Monday, July 6, 2009

The Past is Prologue

Many folks enter seminary after retiring from another career. Seminarians at the Starr King School have ranged in age from 21 to 60 something.

At Ministry Days before GA, I got into a conversation with a minister whom I had just met. He spoke about the growth of his congregation. I asked him the key to his success. He attributed it in part to his prior career in banking.

If he hadn't been so sincere, I might have thought he was being ironic. Current disasters in the banking industry don't speak well of it as a guide for ministry or any other career/calling. However, I presume he was talking about banking before the excesses (or in banks that weren't guilty of the excesses).

Though the relationship between a minister and a congregation is very different than that between a CEO (chief executive officer) and a corporation/NGO/nonprofit/government office, there are some meaningful similarities. You can acquire significant leadership and managerial skills in lay work within congregations and many settings outside of UUism.

How should these skills and knowledges be evaluated in examining and interviewing for UU ministry? Should these lay and non-UU experiences be subject to the same kind of rigorous examination that is given to CPE internships and residencies and UU internships?

1 comment:

  1. This debate regarding the relative merits of significant career experience prior to entering ministry, as opposed to setting aside at a relative early age certain individuals who will be prepared specifically for ministry, suggests a lot more about the kinds of religious communities we hope to create than it does about "success" in the ministry per se. I personally believe that this trend toward second-career ministers, combined with an absence of significant leadership opportunities for non-ordained individuals within our congregations, has been close to a disaster...we have almost completely lost touch with the important ecclesiastical traditions and values that are essential to an honest and authentic understanding of our denomination (and congregations) as a faith community, throw around words like "covenant" and "congregational polity" as though they were somehow synonyms for "mission statement" and "majority rules," (which they most certainly are NOT!), and...well, this is getting way too close to a rant. I'm sure there are plenty of compelling arguments that can be made for the other perspective as well.