Training Pastors in the Local Church, Part 7 of 7: Conclusion

by Doug Smith

Pastors are not trained in a vacuum.  They are to serve Christ and His church, and their training should begin in the church, continue with some significant connection to the church, and should culminate in a lifetime commitment to the church.

We’ve looked at 5 models for training pastors in the church.  One on one mentoring, with one pastor pouring his life into another, is the most direct and effective way.  A church can provide temporary internships to one man or several men.  A church can begin its own seminary.  A church can partner with another church or host a like-minded ministry to train future leaders.  A church can also promote a Bible college or seminary that is grounded in the truth and accountable to local churches.  Pastors may benefit from receiving training from more than one of these approaches.

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Both churches and pastors need to take seriously the task of training future leaders.  Aspiring pastors should seek training in the context of the local church.  There are rogue schools who value the academy above the church.  There are schools that try to influence pastor to impose artificial, unnatural (and sometimes unbiblical) programs into church ministry.  Obtaining training in conjunction with the local church will help the pastoral student see how things work in a particular context, which is sometimes different than what is envisioned in the classroom that has no reference to a real church.

May God move more churches and pastors to train the next generation.  It’s too important a job to farm out to others who may not have Christ’s best interests at heart.

LINKS TO THE ENTIRE SERIES:

Training Pastors in the Local Church, Part 1 of 7: Introduction
Training Pastors in the Local Church, Part 2 of 7: One-on-One Mentoring
Training Pastors in the Local Church, Part 3 of 7: Internships
Training Pastors in the Local Church, Part 4 of 7: Church-Based Seminaries
Training Pastors in the Local Church, Part 5 of 7: Partnering with Other Churches or Ministries
Training Pastors in the Local Church, Part 6 of 7: Traditional Bible Colleges and Seminaries
Training Pastors in the Local Church, Part 7 of 7: Conclusion

If you want all the articles in one place, the Kindle book version of this series is only 99 cents.  A paperback booklet is also available.  I’m glad to make this content free on the blog, but if you’d like to show a little support, please consider purchasing a paperback or Kindle version (those who purchase the paperback on Amazon can get the Kindle version for free, via the Kindle matchbook program).

Training_Pastors_in__Cover_for_KindleLinks to purchase:

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Training Pastors in the Local Church, Part 6 of 7: Traditional Bible Colleges and Seminaries

by Doug Smith

We have looked at mentoring, internships, church-based seminaries, and partnerships between churches and other churches or ministries as ways to train pastors in the local church.  We will now consider the concept of traditional Bible colleges or seminaries accountable to local churches as avenues for training men for ministry.

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Why Consider Anything Other Than Traditional Bible Colleges or Seminaries?

To some, it may seem counter-intuitive to place Bible colleges and seminaries last in this list.  Seminaries, in particular, have long held pride of place for a pastoral training program.  Bible colleges are set up to provide undergraduate level education to pastors and others training for ministry.  Normally, seminaries are graduate-level institutions that provide rigorous academics with a stated goal of preparing students for ministry in the church or in religious education or research.  Graduates have typically had harder assignments, have read more widely, have engaged with other ideas, and have a deeper education than they could get in most other settings.  Most pastoral training programs include the opportunity to learn Hebrew and Greek, giving the minister the opportunity and privilege to read the Scripture in its original languages.

However, there are some problems associated with Bible colleges and traditional seminaries.  All these issues need not be the true of a seminary, but they often have been true, at least in some times and institutions.

1. Not everyone is cut out for the academic rigor of Bible college or seminary.  Although many high school graduates could get into a Bible college, most seminaries have other prerequisites, such as a bachelor’s degree, and a certain attainment of writing proficiency.  Seminary is supposed to be graduate-level education, after all.  You could have a man who is biblically qualified to pastor, but who would not be accepted for training at a seminary because he cannot meet their requirements.  He may not be able to master the biblical languages.  Such a man needs another avenue of training.

2. Traditional schools have traditionally required relocation, unless one happens to live in a reasonable proximity already.  This has changed in recent years with the advent of more distance education programs and even entire degrees that can be obtained online.  Yet many schools retain residency requirements, at least for certain degree programs, although some bridge a gap by limiting requirements to a few classes that can be taken in week-long bursts, with the rest by distance.  Some seminaries have satellite locations that allow for the fulfillment of this requirement as well.

3. Some students have difficulty finding practical ministry during their education.  Schools may tend to be more academically-oriented to the point that practical ministry is tacked on, and relatively neglected.  This need not be the case and certainly isn’t always the case.  But students relocating to a large school may find it hard to simultaneously engage in church ministry because of the over-saturation of Bible college or seminary students in the churches near the school.  It’s not impossible, but it may be harder to find ministry opportunities than in one’s own home church and community.

