Saturday, November 07, 2009

An Environment for Growth

I can remember the day well. It was May 1970. The mover had packed up all of our worldly goods for the move from Fort Worth, Texas, to Murfreesboro, Tennessee. I climbed into the station wagon (loaded down with clothes and other things we would need immediately). Rita (great with child) and our daughter, Sherry, stayed behind with friends. They would fly to Nashville later after I got the house set up with help from my parents. I made a loop around the campus and said farewell to Seminary Hill, not expecting to return anytime soon! I had earned my degree, been called to my first place of ministry, and could leave all that behind.

After only a few months, I realized that my education was not over. I soon began to encounter situations in teaching, counseling, and administration that I had not anticipated. Seminary helped me to develop many skills I put into use immediately—planning, preaching, and research. At the same time, I quickly discovered that I needed help to be a more effective minister, and I began to search for people and learning opportunities that could help me with the challenges that I faced. Did I have feelings of inadequacy? I probably did at first, but I soon realized that there was no way that seminary could have prepared me for the specific context in which I found myself.

I was fortunate to find the help I needed. This was not true for some of my contemporaries who either left the ministry in the first five years or began moving through a series of pastorates, failing to connect in any of them.

Hopefully, ministers have come to realize that learning is a lifelong process. Seminaries have also discovered that they can continue to provide support and resources for their alumni after they complete their formal education. One of the initiatives that Pinnacle Leadership Associates is undertaking is the First Call Project. We hope to partner with seminaries and funders to provide ministers beginning their first full-time positions with the “just in time” learning and support to work effectively in their settings.

This is just one piece of the puzzle, of course. Ministers must be proactive in developing an environment that will nurture and support them in their daily work. Family provides some of this, but we cannot expect our spouses and children to provide everything we need to be effective ministers! We need to find support groups, community resources, continuing education programs, formal degree programs, reading and internet resources, and other emerging opportunities for personal and professional development.

Where are you in the process? There is help available. Don’t hesitate to begin developing your own environment for growth.

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