And now the final praxis course, only one more MDIV core course to go and we will have run through the entire curriculum.
1. Pastor, Church, and World
2. Cultural Contexts of Ministry
3. Bible as Scripture
4. Introduction to Theology
5. Global Christian History
6. Missional Church
7. Congregational Leadership
8. Christian Worship
9. Christian Proclamation
10. Congregational Spiritual Formation
The final core praxis course is called Congregational Relationships. Once again, I am proud that this class is not narrowly conceived of as a "pastoral counseling" course. Our philosophy is "refer, refer, refer." Most pastors are simply not going to be equipped to do serious counseling and, in a highly litigious world, should have at hand a whole host of professionals to which to send individuals with various problems.
At the same time, a pastor needs to be able to serve as a triage to more serious counseling. You don't have time to refer a person who has just called you with a gun to his or her head. You need to know some basic skills. A pastor should be able to do basic pre-marital counseling and basic marital counseling. A pastor should know the basics of what to say and what not to say when a family is grieving. A pastor should know how to visit homes and shut ins.
Some people seem to have these sorts of interpersonal skills by nature. Some others didn't seem to come with any of this software on their hard drive.
Yet this class is also about skills to facilitate a congregation that has a healthy "body life." What can a pastor do to make churches places where some of a person's most fundamental relationships lie? What can a church do to facilitate friendships. If churches can be schools of virtue for communities, they can also be centers of fellowship in communities, places that get kids off the streets and integrate new families into communities. This is a high function if it is done virtuously.
This also seems the course where dysfunction and sin is addressed. Here the Wesleyan optimism for change surely comes into play. People can change. People can be healed. Relationships can be restored. We all start out damaged, and life usually damages us more. The church can be a place of wholeness and mending.