Resolution #3: Pursue Further Education
As some of you may know, I was given an exciting new opportunity this past fall when I was asked to join the staff at our church. I’m the Director of Christian Education. I prefer the term “spiritual formation” to “Christian education”, actually, but who quibbles about titles when they’re being given the chance of a lifetime? So I’ve been at the church part-time since late October, riding a steep learning curve. This work really has been a dream of mine, and I think it may be a vocation. But I am, at this point, completely self-taught. No special training, no seminary or Bible college in my background, no certificate of specialNESS that gives me credibility (any True Stories fans out there?). I’m not even sure how I got the job, if truth be told, but I’m not going to dig into that too deeply. All I can say for myself, really, is that I am a constant reader and I know how to spot a good Christian book. So my thoughts have been shaped by Foster and Wink, Cavanaugh and Nouwen, Lodahl and Grenz, Wright and Hauerwas, to name a few. And the Bible! I have to include that because I wrote a post last winter on my decade in spiritual reading, and was mocked at a fundamentalist website for not including the Bible. Lesson learned, fundies. I do read the Bible.
This year, I want to deliberately pursue…what should I call it? Professional development? I’m starting simply, by pursuing a certificate in Theology and Doctrinal Studies through our denomination’s Christian Lay Training program. I’m guessing, really, that Theology and Doctrinal Studies shouldn’t be in the same sentence as the word “simply”. But only five books are required for this certificate. Five! And I already own three of them! I don’t think I’m going to feel professionally developed after that, not when the bar is set so low. Once I’ve completed the Theology and Doctrinal Studies certificate, however, I can apply to Lay Minister Studies. You can tell that program is supposed to be big stuff, because I can’t even be accepted into it without the approval of my pastor and church board. Completing that program might qualify as a certificate of specialNESS, might make me feel a bit more qualified to carry my title.
Maybe you detect a hint of sarcasm. It’s there, but it’s just acting as a defense mechanism against the possibility of failure. In a perfect world where time and money were no object, I’d be applying to seminary. I really do want to make a long term commitment to the work of the church, and I want to be equipped for the job. Perhaps the small steps I’ve outlined above will solidfy my feelings and lead me, eventually, to seminary. Before I reach retirement age would be a plus, but aside from that, I’m not in a hurry.