital World.  But if you’ve worked as a registered nurse for ten years prior to seminary, you might not need CPE.
  • Should an Interim/Transitional Pastor become the “Permanent” Pastor ? It depends.  There might be a situation in which allowing the “Temporary” Pastor to become the “Permanent Pastor” is the healthiest decision for a congregation.
  • Should a congregation sell its building and set up their ministry in a storefront? It depends.  Maybe that storefront location will expand their ability to be the Church in the world. Or maybe not.

The route to thriving 21st Century Ministry is all about health: What best nourishes each future or current pastor?  What’s the healthiest path for a congregation taking into account its current situation?

What’s healthy for one congregation is unhealthy for another.  And who gets to make these calls?

In my denomination, everything is done by committee.  There are committees who walk alongside seminarians.  There are committees who walk alongside congregations in transition.  And here’s the thing:

We can’t know what’s healthy for a seminarian or a pastor or a congregation unless we have authentic relationships with them.

It’s obnoxious and audacious for me to counsel somebody if I don’t know them.  And so – congregations – this is the beauty of denominations working together to help you thrive and be the church you were created to be.  Seminarians: we want you to be the best prepared spiritual leaders possible.  We don’t know what God has in store for you, but we want you to be ready for it.

This is about trust.  This is about connectedness.  This is about relationships.

This is what’s required in the 21st Century Church.

Would the pastors pictured above be good for your congregation?  It depends.

Images from Left to Right are from the websites of Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, GA, Union Presbyterian Theological Seminary at Charlotte – Graduation 2019, and Andover Newton Theological Seminary at Yale.

3 responses to “What Works in 21st Century Ministry: It Depends

  1. Jan, so refreshing…just talked with a young adult yesterday with years of experience and maturity who was frustrated by all the CPM hoops to jump through

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  2. Then there are the cast-in-concrete congregations who distrust the voices encouraging self-examination. “Everyone wants to change things. We need to stay they same as always so people won’t leave.” Sigh. I’m serving that congregation that doesn’t want a creative, forward-thinking, eager-to-learn-new-things pastor.

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