4. Cost is prohibitive for some.  Some simply cannot afford traditional education.  Education, especially for accredited schools, costs money.  Buildings must be maintained.  Professors must feed their families.  Books must be bought.

5. Academic freedom is an issue in many traditional schools.  Sadly, the notion that a professor should be able to teach anything that he comes to believe is prevalent in some schools.  The school may even have a statement or confession of faith that the teachers have signed, and still have instructors who teach contrary to what they have claimed to believe!  This is problematic for the training of pastors.  As those entrusted to guard the deposit of God’s truth and avoid the changing winds of conflicting and false doctrines, a pastor needs a school that stands firmly on the authority, inerrancy, truth, and relevancy of God’s written Word (1 Timothy 6:20; 2 Timothy 1:14, 3:16-4:5).  When a school is not accountable to the local church, then it can easily drift, as many have.  It may still drift even if accountable, but at least there is a reasonable possibility of restoration and recovery of the school’s original mission, if the local church has some say in the school.  (Southern Baptist seminaries, for instance, demonstrated a great deal of drift from their original mission and beliefs, but their accountability to the churches enabled the replacement of leadership who put them back on track; for a brief account of this change at one school, see Gregory Wills, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1859-2009 or watch the 25-minute documentary at http://www.sbts.edu, “Recovering a Vision: the Presidency of R. Albert Mohler Jr.”)

What to Consider When Thinking about a Bible College Or Seminary

In light of these issues, some now may wonder why one should consider a traditional school!  However, the Bible college or seminary may be the best choice for some individuals.  While it can be the farthest removed from the pastor-training-pastor in a church setting ideal, it need not be a dry academic “cemetery” for preachers.  If you are considering a traditional school, ask yourself these questions.

1. What kind of academic program would I be fit for?  If you’re looking into Bible college, this can be pretty straightforward, but seminary may offer more options.  The Master of Divinity is the traditional seminary degree for pastors.  However, some jokingly call it the “Master of Infinity” because it can take a long time to complete (many schools have M.Div’s with 90 credit hour requirements, about 3 times the length of some other master’s degrees).  Some simply can’t do an M.Div. and may go with a shorter degree like a Master of Arts in Theological Studies (about half the length in some schools) or a more focused degree, like a master’s in expository preaching.  Some degrees must be done in residency, while others may be done with partial residency, and other may be done completely online.  Some may be looking to teach other pastors in a seminary setting one day, and could have an eye toward a Th.M, Ph.D., Th.D., or D.Min.

If you’re looking at a school, gather all the information you can about its programs from it’s website, talking with admissions counselors, etc.

2. What about relocation?  Will you need to relocate to attend the school?  Some let you travel for the occasional week-long modular class, and others let you stay in your hometown and take your classes completely online.  Depending on your situation, you may not be able to relocate.  If you are looking at relocating, you’ll need to find out housing options at the school or in its city.  Count the cost, for yourself, and especially for your family.

3. What about practical ministry?  Some leave home for a school and get disconnected from local church ministry.  They may attend a local church, but school is pretty much an academic experience for them.  Try to find a local church where you can get involved.  It doesn’t have to be preaching; there are plenty of other ministry opportunities, some of which may take you into the larger community as well.

4. Can you afford it?  Some schools cost more than others.  You will need to have a good idea of how much it costs per class.  If a school charges $400 per semester hour, a normal 3-hour class will cost $1200 + any other fees and your books.  If you’re taking multiple classes at once, which is normal, your expenses can get pretty high.  You may want to spend some time working to save for school, seek scholarships through the school and/or from your church, and look at the possibility of working through school.  Be careful here.  Your family situation may be such that if you do what you need to in order to afford school that it may come at incalculable cost when you consider all the time you lose with your wife and your growing children.  There are other ways to train for ministry.

5. What about faithfulness to the truth and accountability to the church?  It is a shame that some schools are in the business of training pastors, yet they employ teachers who seek to destroy the minister’s trust in the Word of God.  Seek a school that has a doctrinally sound statement of faith, and that requires its professors to teach in accordance with it, and not contrary to it.  Look for a school that’s not independent from church accountability.  Completely independent schools have no anchor to prevent them from straying, but schools that can be influenced, especially monetarily, by local churches have more of a reason to remain faithful.  After all, who is the school supposed to be serving?  Many have forgotten, thinking that they need to serve the academic elite and seek their approval.  However, a Bible or seminary should be serving Christ and His church.

What do you think?  Are there other things to consider when thinking about traditional Bible colleges and seminaries as avenues for pastoral training? 

While the whole series will be available on the blog this week, if you want all the articles in one place, the Kindle book version of this series is only 99 cents.  A paperback booklet is also available.  I’m glad to make this content free on the blog, but if you’d like to show a little support, please consider purchasing a paperback or Kindle version (those who purchase the paperback on Amazon can get the Kindle version for free, via the Kindle matchbook program).

