Yesterday, I had the privilege of speaking in the chapel service at Dallas Theological Seminary. I had been there before. It is a fine institution. Their President, Dr. Mark Bailey, is a dedicated and competent leader. Later, I would be honored to meet at lunch with a group of students preparing for pastoral ministry.
One of the initiatives of our outreach to the clergy at Focus on the Family is a commitment to the future leaders of the church who are presently in preparation at Seminaries and Bible Colleges around the country. We have learned so much from these talented men and women. They will be facing challenges in their assignments that I did not face. I pray they are ready for those challenges and committed for the long haul. The truth is, many begin the pastoral ministry journey, but a lot of them never finish.
As I reflect on my visit to DTS, I could not help but think about all of the things that my Seminary training did not prepare me for. For instance:
1. They did not teach me how to love. That came through experience.
2. I did not really understand how complicated the lives of people really were. Some of them were too broken to mend.
3. I was surprised at how judgmental and cruel Christian people could be. Graduate school did not warn me, or at least if they did I didn’t listen.
4. I probably needed more specific training in problem solving, and crisis management.
5. In my day there was not much attention being given to financial management. Even though my first assignment was small, I was still a 23 year old CEO. Scary.
6. I do not recall much attention being given to family matters. In fact, I remember some well-meaning leader saying to me, “You just go out and serve the church. God will take care of your family.” It didn’t happen that way.
7. There is no way you can prepare for loneliness. But the importance of friendship with colleagues should have been reinforced.
8. Another problem I would have to deal with, and had to learn on the fly, was that the church was God’s church … not mine. I was an under-shepherd.
9. I had to learn how to be myself and build on my own strength. Seminary had made me into a kind of cookie-cutter presenter.
10. Pastoring was not for the faint of heart. Probably, if they had told me everything I would never have completed my training. I am so glad they didn’t, and I am so glad I did.
What advice would you give to the institution that invested in you?
Originally appeared in the February 18, 2011 Pastor’s Weekly Briefing, a Focus on the Family publication. Copyright © 2011, Focus on the Family. Used by permission.