The last few posts have been a little too wordy. This one will be swift and to the point.
Sunday I talked about weddings and referred to the troubling fact that in the three years of seminary, at supposedly one of the premier seminaries in the world, I was never taught how to do a wedding. Never. I have wracked my brain since Sunday and tried to come up with all I was ever taught about weddings and it boils down to a couple of photocopied pages that spell out the importance of premarital counseling (without ever telling you what you should say in that counseling) and the injunction that every pastor has the right to determine whom they marry.
That’s it. Everything else we were told, “you’ll figure it out.” Here is a partial list of the things I was never taught in seminary but I have found to be vital in the pastoral ministry.
1. How to conduct a business meeting. I was given a copy of Robert’s Rules and told to not pay much attention to it. I was, however, taught how to do a church budget in various detail. I was just never told how to pass it!
2. Lord’s Supper/Communion. Nothing. Ever. Not once. The theology of it we discussed at length. How to do it, never.
3. Baptism. You would think that the preacher boys would all get in a baptistery tank of a local church and spend an afternoon practicing on each other. Nooooooooo. As I said Sunday, I almost killed the first person I ever baptized in church.
4. Funerals. Just like with weddings, we were never told how to lead or conduct one. We were, however, told all about the grief cycle, depression, and the importance of the church’s long term ministry to those who suffer loss but as for the nuts-n-bolts of a funeral service, dealing with the funeral home, cemeteries, honor guards, Masonic lodge, florists etc… there was absolutely zilch.
5. How to run a meeting. As a pastor I run a lot of meetings: Staff, deacons, teaching elders, ministry teams and so forth but I was never taught how to run one.
6. One more–hospital visits. I was told to do them, and I was told they were important but never was I instructed on how to actually do one. I say this seriously, because hospitals are cramped, smelly, and odd environments that require some level expertise to navigate. It would have been nice to have maybe, a fake hospital room in the seminary building somewhere with an actor or another student playing the roll of patient to go visit.
Some things just can’t be learned by reading a book.
Do not get me wrong. I learned a great deal in seminary about the Lord, Scripture, the languages, doctrine, ethics and so much more but there were huge holes. As I said earlier, it has been a long time since I was in seminary (mid 90’s) and I hope much has changed for the better. I doubt it though, because the trend is toward distance learning and online courses which do not help with practical aspects of the work. I wonder if one of the reasons why church has been in such crisis for the past 3 decades or so might not be in some part related to the lack of practical education at the seminary level. I wonder.