I'm hanging around seminarians. Since our son Luke enrolled at North Park Theological Seminary, I see him whenever I'm in Chicago along with his classmates and roommates. Our newest staff member, Lisa Holmlund is a recent graduate from NPTS and her intern, Liam Murphy is both taking classes at Fuller and enrolled at NPTS. Our Children's Director, Kim Crawford, will soon be completing her MDiv through Fuller Seminary and...Fuller Seminary regularly offers distance learning classes on our church campus, so I meet area students of Fuller. I'm talking with lots of seminary students these days. The seminary experience is very different today from the one I went through almost 30 years ago. I am also impressed, moved and troubled by some of the reasons students enroll in seminary.
When I enrolled in seminary in 1976, most of my fellows students were male, white and straight out of college. Seminary was alogical next step from a BA degree. It just made sense to go from school into school. The exception was the second career person. Our options in seminary were basically two; traditional pastor/preachers or foreign missions.
Over the years I have been saddened and alarmed at the growing numbers of my peers who resign without a call and step out of institutional church pastoring. This is no indictment against them but an acknowledgement that the landscape has been changing without our permission. Serving the church today is a new map, with new expectations, new contours and rules: worship wars, choices and menu driven churches, loss of community respect, scandals and abuse, anti-clericalism and denominational irrelevance, globalism and pluralism along with instant communication makes for a wild ride.
What hit me is the high number of seminary student who come to seminary after serving a local church. They come not being so much sent, but trying to figure out what went wrong. I have heard too many stories of seminarians disillusioned by the local church (reason for emerget?). But what really troubled me was the number of stories I heard about their disillusionment with the likes of me: the senior pastor.
It has not taken me very long to hear stories about bad treatment at the hands of either the senior pastor or the church treasures...or both. These stories were tied to experiences of bullying opinions and toxic staff atmospheres.
What's up with this? Alan Roxburgh bleieves that when systmes get threatened by change, leaders revert to command and control, trying to protect what is threatened with loss, elevating loyalty over competence and myth over facts.
I wonder how many seminarians and staff persons serving churches would say that the senior (lead) pastors were indeed more of a source of stress and fear than hope and health? Is this something that the Department of Ordered Ministry (DOOM) needs to address?
Or could it also be a changing set of expectations that younger pastors/seminarians are bringing; heightened expectations and a sense of instant entitlement? Is the new generation of pastors tough enough, or are they too quickly discouraged when instant gratification is not there? Are they more loyal to their dreams of spiritually fulfilling careers instead of servant leadership of sacrifing their lives for the church? Have we created a generation of consumer believers who are now becoming consumber pastors? Tough questions. Interesting discussions.