UPDATE: Based on feedback here (and elsewhere) I've refined the following idea and posted it here. I want to throw something against the wall and see if it sticks.
For quite sometime now, I (Landon) have been a part of a national conversation about leadership for the church of the future. Many of us have come to believe that the crisis we are experiencing is one of leadership: Do we have the leaders we need to follow God into the future? Even though the future of the church is going to be increasingly flat in structure and egalitarian in ethos (I call that "open source"), those of us in this conversation believe that Mature Christian Leadership will be the thing that will get us through to the other side.
And, lest we get confused, we do not mean simply pastors. Quite the contrary. At least in the Presbyterian world, it is no longer tenable for our congregations to rely solely on the pastors and assume that they will be what I call the “local resident church expert.” The way forward is for us to again lift up and celebrate the different orders of ministry we believe God has given us: Deacons, Ruling Elders, and Teaching Elders. When we say “Mature Christian Leaders” we must stop assuming that we are referring solely to pastors.
Yet here is the problem: How do we ensure that our Ruling Elders and Deacons are formed into Mature Christian Leaders? As a Teaching Elder, I was required to attend one of the finest theological institutions in the world (our 10 Presbyterian seminaries consistently rank among the best theological institutions in industry survey after survey), but what about my sisters and brothers who are not called to be a Teaching Elder? They are also called to Mature Christian Leadership. How are they to be trained?
Usually, it is by their local pastor. Here’s a secret: Your local pastor often feels very ill equipped to train the other leaders of the church. There are a number of reasons for this. Let me highlight two.
- A pastor fresh from seminary may not feel that she has the credentials required to train her Ruling Elders and Deacons in the same manner, and to the same depth that she was trained. Not the least of which, she has a lot of other duties that keep her from preparing to the level she would like to. This is not true for every pastor. Some of us have very healthy egos, but we should totally watch out for that.
- Unlike most pastors, Ruling Elders and Deacons have real jobs. The “pilgrimage” model of theological formation (pick up and move across the country for seminary) that Teaching Elders experienced will just not work for them. How does one train well when time is in short supply?
Here are the hypotheses I’d like to test:
Pastors would love some sort of basic curriculum of “Church leader training”, outlining a trustworthy path they can lead the leaders they serve down. This basic curriculum needs to be modular, with topics stripped down to their essence and treated as “building blocks.” These building blocks can be used as stand alone discussion resources or strung together for a fuller “educational experience.” The end goal of the curriculum would be to lead people to a place where they feel comfortable answering the “Constitutional questions” of ordination/installation (W-4.4003) in the affirmative, and also to a place of relative comfort with the process and procedure of accomplishing the work they’ve been given.
To accomplish this, here’s what I’m gathering would be helpful:
- A curriculum that covers the following areas (corresponding to the Constitutional questions): Bible, PCUSA polity and structure, Parliamentary procedure, Mission of the Church, Reformed History and Theology, Personal and Interpersonal awareness, Gifts and Skills assessment, Spiritual practice, Reformed Worship.
- A curriculum that is video based, featuring presenters acknowledged to have expertise in their discipline. 8-10 minutes (no more than 15) of “information download” in a dynamic, engaging style from the presenter.
- A curriculum that builds on video presentation by sparking relevant and timely discussion. (Perhaps open ended discussion starters in the vein of the standard ordination exams)
- A curriculum that provides different syllabi configurations.
Feedback? Do you buy the premise? Do you buy the solution?