Thursday, April 2, 2009

Academic, Formational, and/or Professional?

I've been researching ministerial formation and examining. The access and assistance offered by a great university library and its staff are hard to beat. (Yes, dear reader, I proudly confess to being a library nerd.)

Only a few journal articles speak directly to ministerial examining. One of the most intriguing is "Beyond Wish Lists for Pastoral Leadership: Assessing Clergy Behavior and Congressional Outcomes to Guide Seminary Curriculum" by John Dreibelbis and David Gortner (the latter is a professor here in Berkeley at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific) in Theological Education, Volume 40, Supplement (2005): 25-49.

Dreibelbis and Gortner are persuaded of the need for "competency-oriented models of [theological] education in which competencies are identified as actions rooted in knowledge, character, and skill contributing to positive outcomes in congregational contexts--the ultimate testing grounds (italics in original) of theological disciplines." They go on to note that the two educational models usually found in theological education are academic and formational. They believe that a professional model must be added if seminarians are to develop the knowledges, skills, and abilities they will need as ministers.

There is a wealth of information in this journal article. For today, I just wish to point out that the Episcopal priests who were surveyed for it generally reported the most confidence in their ability to perform sacramental and preaching job activities and the least confidence in community outreach, lay leadership development, and organizational leadership job activities.

Looking at the 10 knowledge-based versus the 5 performance-based Competencies for UU Ministry affirm a mismatch in ministerial formation. Many a candidate for UU ministry has spent hours memorizing information that they may never use again while slighting important skill development. Those who participated in the Excellence in Ministry conference and members of the MFC recognize that the time has come for a review of the examining and formational processes.

What do you think?


  1. Having heard some of what several seminarians "crammed" to have in their heads--either needed, or not asked for (but presumably asked of some other, at some point), it's clear that there's a requirement/perception of requirement (either/or/both) of things that in real life, people go and bone up for, even if they knew it once. In the last month, I've heard one comment--telling me something--"Hunh, I can't remember that, but I knew it just N weeks ago, when I saw the MFC--and a whole bunch of other stuff they didn't ask, most of which I've also forgotten."

    I think we've gone astray a bit.