What’s Missing in Church/Ministerial Training

I have been doing some research among pastors and other believers about what is missing in the church’s and ministerial training programs. My findings were not surprising. I will summarize what people told me on both levels: from the pew to the pulpit.

Those “in the pew” said the following:

  1. Not enough practical teaching. As a pastor, I can agree with that. I have 3 degrees from Bible college and seminary, and I can tell you how pastors are taught. We are taught the technical aspects of delivering a sermon. From that education, many leave seminary to pastor their first church and show off their knowledge. Meanwhile, those in the seats want to know how to live out the Bible. They are not impressed with the pastor’s knowledge of Greek and Hebrew. They want to know how to deal with home-related issues, figuring out the will of God, and other practical, real-life issues.
  2. The Holy Spirit is left out of the equation. Because I come from a primarily non-Pentecostal setting, most of the people with whom I associated went to the other extreme and avoided teaching and preaching about the Holy Spirit. BALANCE! WE NEED BALANCE! Teach the whole counsel of God, even if it’s uncomfortable.
  3. There’s not enough love in sermon delivery. Paul said in Ephesians 4 to speak the truth in love. Once again, balance!
  4. Not enough doctrinal teaching and preaching. Whereas we need practical teaching, people need to understand doctrine also. They need to know who the Holy Spirit is, the doctrine of the Trinity, the Second Coming of Christ, and issues like this. Someone said that they saw a doctrinal statement about 6 months after he gave his life to Christ and had no idea what any of it meant. He is now rooted in the Bible, but no one taught or discipled him in the early days of his faith. Many churches today are very weak in discipleship. People do not know how to think for themselves biblically because they have never been taught or they never exercised the discipline to study for themselves.

Here’s what pastors are saying:

  1. The primary thing pastors didn’t learn in their seminary training was leadership and how to deal with people. They got into the pastorate and didn’t know how to deal with conflict, organize the church financially, or possess the people skills needed for ministry.
  2. Emotional, spiritual, and physical well-being. Many pastors work 50-60 hours per week or more and do not take time to care for their own emotional, spiritual, and physical health. I was very fortunate to receive a Master’s degree in Leadership which taught these principles, but many seminaries do not address this.
  3. Counseling. Some pastors do not feel adequate enough to counsel people. Pastors more than likely did not get their degree in psychology or counseling. Therefore, many in the church are better off going to a professional counselor. I was also fortunate to have some counseling training in school, but I also know when I am in over my head and need to make a referral.
  4. Mentoring. One pastor said he wished he had to shadow a pastor for a semester. Some schools do this. I transferred schools before I went through what is called a “practicum”, but I was blessed to work alongside pastors who were very honest about church issues and taught me lessons about ministry, how to perform weddings, funerals, baptisms, etc.
  5. Evangelism. Some pastors do not feel adequately trained to share the gospel, especially with people of different religious backgrounds. People automatically assume that a pastor is gifted in the area of evangelism. Although I know how to share the gospel and witness to different people and groups, my gift and passion is discipleship. Pastors are each wired differently and must staff the church according to their weaknesses.

If you would like to add anything to this, please comment below. Also, if you would like resources to help you in ANY of these areas, I will be sending out an e-newsletter soon with these resources. Go to my blog page (mdw4Christ.wordpress.com), enter your email address, and subscribe so I can send it out together. This is the best way and would help me out greatly. I am here to help you, so do not hesitate to contact me. My contact info is on my “About” page.

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11 thoughts on “What’s Missing in Church/Ministerial Training

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  1. Very interesting. It’s kind of like our doctors. They know nothing about nutrition or how food affects the body. Many of our physical problems are food sensitivities or allergies. They also know nothing about Chinese medicine which has been proven to help people.

    I’m sorry for young pastors. Dealing with the people is surely the most important thing to learn. I know how contentious churches can be. My heart goes out to all pastors and their wives.

  2. Points are right on. Its not the degrees on the wall that make the pastor. Its a calling not a job. Fits in with our quote by Roosevelt recently posted on our website. When one stops using the academic degrees and begins caring hearts change. I know it worked in my ministry with not only the inmates I was charged with but the staff I shepherded.

  3. I find that much of the training on what it is to lead a church – seminary or seminar – has become a copy of the leadership training I received to manage people in the business world. Once we manage people like they were employees and volunteers not servants of the most high, we stop being a shepherd and start being a boss trying to get the best outcome for ourselves. I am still trying to find the business model in Jesus’ ministry but I can’t find it. It is good to know that different people react and learn differently but to apply human management rather than Spirit lead direction is to say I got this God don’t waste your time I’ve done the training.

  4. I have some strong opinions on all of this. I went to seminary later in my ministry life, and much of what I learned was simply nothing more than what you detailed above – an academic religious education. However, what I think is needed more than anything are lectures or teaching from pastors who’ve actually been there and done that. Anyone who thinks called into ministry should gather insight from small-church, bi-vocational pastors who have personally dealt with things many of the “pop-star” pastors and authors haven’t. You spoke of the SBC in a recent comment you made on another blog. If there was anything I’d like to see addressed that would be the lack of inclusion of small-church pastors in denominational leadership.

    Also, a few years ago my middle daughter was reading “This Present Darkness.” One day she came to me, pale-faced, and said, “Dad! This is us!” Even though the book was fictional, there were some real similarities between what the characters in the book were dealing with and what we had faced in our ministry. Those going into ministry need to be regularly reminded that we are in a life-and-death struggle for the souls of men, and our Enemy doesn’t fight fair. If one wants to enter the fight as a pastor, he had better listen to others who have already been in the fight.

    1. I agree. I was disillusioned by the “good ole boy system” in the SBC. I fell into the camp of those who felt “elite” to be on staff in medium-sized churches. Now I’m a church planter starting from the ground up and glad to be out of the denominational politics.

  5. Another way of saying, they should step from behind the pulpit and step outside to God’s world and children. The building and stupid sermons are NOT the church. We have more sermons than any time in our history, yet the church is still not in a leadership role in our society or even among church members. If the pastors were to assume leadership roles: step out on faith and do what they say we should do in their sermons, then you wouldn’t need the sermon at all for you’d have a living example. This is all to risky and thus, I know it won’t happen. There is a lot of good caring people in the clergy. However, it is way to comfortable in most churches to approach Jesus merely on the intellectual level. Personally, I believe we can do far better than that.

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