Teaching Congregation Guidelines

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

  1. Give opportunities to new pastors
    1. Hire new pastors
    2. Be an intern site for the local seminary and pay for the intern
  2. Help new pastors improve their skills
    1. Give feedback on sermons, worship, and pastoral care
      1. Maybe a sermon/worship feedback form? One person fills it out per week?
    2. Hold the pastor accountable for fulfilling duties
    3. Encourage and support the pastor’s creativity
    4. Review performance at session meetings
    5. Encourage the pastor to read and attend conferences for professional development
    6. Include the pastor in all church-related disputes and arguments
  3. Help new pastors articulate their faith
    1. Review and ask questions about the pastor’s faith statement at the beginning of the pastoral relationship
    2. 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.
    3. Bring questions about faith, theology, and the Bible to the pastor as often as possible
  4. Provide for the pastor’s growth and self-care
    1. Encourage spiritual retreats, vacation, and study leave
    2. Ensure that the pastor has mentors in the community
      1. Be in contact with other pastors to recruit as mentors
    3. Respect the amount of time the pastor has to give, make clear expectations about time spent preparing for worship vs. other tasks
  5. Encourage the pastor as they prepare to move to another community
    1. Continue to respect the pastor even as the end of their service approaches
    2. If necessary, review the pastor’s PIF to help them find the best possible opportunity for their next ministry.
    3. 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.