Think about the people who have been your ministers. What were the qualities that you admired in those ministers? Was it their biblical knowledge, their relationship with God, their pastoral sensitivity, the way they made the Gospel relevant to your life, or their contemplative spirituality?
Some of these qualities are learnt in the academy while others are formed in the worshipping community. These two aspects are discussed below, but keep in mind the one constant is that the learning and formation is always ongoing. We are never ‘masters’ of this vocation.
Learning in the academy has long been a requirement for professional ministry in most settings. The areas of study are basic: biblical studies (Old and New Testaments); Christian thought about God, Jesus, the church and the world; pastoral leadership and care; mission, ethics, spirituality, worship and the practice of ministry. The history and thought of Churches of Christ is another relevant subject.
Formation in the worshipping community is an experience essential for the development of healthy ministry. Here, a minister-in-training receives support and direction from an experienced minister. Attached to this training is a program of supervised field education run by the College. This supervised field education is designed to help the trainee integrate their studies with their experience of ministry. The focus is personal growth and intentional professional development. The trainee is encouraged to set goals and objectives and monitor them. Acts of ministry are discussed in peer groups, feedback groups, and with a supervisor to develop the skills of self-evaluation and theological reflection. These two skills are crucial for sustainable, effective ministry. Self-evaluation of one’s ministry leads to greater self-understanding and continuous improvement. Theological reflection occurs with the consideration of questions like: “how did that act of ministry fit with the way I think about God?” or “where does that act of ministry fit with the story of Jesus in the New Testament?” The more one becomes practised in answering questions like these about their own life and ministry, the more adept one becomes in helping others discover the meaning of the Gospel for their own lives.
Normally, this formation process takes three years in conjunction with learning in the academy. However, people seeking endorsement for ministry by Churches of Christ present with a variety of life experiences, education and ministry backgrounds. This is taken into account when a program of training is designed for each candidate. In addition, the ministry setting the candidate feels called to is also considered when formulating the components of learning and formation. The resulting endorsement of the candidate by Churches of Christ for ministry merely acknowledges what has already occurred in the life of the candidate.
For more information on endorsement matters CLICK HERE.