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Training or Educating?

I walked up to the car with an open hood to see what was wrong. The driver was looking around the engine compartment. As I approach the car he opened the battery cover and pulled out his lighter to look inside the battery.  I knocked the lighter from his hand and jumped back from the battery and the car.  He needed light to see but did not understand that there could be a hydrogen explosion by using a lighter rather than a flashlight.  He did not understand the chemistry and could not see the danger.   I had to explain my actions and the chemistry and then he was very shocked and thankful. We found a flashlight to finish the job.

I have often been corrected by educators when I say the phrase “training of pastors.”   They react strongly and negatively to the image of training.   Over the years I have tried to clarify why they feel this way.   Their response is that training involves teaching a series of steps without understanding the reasons behind those steps.  They view training as an almost mechanical form – sort of like the training of an assembly line worker with a very limited responsibility.

I have a different view of training than the one above.   Over my life I have worked in many types of ministry and business settings.  In many of these I have been trained and educated.  One of my first jobs was McDonalds.   While being taught to turn hamburgers on a grill, the manager would pull me aside for twenty or thirty minutes at a time to explain why I needed to take each of the steps.  He explained how one bad hamburger would turn away twenty potential customers since one displeased customer would tell twenty of their friends.   Social theory, and psychology were a part of my training to cook a hamburger.

Education is a wide ranging toolbox that enables a person to adapt to the contextual ministry situation.   Broad principles allow a minister to create a new solution to the problems they are facing in a congregation.  I have talked with many pastors who are frustrated with the toolbox approach.  Their broad education has not given much guidance to the specific settings needed for the situation they find themselves in.

I have both trained and educated others.  These settings have enabled me to use a variety of learning and teaching styles.  I found that effective training must be based in clear theory and a good understanding of the whole process.  A person who is trained without theory (education) is limited when the situation falls outside of the training.  But a person who is trained in the task and educated in the theory can be flexible when situations change and fall outside the normal range.

Education has both deepened and broadened my understanding and my view of the world.  Training has enabled me to see the connections between theory and practice so that I can make good applications in the right places.  If I was only trained I would still be able to work effectively, but without the broad understanding of people and situations that education brings.  On the other hand, if I am only educated but not trained, I am confused in my work.  This is because education brings broad understanding but it rarely enables a person to make the specific application to the task at hand.  What needs to be done here?  What tools are available?  What could I use and adapt to this situation?

Pastors need both training and education to enable them to do the work that they need to do. This is even more effective if the training covers a wide range of possible models so that the pastor has an understanding of how several models can fit the needs at hand.


  1. Marilyn Riddlebarger says:

    Training or Educating?
    Paragraph 4 above last sentence ends in . in. …find themselves in.
    recommend. .in which they find themselves.

  2. Marilyn Riddlebarger says:

    Training or Educating
    sentence beginning. .If I was only trained
    suggest. …If I were only trained

  3. Marilyn Riddlebarger says:

    Note above comment should include… second to last paragraph sentence. .

  4. Marilyn Riddlebarger says:

    Training or Educating?
    last paragraph
    Pastors need…work…would deleting… that they need to do… and replacing it with ..work they are to do… read more clearly?

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