Addressing A Crucial Gap

Blogger Jon BallEver have a doctor you wish had been required to take “Bedside Manner 101” or a course on Emotional Intelligence? Most medical schools, as far as I know, don’t even offer such classes. The traditional western Protestant seminary education has left a similar gap—probably an even more destructive one.

Imagine a new pastor, hired fresh out of seminary. Our friend has learned to parse Greek and Hebrew syntax, locate a theological idea in its historical context, debate it systematically, and write scholarly (even brilliant) research papers.

The church board has been fighting for months over whether to keep reaching out to “those rowdy neighborhood kids who are tearing up the building.” A key church member just lost his battle with cancer. And now a single mom is pouring out her troubles—her middle child has gotten into drugs, the father isn’t paying child support, and they’re being evicted.

And our pastor friend is drowning, feeling singularly under-equipped for any one of these situations. Parsing, debating, and researching don’t seem enough. Shouldn’t a seminary prepare church leaders for these real-life situations?

I realize that’s a caricature. But it highlights why I am so impressed after my first four weeks in the Touchstone Course.

We are learning how to listen to what keeps people up at night, and what gets them up in the morning. We are getting excellent leadership training in how to manage inevitable role conflicts and competing commitments we experience in real life. We are being equipped with tools such as story and lament that invite people into a shared story of future hope.

If you aren’t required to take IS500, beg them to let you in next quarter. If you are, take it as soon as you can. This class will not solve everything. But I feel confident that my classmates and I are being equipped to step into an enormous variety of leadership situations in the real world.

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