There are many small mainline churches across the country that see their mission as “bringing up the next generation of pastors.” It’s a great way to make good use of a small church budget that can’t support much more than a part-time pastor in a call that is more likely to appeal to someone just out of seminary. However, this often turns into a cop-out, a reason not to change and adapt to a changing community, a reason not to do evangelism or address the problems that have led to a budget unable to support more than a part-time pastor. In order to ensure that this doesn’t happen, I’ve drafted a list of ideas that could be adopted by a church desiring to be a “Teaching Congregation”. These guidelines are things that are particularly attractive to me, though there are some on the list that are there more because I think they’re good ideas and less because it’s what I need in a church.
Guidelines for a Teaching Congregation
- Give opportunities to new pastors
- Hire new pastors
- Be an intern site for the local seminary and pay for the intern
- Help new pastors improve their skills
- Give feedback on sermons, worship, and pastoral care
- Maybe a sermon/worship feedback form? One person fills it out per week?
- Hold the pastor accountable for fulfilling duties
- Encourage and support the pastor’s creativity
- Review performance at session meetings
- Encourage the pastor to read and attend conferences for professional development
- Include the pastor in all church-related disputes and arguments
- Help new pastors articulate their faith
- Review and ask questions about the pastor’s faith statement at the beginning of the pastoral relationship
- Assign one person to review and ask questions about the pastor’s faith statement as it relates to their sermons, actions, etc. at least once per year.
- Bring questions about faith, theology, and the Bible to the pastor as often as possible
- Provide for the pastor’s growth and self-care
- Encourage spiritual retreats, vacation, and study leave
- Ensure that the pastor has mentors in the community
- Be in contact with other pastors to recruit as mentors
- Respect the amount of time the pastor has to give, make clear expectations about time spent preparing for worship vs. other tasks
- Encourage the pastor as they prepare to move to another community
- Continue to respect the pastor even as the end of their service approaches
- If necessary, review the pastor’s PIF to help them find the best possible opportunity for their next ministry.
- Be clear at the beginning of the pastoral relationship about the length of that relationship so that everyone is ready for the transition when it comes.