Church and seminary together: We can do it!
It may seem a "no brainer" that the seminary and local church should work together to equip future ministry leaders. However, that "no brainer" is easier said than done!
Let's be honest, Canadian seminaries have been a little slow to come to the table, to fully embrace the local church as an equal partner in ministry preparation. There is a lot of history and tradition behind that fact, but this is changing and in some places quite rapidly.
While some seminaries have been slow to wake up to the need to become more intimately connected to the local churches they are designed to serve, many of those local churches have become increasingly pragmatic in their approach to ministry staffing. An increasing number of Canadian churches simply do not care if their pastoral staff has any formal theological training. Many churches place a higher value on finding staff that have developed marketplace, interpersonal and leadership skills with the ability to communicate well in a fast-paced, social media-driven world. They often assume seminary is the last place to find an effective, relevant, well-prepared pastor or staff member. While this is not universally true, the trend is obvious and growing.
Yet most would agree that we need a way to adequately equip men and women for pastoral ministry in an increasingly complex country and world, and that includes the need for an in-depth understanding of Scripture and theology.
The local church often does a great job of identifying spiritually passionate men and woman with gifts for ministry and providing opportunity for them to exercise those gifts.
However, the typical local church may not be as prepared to provide a place for theological and leadership formation: a place with ongoing feedback that equips gifted and called individuals for ministry in a rapidly changing culture. Seminaries across our country have the resources that the local church so often needs for the holistic equipping of pastoral leadership.
The solution to effective ministry preparation lies in the "genius of the 'and.'" It requires local churches and seminaries that are committed to work intimately with each other, where the seminary and local church engage in ongoing two-way dialogue about ministry formation in the Canadian context. We need local churches to see themselves as centres for training pastors. Local church pastors need to see the apprenticing of the next generation of ministry leaders as a critical part of their role. This means budgeting time in particular, but finances as well, into the lives of potential future pastoral leaders.
We need seminaries that are prepared to restructure to better accommodate the local church as an equal partner in ministry preparation. Seminaries need to see local church pastors as part of their faculty and local churches need to see seminary professors as part of their ministry team.
The dream is not as wild and outlandish as it first appears. I believe it's doable. Let's work together to bring the seminary and the local church closer together for the sake of stronger Kingdom impact on our country and world.
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