I had a meeting with the head of our local Sustaining Pastoral Excellence project leader today and told her about the conversations we're having here about excellence and about how my participation in her Lilly-Funded programs gave me a shifted attitude from what I was finding among my colleagues. (shifted from, "my God, how can they expect more of me," to "somebody cares about what I do and wants to help me do better.)
She said that even in the highly funded Lilly world, where resources flow like water, there was quite a bit of controversy about the word "excellence" as applied to ministry. Too business-y for most people, and that's in spite of the words from Paul's writings, "I will help you find a more excellent way."
Ok...it turned into a land mine, this word, excellent. When you find a land mine, the most noble thing is to step around it in service of the larger mission.
The larger mission is supporting (good, solid, competent, creative, satisfying,) ministry. It's fun to think about what that would look like, but even short of definitive definitions, we know enough about what prevents (XXXXX) ministry to begin thinking about better ways.
So let's think about what prevents (good) ministry. Let me start a list...please chime in!
1. No real recruiting leaves us relying only on those who feel called.
2. Limited opportunities for real Lay Ministry deprives people of the opportunity to experiment with their sense of call and encourages people who have "done it all" in their local church to take an unrealistic leap to ministry.
3. The cost of seminary. Perhaps we should put it this way:
4. THE COST OF SEMINARY
5. The length of the ministry preparation period
6. The perceived capriciousness of the RSCC and MFC experience and how much a bad experience with one of these bodies can add to the time and cost of ministry preparation.
7. The (dreary old) fact that Seminaries and Certification processes have not entirely compatible goals.
8. Student Debt
9. STUDENT DEBT
10. The need of most people for some kind of accountability structures throughout their careers to motivate them to stretch themselves.
11. Churches that would find a (XXXX) minister to be waaaay too challenging.
12. The generally low salary, benefits, and continuing education packages in this career.
13. The fact that most ministers by necessity work in isolation from colleagues and rarely see other ministers at work.
14. The fact that in any career where the reward scale is fairly flat and opportunity to excel is limited, excelling is viewed with suspicion.
Please do keep going....