Is it right? Is it true?

aaroneous-monk.jpg

I recently took a survey that was conducted by a DMin student, doing research on Continuing Education. The questions were very interesting, so I hope he sends the report when he’s done.

He was studying ConEd trends, focusing on what church professionals are doing to better equip themselves for the ongoing needs of ministry. I was surprised at my own habits as I filled out the questions. I wonder if my shifting personal inclinations are prevalent nationwide.

Lowest on my list was seminars. I haven’t gone to a seminar in years. Five years, in fact. At the last one, I spent most of my time pacing the back of the classroom with my infant daughter, trying to keep her quiet while listening to the speaker. I retained very little and I distracted others a lot. Those things rarely have childcare, so that puts me out from the get go.

Plus there’s the expense. I recently opened up an invitation from my Presbytery for a seminar. It looked fabulous. Absolutely. I quickly emailed the sender with a “Yes! I’d love to attend.” Which was a big mistake, because when I began to fill out the registration form, I noticed that the seminar cost was three times my ConEd budget. Then, there was the hotel expense on top of that.

My main source of education turns out to be books, magazines, and web-based materials. I frequently go to author readings at my favorite bookstore. Mostly, I read blogs.

The survey conductor seemed surprised at that piece of news. He stopped the scripted stream of questions, and asked, “Why blogs?”

“They’re free, accessible, and cutting edge,” I answered. I know too many young, excellent writers who’ve submitted countless articles to Christian Century, and have never gotten them published because…I don’t know why. Maybe their writ isn’t powerful enough in the halls of Christendom yet.

But I want to know what they’re doing right now. I’ve read what the male mainline pastors of the thousand member churches have been saying about things for years. I know what the seminary historian has to say. I even know what the young evangelicals are saying.

I want to read what the pastor of the not-so-mega denominational church is saying. I want to discover what young progressives have to say. I want to hear from more women. I want to see their sermons. I want to glean from their struggles and ideas, because what they think is important for my professional development and for my church.

He was clearly surprised. Then came the follow up: “But…but…aren’t you concerned about the voracity of those writers? I mean, how do you know what they’re saying is right or true?”

And there’s the shift. The difference, for me. The information may not be coming from an “expert” in the sense that s/he has a bunch of degrees or a big church, but that doesn’t make what they’re saying less true.

What do you think?

photo by Aaroneous Monk, uploaded from Flickr

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2 thoughts on “Is it right? Is it true?

  1. Here’s the thing — I’ve learned (via many years in a definitely-not-mega church) that it’s often the Big Steeple Guys who are not completely telling the truth/being authentic. I’ve also learned that many people don’t mind that.

    As I know churches working through search processes, conflicts, etc. I’ve found that often churches and church leaders often want something that “looks right” even though it might not be right/true/real. Example: churches that call someone who “looks like a pastor” but is in fact a mediocre preacher/leader. Makes me nuts.

  2. For the past six years my Cont Ed has been entirely related to my writing, rather than ministry. The best church-related stuff I ever did was in Illinois when our Synod did a “Small Church Pastors” 3 year, twice a year thing. What was so great about it was the sharing of ideas, the relationships building over time. And also they spared us the experts. When they offered to bring in “experts” on a subject like stewardship we all groaned. And opted to just “talk amongst ourselves” I think with blogging you are “talking amongst yourselves” electronically. Hmmm.

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