“A Church We Cannot Yet Envision”

When I was looking at seminaries 11 years ago (oy!) one of them had the tagline, “We are training leaders for a church we cannot yet envision.”

I didn’t end up going there, but I’ve wondered if they really did do that. I don’t think the tagline would have fit the seminary I attended. It’s not that I feel unprepared for ministry in the 21st century—I don’t. We talked a lot about the current cultural landscape and the need to do ministry differently, and the theological and scriptural grounding I received has served me well… but in talking to friends, who attended a variety of schools, seminaries trained us well for a church that is disappearing, less so for the church as it currently is.

(Maybe this is an unsolvable problem—people always gripe about what they don’t teach you in seminary, but maybe there’s only so much you can do before you’re on the job in a particular context. Unless you have psychic powers, you don’t know exactly what you’re going to need.)

The seminary I attended—which is a place I loved and continue to support—sent out a survey this morning asking a couple of questions.

“[Name of] Seminary is a community that educates and nurtures persons to be faithful, effective and productive leaders of the Church and world. [that’s part of its vision statement] Thinking about this statement, for what do students need to be prepared in our changing world?”
Here’s what I dashed off:
  • living and translating the gospel of Jesus Christ in an often hostile or indifferent culture
  • congregational revitalization–how to faithfully serve and lead churches that are graying and/or dying
  • small church ministry… since most churches are
  • tentmaking–how to support oneself when more and more calls are part-time
  • family systems work
  • leadership skills
  • entrepreneurial skills, that would serve both new church development and revitalization efforts
  • social media and faithful use of technology

What do you think? What would you add?

8 thoughts on ““A Church We Cannot Yet Envision”

  1. susan

    1.outreach, evangelism and hospitality to young adults (20-30s) who are more likely than not to have little or no church background–related to 1,2, and the last one, but somewhat unique as I find that most people understand young adult ministry to be caring for the young adults that are already there, as opposed to the larger group that that are not there, and not part of any other faith tradition.

    2. extraordinary communication (in all forms) skills.

    Remarkably, i work at a theological school that is absolutely preparing students for the church that is not yet imagined, but not doing a whole lot to prepare them for the church that is there today.
    There’s the rub.

    Reply
  2. Shawn Coons

    Another thought, somehow there needs to be open and honest discussion about the leadership of the church. Put bluntly, if the average age of the Session is too old then I don’t think effective change is going to happen 99 times out of 100.

    We need to put young adults in power as elders at the church and Presbytery level in significant numbers, so that they are disproportionately represented. Otherwise the gravitational force of serving us and those who look like us will be inescapable.

    I don’t know where this discussion needs to happen in seminary, but I think it does (among other places).

    Reply
  3. Beth Braxton

    RELATIONSHIP Education — Is there such?
    Help student to continue to nurture their relationship to Jesus Christ that called them into ministry. (Personal disciplines, etc.)
    AND learn how to relate to all the varieties of people that will be in their congregations. You can know all about the Bible and church video systems, stewardship campaign techniques , but you have to communicate and relate to people !!– like the children’s Sunday School song “the church is not a building; the church is not a steeple, the church is not a resting place; the church is a PEOPLE.”

    Reply
  4. Pingback: Church in the Future | ChurchMag

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