Training_Pastors_in__Cover_for_KindleLinks to purchase:

Amazon Kindle eBook

Amazon (paperback)  (those who purchase the paperback via Amazon are eligible for the Kindle version for free)

CreateSpace (paperback)

Training Pastors in the Local Church, Part 5 of 7: Partnering with Other Churches Or Ministries

We have looked at mentoring, internships, and church-based seminaries as ways to train pastors in the local church.  We will now consider the concept of a churches partnering with another church or ministry to train men for ministry.

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Benefits of Partnering with Another Ministry

A church may not be ready to launch its own training program, but by partnering with another church or parachurch ministry, it can bring pastoral training to its local context.  Other churches and ministries have already worked to develop programs of ministerial instruction, and a church can partner with them to provide facilities and opportunities to train men.  Working cooperatively in this way can be a healthy expression of fellowship and unity in Christ, including reaching across denominational lines.  It also holds great potential for the efficient use of the resources, gifts, and time of those involved.  Such cooperation may also yield further development and fruitfulness for both parties.

Preparing to Partner

If a church is to partner with another church or ministry, several factors merit consideration before committing to such an arrangement.

  1. There must be doctrinal and practical agreement between the church and the ministry it partners with.  When a church works with a ministry of its own denomination or when sister churches of the same denomination cooperate, this may be easiest.  However, a Baptist church could conceivably cooperate with a non-denominational ministry that trains pastors.  Both parties need to decide what level of agreement they will require to work together, and their goal may help determine that level.  If they simply want to train men called to the ministry by teaching them basic skills for hermeneutics and homiletics, then they may simply need to agree on the fundamentals of the faith while allowing for different views on church polity or what constitutes a Scriptural baptism (especially if they open the program to men outside their own local church).  However, if the church wants to train men specifically for service in a particular denomination with a well-defined ecclesiology, they have a good reason to expect more agreement in those matters.  (The church and other ministry could also agree to partner only for particular courses with the church pursuing other options for more specific denominational training.)  Both parties must agree on what constitutes a sufficient level of doctrinal agreement and must be like-minded concerning the goal of their training.
  2. Both parties will need to agree on who teaches.  They will need to decide if the ministry they are partnering with will provide all the teaching or if they will combine forces by involving staff from the host church.
  3. The partnership will need a liaison between the two parties.  This is absolutely essential in a multi-staff church, but it could be helpful in a church with a solo pastor as well, particularly if he is already very busy.  Whether the liaison is a pastor, a deacon, a staff assistant, or someone else, there needs to be a clear channel of communication between both sides to help avoid confusion.  The liaison can help coordinate such important matters as announcements, scheduling, copying and distribution of materials, specifics relating to facility use (including who unlocks and locks the doors).
  4. Financial responsibility needs to be well-defined in this partnership.  If the teachers are to be compensated in some way, whose burden will that be?  Depending on the arrangement and abilities of the parties, one could bear all the responsibility or they could share.  They might even take up offerings at the meetings!  Nevertheless, financial responsibility needs to be discussed up front.
  5. Technical and logistical details will need to be discussed.  What kind of room will the training require?  Is there a need for microphones?  Will the church supply items like a projector or audio/video recording equipment and media, or will the other ministry?  (This may also go back to the question of financial responsibility, particularly if the church does not already have such equipment in place if needed.)  Will one party supply the textbooks for the men or will they purchase them on their own?

Examples of Churches Partnering with Other Ministries

The Cumberland Area Pulpit Supply (CAPS), an extension of Bancroft Gospel Ministry, Kingsport, Tennessee, has partnered with several churches in Northeast Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, Southeast Kentucky, and Southern West Virginia to train men in hermeneutics and homiletics through lectures, textbooks, assignments, and sermons in class.  Some of the men then obtain supply preaching opportunities and even opportunities to pastor a church, through these relationships.

Seminaries and Bible Colleges can also partner with churches.  Extension courses and extension centers allow many men to work toward a degree while continuing to serve in their home church.  This is another good example of a partnership between a church and another ministry.

If you are interested in a partnership such as these, you may also want to check around in your area – there may be churches and ministries already training men and you may be able to partner with them.  Ask other pastors; ask others in your denomination.  You may already have what you need in the neighborhood.

Whether it is cooperating with a church in the next town, bringing in a parachurch ministry to partner with, or utilizing the program of another organization, partnering with others to train men in the local church is a worthy and beneficial approach.

 

In the next installment of this series, we will look at the traditional Bible college and seminary as ways to train pastors in the local church.

What do you think?  Are there other things to consider for a church to cooperate with another ministry to train pastors?  Do you know of some other ministries churches could partner with to train men for ministry?

