Friday, July 6, 2007

HR perspective on pastor occupation

Missing from our discussion is a good HR review of Ministerial Education and pastors. It may be that BME has produced such a study and I haven't seen it. A good HR analysis would provide a framework for aligning Ministerial Education with the job that pastors actually perform on a day-to-day basis in a parish setting. A good HR analysis would prioritize skills (e.g., must have vs. nice to have) and would tell us where in the Ministerial Education pipeline a man would learn certain skills. A good HR analysis might also identify twists and turns in Ministerial Education that could be considered for straightening. Certainly Scripture lays out some requirements for pastors and other church leaders; however, church tradition has added more job requirements for pastors.

Skill example #1: By tradition we expect pastors to be capable of chairing or participating in meetings using Robert's Rules of Order. Do we teach Robert's Rules of Order? Should Rules of Order be taught in elementary school, high school, college, or seminary?

Skill example #2: By tradition we expect pastors to be capable counselors. How many courses and how much field experience do pastors have in counseling? Are WELS pastors (both young and old) good at counseling families? Do pastors routinely detect and refer to treatment fellow pastors, teachers, and called-worker spouses exhibiting symptoms of depression or other mental illness?

Skill example #3: By tradition pastors are intimately involved with parish treasuries. How much training do pastors receive in preparing or interpreting financial reports? Does Seminary use parish financial case studies? Although the word "embezzlement" does not appear in Scripture, do we train pastors how to identify and maintain ethical financial practices? If your pastor signs your photocopier service contract, has he been trained in contract law? Does he know which terms are enforceable by statute in your state?

Skill example #4: By tradition pastors supervise paid employees and volunteers in the church office. When do we train pastors how to manage people and supervise subordinates? Do we teach pastors about legal employment (hiring & firing) practices? Is there opportunity for every pastor candidate to lead a student-run organization in high school, college, and seminary?

Skill example #5: When churches build or remodel it's the pastor who is on site every day so it's common for the pastor to be the lead contact with the contractor. When do we train pastors how to select and manage architects and general contractors?

Skill example #6: Pastors may not be racists, but are they comfortable in multi-ethnic settings or do they tense up? MLC being 97% white, do all pastor candidates experience years where they live and work surrounded by non-whites?

Once we have a framework for discussion, it's easy to stand back to see what fits in Ministerial Education and what does not. It's OK to retain traditions for the sake of traditions, as long as all realize certain traditions might help esprit de corps at a school but have little relevance to pastoral ministry. For example, how does evening chapel for high school students help them become better pastors? Last I heard, MLC chapel was still optional. I'm not aware of any WELS congregation holding evening chapel services every day, so is the benefit that high school and college students lead the chapel service and practice public speaking?

The framework might help in other ways by identifying skills that need refreshing over time. For example, do pastors need a German refresher after a few decades in the pulpit? Should pastors take a Hebrew requalification exam every 10 years?

An HR framework might also identify situations where we need to unload monkeys from the pastor's back. For example, maybe every Circuit needs a Staff Minister who has a background as a General Contractor.

Are we, as a Synod, capable of agreeing on a job description for a pastor?

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