Many pastors struggle to find time for continuing education. Preaching, teaching, meeting and visiting — not to mention ministering to the sick and dying, engaging the community and preparing for daily ministry tasks — often swallow all of a pastor’s time. And these are just professional tasks. What about family? Time to refresh and recharge? It’s no wonder that continuing education often falls off the radar for many pastors.
Every reason a pastor may have for not continuing his education could likewise be a reason for continuing education. The more we learn, the more efficiently we work. The more we receive God’s gifts in worship and grow spiritually, the more effectively we can share life with Christ.
I have been incredibly blessed by participating in continued education. For the first three years of my ministry, I received encouragement through the PALS program (Post Seminary Applied Learning and Support). Relationships that began in PALS continue to be a great asset to me and my ministry, putting me in touch with men from whom I can learn and whom I still trust today.
But that’s not all. For two years I participated in the Wabash Pastoral Leadership Program funded by the Lilly Endowment. As one of 16 Indiana pastors chosen for Cohort III, I was offered Sabbath and given the opportunity to learn from world renowned leaders from a variety of fields. I sat at the feet of Archbishop Desmond Tutu in South Africa and learned conflict resolution from those who helped liberate South Africa from apartheid. I learned of environmental consciousness from Joel Salatin, a Christian, libertarian, environmentalist, author and lecturer. I learned more from a favorite professor, the Rev. Dr. Detlev Schulz, who spoke about his experience growing up as the son of a white pastor who became bishop of the black Lutheran Church in South Africa. I did not seek these opportunities for myself; they sought me. As a result, I’ve learned much and the network of peers I’ve encountered are and will be among the greatest assets I have.
Because of the blessings I’ve received through my own continued education, I encourage my fellow church workers to continue learning. This endeavor may take many shapes and could happen in the office, at an institution of higher learning or around a table with a cup of coffee.
Encourage your pastors, teachers, DCEs or colleagues in ministry to invest in their own education. Encourage your church leadership and school board to do so as well.
We will be better served as a district and Synod when those who are vested are also invested in continued education. “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety” (Prov. 11:14). May we, as the people of God, heed His counsel by promoting, seeking and encouraging each other in pursuing the blessing of wisdom for our service in the Lord’s kingdom.
Written by Rev. Daniel J. Lepley, Senior Pastor at Our Shepherd Lutheran, Avon
Taken from the September 2016 Lutheran Witness