Right now theological and ministry education is focused on the individual. If I go to a seminary to get an M.Div, I myself learn theology, history, preaching, Greek and Hebrew, counseling, contextual ministry, etc. But in an era when church planting and leadership is becoming more team-oriented, perhaps the way church leaders are educated and trained should be changed. Why try to invest one individual with all the training? What happens when the teacher is not the pastor of the church? What happens when the administrative leader of the church never speaks on Sunday mornings? What happens when the gifted writer and scholar is a terrible speaker? You get my drift.
Ryan Bolger has a fascinating idea:
How do we equip men and women for the manifold ministries of Christ and
his church, when these communities have shared leadership? When the
leader is not the teacher? When the teacher is not the pastor?
A seminary training model is built around the idea that a single person or a set of staff workers has most of the
gifts in a particular church community and then we train that one person or group of persons. But, what do we
do when the gifts are spread throughout the community as they are in many new forms of church? How do we
continue to train the many, rather than the few?
I dream that my seminary will move away from the professional training model and will equip entire communities for mission.
Some ways to do that ? Perhaps the seminary might contract with a
community on a subscription basis, train their people in the skills
they need, e.g. one person takes a
preaching class, another takes community formation, another Greek…In a
sense, we allow community degrees. Churches or networks pay by
community – their community
contracts with the seminary so that their community will have access to
In a very real sense, the community receives the M.Div rather than the clergy…
This idea has legs, it seems to me. If you have team-based leadership at your church, it’s a very interesting exercise to take a standard course list from an M.Div program and imagine who in your team would take Greek and Hebrew, who would take Hermeneutics and Preaching, who would take Contextual Ministries and Ethics, etc.