While the whole series will be available on the blog this week, if you want all the articles in one place, the Kindle book version of this series is only 99 cents.  A paperback booklet is also available.  I’m glad to make this content free on the blog, but if you’d like to show a little support, please consider purchasing a paperback or Kindle version (those who purchase the paperback on Amazon can get the Kindle version for free, via the Kindle matchbook program).

Training_Pastors_in__Cover_for_KindleLinks to purchase:

Amazon Kindle eBook

Amazon (paperback) (those who purchase the paperback via Amazon are eligible for the Kindle version for free)

CreateSpace (paperback)

Training Pastors in the Local Church, Part 4 of 7: Church-Based Seminaries

By Doug Smith

So far in this series, we have considered one-on-one mentoring and internships as avenues for training men for pastoral ministry in the context of the local church. In this article we will contemplate the idea of church-based seminaries.

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A church-based seminary differs in several ways from what many consider as a traditional seminary. A church-based seminary is directly accountable to one local congregation, whereas the seminary’s accountability may be to multiple churches or to a denomination. A church-based seminary will be smaller than most well-known seminaries. This usually means a better student-teacher ratio and more interaction out of the classroom. It may mean less library resources are available to students, but this gap may be overcome in churches with large collections or in churches located close to major traditional seminaries. One can expect cost of tuition at a church-based seminary to be less than most traditional schools.

Church-based seminaries may or may not be accredited by a regional organization (tuition fees will probably reflect this, but not necessarily). Church-based seminaries may or may not exclusively employ their own church staff as instructors; some provide classes with professors from other churches or schools. For example, The Midwest Center for Theological Studies, in addition to faculty from their founding church, have utilized professors employed at traditional seminaries to teach semester-long or intensive modular courses.

Considerations for Churches and Pastors Hoping to Start a Church-Based Seminary

For a church to begin a church-based seminary, there must be clear agreement. The pastor(s) and the congregation must be in harmony and see this as a legitimate extension of the command to train others in 2 Timothy 2:2. They must agree that this ministry is desirable and helpful.

The pastor(s) and church must also agree on what the church-based seminary should accomplish. This may take some time to pray through, talk through, and hammer out (although it should be the heartbeat of the pastor(s) and then presented to the congregation). Should it only train students for the ministry? Should it be accredited to give their graduates more of a credential than they might otherwise get? If seeking accreditation, what agency should one go with (a regional one that accredits secular schools as well, or an agency that only accredits religious schools)?

Who will lead the school?  How will the pastor be involved?

Should it train students from the home church only, or open it up to others? What kind of standards will be required for admission? How will you handle students who fail academically or morally?

What kind of curriculum, resources, and faculty will it utilize? What a church decides about accreditation will factor in to these considerations. Will multiple degrees be offered? Will languages be required? Will all requirements for the degree be met through the program or will students be allowed to transfer credits? Is there a substantive library available on site or nearby (especially if the church is near a large traditional seminary or religious graduate school)? What will be the requirements for those who teach, including doctrinal and ecclesiastical commitments, as well as the amount and quality of pastoral and/or teaching experience and educational credentials?

Will separate facilities be needed for instruction or will it suffice to adapt present classrooms?

How will the school be funded? Does the church have a budget to help subsidize it (particularly in the first few years until it gets “off the ground,” if that is the intention)? Are there businessmen or donors who want to help underwrite such an effort? How will tuition and fees paid by students or their sponsors figure in to the financing of the education? Will any financial aid or scholarships be available for students?

What ministry opportunities will you provide for students?

Question for Prospective Students of a Church-Based Seminary

Are your beliefs substantially the same as the church?Is it somewhere you could recommend to others or a place of the type you would feel comfortable serving in some day?In a church-based seminary you will be more immersed into one particular church and its beliefs more deeply than you would be in a traditional seminary.  If there is not a high degree of compatibility and theological affinity, it will be a long, hard road, or you may be bailing out (or kicked out) early.

What are you hoping to do with your degree? Some church-based seminaries will offer more one-on-one time with professors, but if the school is not accredited, one may not be able to use the degree in obtaining future education. If your goal is the Ph.D. program, or if you aspire to teach in an accredited college, graduate school, or seminary, you may want to take accreditation and the rigor of the program into account, as well as the credentials and ministry experience of the teachers.

If you do not believe your ultimate goals would be met by a church-based school and are still interested in having some of your education from such a setting, find out if courses transfer to the school of your choice. I have taken classes from a church-based seminary that I am not pursuing my degree through, because of a goal I have. However, the caliber of professors and courses they offer are just as good as a traditional seminary and they transferred to my school (and the cost of tuition was less).

What is the cost? How does it compare to a traditional school you might also consider? Are there scholarships or financial aid you can use (either from the church seminary or from other sources)?

What is the schedule? How might this work for you in the short term and long term?

Does the school have a good teacher/student ratio?

What ministry opportunities will be available to you through the school?

