We are wanting our students to engage in four ways in every single class. This will vary greatly from class to class, but some form of all these four must be included in every class.
- With themselves
- With other students
- With a worshipping community
- With the larger non-Christian community.
Lets look at these more closely.
- With themselves. The student needs to grow in, character, understanding, confidence, and skill. Each class should help the student see clear evidence of growth as they see that they have fulfilled the outcomes for that class. This will show them that their understanding is growing, and their skill level is growing. This will give them confidence in their continued ministry. Character is a challenge to measure but can be measured in terms of a student’s behaviors. This is the Biblical approach for most character traits. For example, Jesus tells us that the poor in spirit will be blessed (an internal attitude of humility, love and submission). He goes on to show that greeting those who are our enemies is a clear indication of both love and humility (outward measurable action). In the same way, turning the other cheek when one is struck is a clear indication of love, active submission, and patience (outward action shows internal attitude). Behaviors that are sinful are clearly spelled out in Scripture and a pastor should be free from those. (Romans 1, Galatians 5, Using self-evaluation tools is one method for dealing with behavior characteristics. Using Cohort feedback is another way. These would not be graded in the sense that we measure where the student is and reward a “level” of spirituality. They would be graded as exercises that have been completed in each class. The student should be able to report progress on their character as they move through the course of study. This could be measured in the form of a reflection paper, or a verbal report every 3 or 4 classes attended. At the same time, obvious character flaws or sinful behaviors will need to be addressed in private by the teacher, or a coach / mentor assigned to the student.
- With other students. Learning to function in teams and to lead teams is a crucial skill for pastors. Teams will be structured so that the leadership constantly rotates. Often a team will be a cohort but not always. In fact at times it will be helpful to put the students in new groups to help them understand the dynamics of changing personnel. Leadership skills, teamwork skills, issues of hard work, integrity, timelines, trust, roles (and others) will be dealt with over and over within each of the classes. This way, a student’s faults and shortcomings will be constantly addressed. They will have many opportunities to improve on weaknesses and to identify and build strengths. By practicing these skills in every class and having some form of feedback on their progress, students will have the opportunity to grow well in areas of teamwork and leadership. It is important that every teacher briefly remind students why they are being formed into teams and what they are expected to learn from the team process.
- With a worshipping community. The student must be a part of a worshiping Christian community to properly develop as a pastor. Projects assigned in the class must be accomplished within a local church / congregation / church plant. This means that the students will need to work with their pastor, if they are not a senior pastor themselves, to have steady opportunities to minister in their local congregation. At times this will mean that the student themselves must develop a ministry, outreach or opportunity with the encouragement and support of their local congregation. The members of the congregation should be aware of the student’s study and be willing (at least a few of them) to encourage and help the student progress and develop. This means that the student has to develop the crucial skill of engaging others in ministry and working within a congregational structure to develop ministries. This skill will be crucial for the long term success of their ministry. They will need to develop healthy attitudes toward criticism and input. They will need to learn to look past the emotional content of criticism and find ways to improve themselves. They will also need to learn how to deal with destructive people who may try to manipulate, embarrass, or demean them in the presence of others. It is impossible to encounter the wide possible range of attitudes in one or two times of ministry with a congregation. It is crucial that a student is engaging with the congregation in every class so that they deal a wide range of both opportunities and obstacles.
- With the larger non-Christian community. Many beginning pastors are not comfortable with people from other classes or social backgrounds. They hesitate to meet people because they are not sure how to deal with them or even how to approach them. Community engagement is a crucial skill for pastors. The ability to meet people in poverty and distress, business people, community leaders, government officials, wealthy individuals and people without a title but with strong influence in the community, sick and prisoners and other ordinary individuals will enable the pastor to preach the gospel to the whole community. A project for every class places the student in the community so they have an opportunity to engage people coming from different social and economic backgrounds. This builds the student’s confidence as they move into new ministry settings and begin to understand how the whole community functions. They will begin to understand how influential people in a community can help make (or oppose) good changes. They will also begin to develop the skills of community assessment and development. One whole class will be devoted to community engagement but the student will be constantly practicing these skills and applying the new knowledge gained in each class to help them engage Biblically and effectively with the community.