Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Pastor in the Church in the World

I had a thought for a series.  I've had a lot to do with curriculum creation at Wesley Seminary at IWU.  I probably know more about what we're teaching in all the courses than anyone.  I also have dreams for what would be taught in each class.  Of course I did not write all this curriculum and with each new faculty person, the less and less input I have.

But I was thinking it would be fun to create a kind of "last will and testament" for the curriculum of Wesley.  If I could control what was taught in each class, what would my "whatever you teach, be sure and teach this" list be?

The first class in the MDIV curriculum is called Pastor, Church, and World.  (P.S. despite the similarity in name, it is nothing like Asbury's Kingdom, Church, and World).  This is a course that (beyond orienting our students to the seminary and its curriculum) is about the person of a pastor as s/he serves the church as part of  God's mission to the world.

I have perhaps had less to do with the design of this course than any.  It is a one week intensive course (two start next week on campus, one in English and one in Spanish).  The kind of professor we want is someone with significant pastoral experience who has been there, who knows the pressures on the pastor as a person and has demonstrated skill at handling them.

My list will be short.
1. I would want the students in this course to be able to distinguish clearly between pastoring as a job and one's commitment to God.  God comes first, yes, but the church is not God.  Your family will normally come before your job as pastor of the church.

I say normally because there are times when God calls a person to special sacrifice and mission that involve his or her family as well.  I say normally because there will be times when pastoring takes precedence over a son or daughter's ball game.

However, this should more be the exception rather than the rule.  A lot of pastors are type A personalities (then again, some are lazy bums too).  It would be easy for such a person to use "the mission" as an excuse to be a miserable husband and father/wife and mother.  I'm not buying it.  Most of the time, you're in the wrong. God first, family second, job third--and most of the time the church is the job.

2. Accordingly, ministers need to set boundaries and if s/he can't, the church should do it for him or her.  If s/he is in a parsonage, the church needs to respect that this house is a home the vast majority of the time.  The minister needs to take a day off each week and be pretty rigid about it, not in a selfish or in your face way, but as an important personal discipline.

3. Finally there is the matter of vocation.  A minister should have a sense of his/her place within God's mission.  Each individual is both infinitely significant and insignificant.  Ministers are infinitely significant because you are ambassadors of God and his Christ.  Ministers are infinitely insignificant because "what are mortals that you are mindful of them?"  No amount of superficial success should mislead you into significance.  No amount of superficial failure should mislead you into insignificance.


James Petticrew said...

Ken have you read Steve Seamands book "Ministry in the Image of God" seems to me it would be the perfect text for a course like the one you have described. It profoundly challanged and changed my thinking about what it meant to be called of God to serve the church.

Ken Schenck said...

It's one of the textbooks and we've actually had it translated into Spanish ;-)

JRS said...


Here’s another idea someone should pursue although it may not fit the seminary’s mission.

Hebrews 13:17 suggests that the people who follow church leaders should do so in a way that makes the leader’s work a joy.

First, you can probably help us make sure we understand the verse properly.

Second, is anyone doing anything to teach the laity how to make a pastor’s ministry a joy?

My sense is the primary focus these days is the opposite.

Tim Kirkes said...

As a pastor who was unprepared for life in a parsonage, I would have greatly benefited from a course like this in seminary.

Matthew Yoder said...

As someone who just took this class last week, I can say that it was all of those things. It was an excellent introduction to the program, as well as a refreshing time of encouragement and equipping for ministry. I came back from the class rejuvenated for ministry.