Have you visited the seminary, spoken to graduates, and received recommendations for this option from leaders you trust?

If you are at a church that has a seminary and are thinking about theological education and have been encouraged by your church to pursue it, are you thinking about the option right in front of you, with people you are already organically connected to?

Examples of Church-Based Seminaries

Thankfully, there are those who have blazed this trail already. Those who are considering starting a church-based seminary would do well to learn from some already in existence – some for decades. The mention of a school or church is not an unqualified endorsement, but those considering such education may want to look at schools such as those below.

The Bethlehem Institute – a ministry of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary – a ministry of Inter-City Baptist Church, Allen Park, Michigan
The Master’s Seminary – a ministry of Grace Community Church, Sun Valley, California
The Midwest Center for Theological Studies – a ministry of Heritage Baptist Church, Owensboro, Kentucky
Shepherds Theological Seminary – a ministry of Colonial Baptist Church, Cary, North Carolina
Reformed Baptist Seminary – a ministry of Covenant Reformed Baptist Church, Easley, South Carolina

In the next installment of this series, we will look at ways churches can partner with other churches or ministries to provide theological education in the context of the local church.

What do you think? Do you know of some other churches training pastors through a church-based seminary or academy? What are some other things churches and students should consider when contemplating this type of model?

While the whole series will be available on the blog this week, if you want all the articles in one place, the Kindle book version of this series is only 99 cents.  A paperback booklet is also available.  I’m glad to make this content free on the blog, but if you’d like to show a little support, please consider purchasing a paperback or Kindle version (those who purchase the paperback on Amazon can get the Kindle version for free, via the Kindle matchbook program).

Training_Pastors_in__Cover_for_KindleLinks to purchase:

Amazon Kindle eBook

Amazon (paperback) (those who purchase the paperback via Amazon are eligible for the Kindle version for free)

CreateSpace (paperback)

Training Pastors in the Local Church, Part 3 of 7: Internships

by Doug Smith

In my last article on training pastors in the local church, we looked at one-on-one mentoring, where a pastor takes an aspiring pastor under his wing. This is the most direct way of training men in the context of the local church. However, it is not the only way. Another good way to train pastors is through an internship.

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An internship can and should overlap with one-on-one mentoring, but factors that generally distinguish an internship are a defined purpose, length, and funding.

The internship needs a definite purpose, which may be broad or specific. For example, a “pastoral ministry” internship could have interns doing and observing, as well as reading and listening to, all sorts of things in relation to the pastorate. An internship can also fill a gap or focus on a specific area. For example, Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC, provides a five-month, intensive “ecclesiological internship” that focuses on the local church through extensive reading, writing, discussion, and observation. Other internships may call for more public ministry.  I had the privilege to intern with the New England Center for Expository Preaching, where a core component of the internship is preparing and delivering expository messages week after week.

In regard to length, internships can be for a summer, a semester, or otherwise agreed upon amount of time.

Interns need to food to eat and a place to live, so funding is a critical component of an internship. While it is conceivable that some internships could work without a stipend, let’s face it: most men seeking a theological education can’t afford several weeks or months with no income. And it is hard to hold down a job and derive much benefit from an intensive internship at the same time, since interns need to sleep. So, internships tend to provide housing and some sort of income on a weekly or monthly basis, although some require students to support themselves.  A church can fund an internship if it has a large enough budget. Another option is for an individual or business to underwrite the stipend of an intern or interns.

Providing an Internship

For churches, pastors, or others seeking to provide ministry internships, there are several matters to consider, but they will all be grounded in the purpose of the internship.

Who will lead this program? Will the senior pastor, an associate pastor or other elder, or some combination of the pastoral staff? (It is probably most beneficial when all are involved, but having one person primarily responsible for an intern is helpful.)

What is the focus? Will it be broad, covering many facets of pastoral ministry, or will you focus on one or two specific areas, such as ecclesiology, preaching, or counseling?

Will the internship be a supplement to a seminary education or a part of an exclusively church-based model? If a supplement to seminary education, one could seek to fill in gaps by providing more in-depth training for areas in which students and schools may be weak. In some instances, one can partner with a seminary to provide applied ministry or supervised ministry experience credit toward a degree. Consider when the internship would work best: before entering seminary, during seminary, or after seminary (or any of those times).

Will your internship be more focused on observation or active ministry, or will it be a combination of both? Will the intern be allowed to sit in on leadership meetings? Will he be allowed to preach sermons in the church or teach a Sunday School class? Will you have reading or course requirements for the intern prior to his arrival? Consider implementing standards for accountability and assessment of the intern in assignments he is called to fulfill (time log, guidelines for response papers, evaluation forms for sermons/lessons, final debriefing, etc.). It should be clear what the intern should be walking away with: improved skills in one or more ministry areas, more of a first-hand idea of what it is like to be a pastor, a more biblical understanding of the local church, etc.

