Continuing Education for Ministers

I am for continuing education for ministers.  Continuing education can do wonders for a sense of personal growth for a pastor, associate pastor, missionary, youth pastor and any other leadership role that one may serve in at the local church level.  But for effective continuing education to take place, resources, relationships, and disciplined time management will be paramount among all the other priorities that we have to juggle.  A commitment to continuing education will help the pace of ministry to adjust itself. The ministry is a marathon and far too often the sprinters who start out so rapidly are also among the first to cave in to their spiritual fatigue and unreasonable expectations of what they may have thought their calling was all about. 

For the next several posts on the Barnabas Blog I am going to give you some of my own trade secrets that have been largely beneficial and helpful for me along the way.  I do not regret the time factor that has been involved and required to move me in this particular direction.  I have never forgotten the advice that John Maxwell said his father gave to him.  He told him, “John, you can pay now and play later or you can play now and play later.  But never forget that one way or another you are going to pay.”  Maxwell also noted that when you are willing to make the commitments early they aren’t nearly has challenging as they are if you choose to make them later.  Often when we are paying early, our habits, personality, thought patterns, and relationships haven’t gotten so brittle that there is no flexibility with them.  The older you get the more difficult it is to be flexible and to shift your thinking about the whole process of change.  I have come to discover that it is crucial that you have a willingness to rethink some areas of your behavior and mindset that you have held on to for years.  Don’t read into what is not here by thinking that we must change our message or doctrinal views, those have been settled long ago and we cannot afford to make those changes.  On the other hand, we must entertain ways to think about how we can become far more effective. 

Before we really settle in to some of the resources that I want to share with you, I am going to spend this post in an effort to encourage you toward a continuing education mindset.  You can get better, you can do better, and you can be better!  Oftentimes there are small adjustments that once they are made can propel you forward into a greater scope of ministry.  I also know that if you are willing to make the sacrifice that comes with the process of continuing education that you are going to find a niche that will set you apart in an area of expertise.  I believe that every minister ought to have some unique area of expertise that he is known for.  With that in mind, I give you some following reasons that you should branch out and develop. 

1.      Don’t be afraid to work on weaknesses or in an area that you may think is too hard to learn.  The main job of a pastor is to preach.  I have heard people make the statement before about how they had an awesome pastor but they ended the statement by saying that he wasn’t much of a preacher.  You’ve got to be kidding me!  God has called shepherds to take care of His flock and that is done primarily by the feeding of the flock.  In John 21, Jesus told Peter that he was to feed the flock.  I find it very compelling that Peter would give this declaration in 1 Peter 5 when he noted that we are to feed the flock.  I can only wonder if Peter was remembering his encounter with the Lord when he wrote that.  As pastors we ought to develop our souls, minds, and words to be able to preach the Word.  Studying doctrine and theology is hard work but it puts a great foundation under you as you preach.  Make the commitment to move away from your tendency to preach topical sermons.  Invest in the process to move away from the superficial and decide to go deep with your own preaching.  I have discovered that God literally speaks through His Word but you have to read it and study it to find out what is in it. 
2.      Continuing education is a conscious plan to go into an area that you would probably not normally go.  To really boil down continuing education, it is very much a personal growth plan that will move you from Point A to Point B.  In the process there is an aspect of learning new material that will help you to be more effective.  Most continuing education venues will have plan that creates assignments for you to do.  Whether you are paying for the class or if you are simply learning for the sake of personal improvement the involvement in doing the work will take you to places you would not normally have gone except for your plan to learn.   

3.      Continuing education will help you to change.  The world of medicine is constantly upgrading and changing its treatment protocols, drugs, and procedures.  For instance, when I finished RN school in 1986, a gallbladder removal was a huge surgery.  The incision would extend across and around the right side of the abdomen and it took 12 weeks for recovery.  But newer technology came along and now a gallbladder can be removed with a laparoscope leaving only three small incisions that are really more puncture wounds than an incision.  Recovery time is a week or so and for the most part there are relatively little complications.  Change has caused surgeons to be able to get better and offer a plan of care that is much better than it used to be.  This is the whole process of learning.  It moves you into a place of effectiveness. 

4.      Continuing education opens up my relationships.  By virtue of getting involved with professors, teachers, instructors, and other students you will find that you learn by observing others who are learners also.  I have found that learning takes place when you are sitting in a seat hearing a lecture but it also takes place afterwards when you are with a peer-based group who are working through and processing the information that was given.  The internet is one of the most incredible educational tools that has ever made it to our planet.  I have had the benefit of being able to listen to lectures that even 10 years ago would not have been available to me.    

5.      Continuing education opens up greater resource areas that would not have been evident if I had not made some attempt to grow.  The effort puts you into a place where you will discover books, e-books, websites, and podcasts that I would have never discovered.  One area that has been extremely useful to me are internet forums.  Obviously there are some that you will find absolutely no benefit at all from but there are others which have been intensely instructional for me. 

I will be your encourager this year to move out of your comfort zone a bit and try some new things with this concept of continuing education. 

Thanks for reading. . .         


Tim Fox said…
Bro. Harrelson - You have verified my sentiments exactly concerning continuing ed. I am currently enrolled in online college classes myself. Although it can be very challenging to pursue education along with all of the demands of ministry, I feel it is a worthwhile cause. Even though my classes are not in theology, they are still a benefit to ministry. I look forward to this series of posts.
God Bless!
css said…
I haven't been on your blog in some time. I must say this is refreshing! I can't wait to spend some time looking through some of the resources you've provided.

Great Job!

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