Kenda Creasy Dean is a United Methodist ordained elder and professor of youth, church and culture at Princeton Theological Seminary and the author of Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers Is Telling the American Church. In a recent blog, she suggested several questions those considering seminary should ask about prospective schools. One that particularly caught my attention was “How will I be prepared for ‘the Church of 10 Years from Now’”?
The question caused me to stop and think about the kinds of competencies that ministers will need in order to be effective in the churches and ministries of 2022. Here are some suggestions.
The minister of 2022 will need to not only understand the Bible but be able to see how it intersects with her or his own story and that of the people in the congregation. If one fails to make that connection, the biblical message is only an historic artifact of little importance. Creatively linking ancient and contemporary stories will require imagination and sensitivity.
Our minister of the future will need to be able to see the theological implications in contemporary cultural expressions. As people read less, their world view and values are molded by motion pictures, television, and other forms of media. The minister must be not only familiar with these cultural expressions but be able to perceive and name the theological consequences of their content.
A person who wants to be an effective minister in the future will have to be proficient in not only cross-cultural communication but interfaith dialogue as well. Our churches are already faced with a complex and rich ethnic landscape, but we must have the tools to enter into meaningful discussion with other faith traditions and skills to work together in our communities.
The minister of the future will need to know and appreciate the challenges of the workplace. If the minister does not understand the environment in which church members spend the majority of their time, he or she will not be effective in relation to them. In fact, the most effective minister of the future may well be bivocational or an entrepreneur who is doing ministry outside the walls of the church.
Some of these competencies can be developed through a seminary experience but some cannot. Because of this, theological institutions must be open to creative partnerships and alliances not only with churches but education institutions, businesses, and not-for-profit organizations. The resources for developing the skilled minister of 2022 will not be found only within the seminary.