Will you aim to train men in your own congregation, men from churches in your association or denomination, or theological students at large? Will you have educational requirements (high school, bachelor’s degree, enrollment in seminary, etc.)? How will you screen the applicants (application form, phone interviews, checking references, etc.)? Will the internship be more suited to singles than husbands and fathers? Will it be too intensive for dads to fulfill their responsibilities in the home?

How will you publicize your internship? Obviously, if it is limited to men in your own local church, this is not a major issue, and might be most prudently spread by word of mouth. However, if you have a broader audience in mind, consider maintaining a website and sending information to various like-minded seminaries or Bible colleges.

How long will your internship run? This may depend on the availability of the one running the program as well as the church calendar. If partnering with a seminary for applied ministry credit, the school’s requirements may also factor in to this decision. A summer-only program may be better suited to some churches. Others may be able to have interns for two semesters or all year-round.

How will you fund the internship? Funding is important on several fronts, from how it will impact the interns (and possibly limit who can come because of financial reasons) as well as whether you will be able to have multiple interns at once. If you are a pastor and your church has a large enough budget, consider teaching on the importance of training other men and explain that an internship is a practical way to do that, as you seek to enlist the congregation to partner with you to provide such an opportunity. If you are a business owner or leader, consider helping make an internship possible for future pastors, particularly for churches where a godly leader would like to train others but cannot afford to fund an internship at the present.

However you proceed with an internship, be sure that requirements and expectations are clear up front for all involved or this could be an experience your intern and church would like to forget. The old adage “to fail to plan is to plan to fail” should be heeded here. Producing a written syllabus is one way to help ensure that you are not failing to plan.

Finally, an internship, at least in the beginning, should probably be considered to be a fairly fluid thing, always a work in progress. Whether starting from scratch or adapting another model, sensitivity to the particularities of the local context of the internship is prudent. Certain programs work where they work because of the context of their church as well as who is working them and whom they serve. Your education, experience, church, and students may have different needs, so you should structure and plan the internship accordingly. This may mean being willing to change some things mid-stream if needed, but it definitely means a post-internship evaluation is in order, by the intern and those who have overseen the internship (and possibly others who have had contact with him or sat under his ministry during that time). Over time, your internship can take on a shape that is more rigid. Reminding your interns that they are helping set the pace and pave the way for future interns is a good way to help them partake in the program with an eye toward future improvements.  (And be sure to ask for their feedback at the conclusion of the program.)

Participating in an Internship

Students considering an internship must also think seriously about the matter. Asking the following questions can help in gathering necessary information.

What is my motive for pursuing this internship? Have I prayed concerning this potential opportunity? How will this particular internship help train me for ministry? How will it make me a more useful pastor? Will it glorify God for me to participate in this program?

What does the internship require? Have I met or am I working toward meeting the prerequisites?

What does my pastor recommend? What do my professors and trusted friends recommend?

What stage of life I am in? What does my wife think? Will I be able to spend adequate time with her and my children? What kind of arrangements are there for income and housing? Will I be able to maintain adequate income with the stipend? Will I be a full-time intern, or will I have to hold down a job at the same time? If I have health insurance, will I be able to maintain it?

How is the timing in relation to my theological education? Will I receive credit for the program (not the most important issue, but not an unimportant one if one is in the midst of a degree)? Is now the best time or should I wait?

Have I talked to interns who have gone through the program? Have I shared with them my situation and desire? What do they advise?

If one determines that a particular internship is right, then preparation is in order. Contact the appropriate people and offices. Apply early – some internships have waiting lists and encourage applying at least one year before the desired semester. And come prepared not only to receive, but to give. Come with the mindset that you are training to be more useful to the people of God and to be an encouragement to those you are placed around during your internship setting. Take assignments and opportunities seriously and thank God for providing training that not everyone is privileged to receive.

Patterns and Possibilities for Internships

Both those who are interested in offering internships and those who are interested in participating in internships would do well to take a look at some of the programs already in existence. Here are links to a few:

In my next article, I will examine the concept of church-based seminaries as another way to train pastors in the local church.

What do you think?

Are there other aspects that one should consider about offering or taking part in an internship? What are some other churches and ministries that offer internships relating to pastoral ministry?

While the whole series will be available on the blog this week, if you want all the articles in one place, the Kindle book version of this series is only 99 cents.  A paperback booklet is also available.  I’m glad to make this content free on the blog, but if you’d like to show a little support, please consider purchasing a paperback or Kindle version (those who purchase the paperback on Amazon can get the Kindle version for free, via the Kindle matchbook program).

Training_Pastors_in__Cover_for_KindleLinks to purchase:

Amazon Kindle eBook

Amazon (paperback) (those who purchase the paperback via Amazon are eligible for the Kindle version for free)

CreateSpace (paperback)

Training Pastors in the Local Church, Part 2 of 7: One-on-One Mentoring

by Doug Smith

The most direct way of training men in the context of the local church is through mentoring.

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One on one mentoring can be one of the most rewarding methods of training others. It may possibly be the most difficult as well. It involves an investing, or pouring, of one’s life into another. It involves some vulnerability, because to truly mentor someone means that you are opening your life to scrutiny – which you have already done to some degree if you are a pastor. While meeting to discuss a book is one good way to mentor, effective mentoring will involve more immersion in ministry – both watching and doing. When a pastor invites a man in training to travel with him to minister, to attend elders’ meetings (if the church has a plurality of elders), and gives opportunities to serve and speak (all while providing helpful feedback), he is cultivating a good mentoring relationship.

In the mentoring process, the pastor should encourage the student to pay close attention to his life and doctrine (1 Tim. 4:16). If a pastor must make himself a bit more vulnerable to mentor, the student must be sure to reciprocate and also cultivate a teachable spirit. While the pastor should be careful and tactful with his feedback, while also being truthful and helpful, the student must be capable of receiving encouragement and critique in the right manner.

Several factors play into the feasibility of establishing a mentoring relationship, but they center on the mentoring pastor and the student. Looking at these factors will help determine to some degree how compatible, available, and profitable a potential mentoring relationship may be.

Pastors or others considering a mentoring relationship will need to examine their commitments – in theory and practice. This will help them decide whether they are available for this type of relationship and, if so, to what extent. Depending on one’s setting, there may be seasons of pastoral ministry that make an intensive mentoring relationship impossible (apart from neglecting legitimate family and church commitments). However, that does not mean that no informal mentoring is possible. Pastors and churches must see 2 Timothy 2:2 as part of the mandate for pastoral ministry, and seek to make that a reality. It has been well said that pastors should not be considered as being like the apostle Paul if they do not have a Timothy.

Delegating duties that do not properly belong to the pastor is one step that can be taken to freeing a busy pastor. For example, if a pastor of a small church is responsible for secretarial duties, could there not be a member who could volunteer time to process office paperwork and print the bulletins? If the church has a plurality of elders, one elder could specialize in mentoring, although it would be even better if each elder could mentor a student.

The pastor, of course, should always seek to be a model of that he teaches, paying close attention to his own life and doctrine (1 Tim. 4:16). When men make shipwrecks of their ministry, the church is hurt. But the closer one is to ground zero, the more damage is sustained. The student will be deeply hurt by a mentor’s fall. If one is not modeling attention to right living and teaching, one is not in a position to be a mentor (or pastor). This does not mean that one must be perfect, but that he must be serious about his own sanctification if he is to help train another man.

The student seeking a mentor also has several matters to consider. A student must examine his own commitments and availability. Being committed and available at the local church should be expected of church members, and students are no exception. Single men may have more opportunities to be intensively mentored, since financial and family commitments are usually less demanding for them than for husbands and fathers. Yet, men who have less availability usually have some availability. Informal, less frequent mentoring is far better than none.

The student should seek a pastor that he truly wants to learn from. The motive should not be to impress the pastor and network oneself into the right circles in hopes of getting a job. The motive should be to seek to be a better servant of Christ by learning from one who has gone down that path a bit farther already. The student should seek a man who is completely committed to the Scriptures and the Gospel of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ alone. In addition to healthy doctrine, the student must look for a godly man, whose life is shaped by that doctrine. The student need not agree with the pastor on every nuance of theology, but there must be some basic agreement and there must be respect for him. Otherwise, the mentoring experience will likely go sour.

Ideally, the student could be mentored by his own pastor. Yet, especially in large churches, this may not be possible. In such a situation, another church leader or godly man who knows and lives the Scriptures would be options to consider. In these matters, the student may need to exercise pro-activity – without being pushy. He can make the first move by asking the prospective mentor for a time to talk and share with him his desire to learn from him.

There are other situations where neither the pastor nor any other potential mentors are available (or even interested). Here the student may be able to find a godly mentor in a pastor of another ministry, but will need to carefully consider how this may impact his involvement in his own local church. In this scenario, less-intensive mentoring may actually increase the student’s fruitfulness in his own local church. But if the mentoring relationship draws one increasingly away from his own local church, it might be time to change churches so one is actually committed to the people he is spending time with, or it might be better to scale back the relationship with the mentor.

If a pastor and student determine that there is sufficient compatibility and availability for a profitable mentoring relationship, then they will need to decide how they will proceed. Will the student shadow the pastor on most of his ministry activity? How frequently will they meet? Will there be ministry opportunities for the student along with feedback from the pastor? The details can be worked out and adapted to their situation.

Both pastor and student will need to evaluate the mentoring relationship from time to time. Is it going somewhere? Is the pastor able to actually provide some helpful training by teaching and/or example? Is the student teachable and learning? Have other circumstances arisen since beginning the relationship that make a modification necessary (whether by increasing or decreasing the intensiveness or even terminating the relationship)?

The potential flexibility of a mentoring approach has great advantages. It can be somewhere on the spectrum between formal and informal. The student could be a staff member, such as an associate pastor or pastoral assistant. He could also be a non-staff church member or a senior pastor of another church. Mentoring does not have to be structured in the same way as a degree program, and it can (and probably should) be combined with other avenues of obtaining theological instruction, providing extra safeguards and reinforcement to the student. The approach chosen should be carefully and prayerfully considered and adapted as needed.

In my next article, I will examine the idea of the internship as a way to train pastors in the local church.

What do you think? Are there other aspects to mentoring that should be considered when thinking how to train pastors in the local church?

While the whole series will be available on the blog this week, if you want all the articles in one place, the Kindle book version of this series is only 99 cents.  A paperback booklet is also available.  I’m glad to make this content free on the blog, but if you’d like to show a little support, please consider purchasing a paperback or Kindle version (those who purchase the paperback on Amazon can get the Kindle version for free, via the Kindle matchbook program).

Training_Pastors_in__Cover_for_KindleLinks to purchase:

Amazon Kindle eBook

Amazon (paperback) (those who purchase the paperback via Amazon are eligible for the Kindle version for free)

CreateSpace (paperback)

Training Pastors in the Local Church, Part 1 of 7: Introduction

Throughout this week, I plan to post each part of this 7 part series.

by Doug Smith

The church is called “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). The model of theological training presented in the Scriptures is one that directly involves the local church, particularly as qualified men train others to teach others (2 Tim. 2:2).

I began seminary classes in the Spring of 2007, by distance education.  As of 2014, I am only about halfway through an M.Div. program (and considering other options now, as I understand why some call it the Master of “infinity” for its length, and the difficulty of completing it with a family).  Most of my classes have been online, but I’ve had the privilege of sitting in a classroom for several courses, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  Even though a large part of my training has been in a seminary setting, I think the primary provider and promoter of theological education should be the local church.

Even before beginning seminary, I was beginning to see the importance of theological education being solidly anchored in the local church. This is a conviction that has only increased. I have had numerous conversations with others about this topic.  I am encouraged that our school’s president, Dr. Albert Mohler, also desires to see churches become more involved in training pastors (see his article, “Training Pastors in the Church”).

This series will examine various ways that a local church can become involved in the training of pastors. These methods can (and often should) overlap, so they are not necessarily cut-and-dried approaches. However, they are a suggested starting point, especially for those thinking through this matter or seeking to implement church-based theological training of some sort. I submit these ideas to the reader, not as an expert on this concept, but as one who is zealous about this topic yet still thinking through these issues. My goal is to stimulate others to consider the place of the local church in training pastors and how they might encourage or participate in this noble task.

Five Models of Theological Education

There at least five models of theological education that can involve the local church in training pastors. I have listed them in order of most direct to least direct methods, although they can be combined and overlapped. The unifying theme of these ideas is that the church in some way, directly or indirectly, is attempting to take seriously the call to train pastors.

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The first model, mentoring, involves a pastor pouring his life into an aspiring pastor, preferably over an extended period of time. Its central place in the diagram is fitting, since an ideal theological education would include this aspect along with other methods.  The second model, the internship, would involve some mentoring, but it would be for a more defined period of time and likely be in a group setting.The third model is a church-based seminary, where the school is a direct extension of the ministry of one particular church.  Churches could also partner with other churches or ministries to combine forces to offer training (the fourth model).  The fifth model is the traditional seminary that is accountable to churches.  Not all traditional seminaries are accountable to local churches, and I would argue that such institutions would, in effect, overstep their bounds, assume a task that they cannot legitimately claim, and place themselves in a precarious situation where it is all too easy to drift from the truth in the name of academic freedom.

I have personally benefited in some measure from a mentoring relationship, a church-based seminary, a ministry which partners with churches to train pastors, an internship, and a traditional seminary accountable to local churches. My articles, in part, will draw on my interpretation of these experiences, but will also point the reader to specific examples of these sorts of models.

What do you think? Are there some other ways to anchor pastoral training in the local church?

While the whole series will be available on the blog this week, if you want all the articles in one place, the Kindle book version of this series is only 99 cents.  A paperback booklet is also available.  I’m glad to make this content free on the blog, but if you’d like to show a little support, please consider purchasing a paperback or Kindle version (those who purchase the paperback on Amazon can get the Kindle version for free, via the Kindle matchbook program).

Training_Pastors_in__Cover_for_KindleLinks to purchase:

Amazon Kindle eBook

Amazon (paperback) (those who purchase the paperback via Amazon are eligible for the Kindle version for free)

CreateSpace (paperback)