GP: WHAT ARE SOME IMPORTANT CURRENT TRENDS IN CLERGY EDUCATION IN THE CHURCH OF THE NAZARENE?
DC: First of all, there are more opportunities for higher education due to increased access.So, education has become more diversified. In the past, most clergy followed a fairly traditional path: a bachelor’s degree from a Nazarene university, seminary study, and then move into full-time ministry.
SR: Now, with the rise of “second career” pastors, coupled with expanded opportunities for study, clergy can prepare through courses offered on their districts, online, extension centers, or a combination of all of these. Because of these and other changes, there are also a growing number of ordinands who have degrees from non-Nazarene schools.
GP: HOW DO CHURCHES, SCHOOLS, AND DISTRICTS WORK TOGETHER IN EDUCATIONAL PARTNERSHIP?
DC: The model we use is three circles. One circle represents the local church, the second represents districts, and the third represents the education provider. These circles overlap, and right in the middle of all of that is the man or woman preparing for ministry.
That dynamic partnership expresses how the Manual describes the process of clergy education toward ordination. The calling and the initial discussions begin in the local church. The district assists in the credentialing and review process. The educational providers are tasked with supplying approved resources for clergy preparation and development. The ongoing work of the office of Global Clergy Development is to assist in making sure all three of those “circles” are well-equipped to guide and resource the candidate for ministry.
SR: And now that we know that the average ministerial candidate is in his or her early 40s, it is important that these three entities work together so candidates have full access to the wide range of available opportunities.
GP: WHAT IS THE IMPORTANCE OF MENTORING THROUGHOUT THE EDUCATIONAL PROCESS AND BEYOND?
SR: That is a conversation I have been very involved with in recent months. Districts are trying to find the best answers to that concern. There are components in the education process that require some kind of mentoring relationships, including supervised ministry courses. Mentoring also
involves the local church, especially local church pastors. We are seeking to provide more resources to assist local pastors as they seek to mentor ministerial candidates. Also, district boards need the ability to provide guidance for substantive mentoring on the district level.
DC: The course of study materials in every region are vetted through a thorough process involving advisory committees. One common element is the requirement for supervised ministry. This is a requirement in every district in the world: Candidates for ministry are expected to be involved in the local church in a supervised ministry setting.
GP: DESCRIBE THE WORK BOTH OF YOU OVERSEE REGARDING THE VALIDATION OF MATERIALS FOR CLERGY PREPARATION.
SR: That is one of the most pressing needs we encounter, and it is probably the hardest aspect of clergy development to regulate and accommodate. There are components in the education process that require some kind of mentoring relationships and supervised ministry experiences. This is a great example of where local churches and pastors can benefit from training, and many district boards are working in partnership with pastors and congregations to develop effective ways to mentor young clergy.
DC: This is a global challenge, since every region in the Church of the Nazarene has a common requirement of supervised ministry. So, we are seeking to meet the need for every region of the Church of the Nazarene to have effective mentoring through local churches and districts. In our role, we hope to come alongside our regions and our districts to help ensure that regardless of the size and location of districts, there are vetted materials that can help equip mentors and connect ministerial candidates with quality education and mentoring. Our regional course of study committees (RCOSACs) are essential in this process.
GP: WHAT ABOUT MULTICULTURAL ASPECTS OF MINISTERIAL PREPARATION?
SR: The USA/Canada Region is finding it absolutely essential to be able to make use of resources that come from off the region. We have pockets of different nationalities throughout the region. So, we may have churches utilizing curriculum resources from West Africa for their Congolese students. We have the Myanmar groups that are accessing our schools in places like Indianapolis, but the only resource for training is really coming from Southeast Asia. So, interregional resourcing is becoming a bigger factor in clergy education.
DC: Each region has its own RCOSAC that receives a curriculum, assesses it, and decides whether or not they would recommend it. When they recommend it, an international course of study advisory committee (ICOSAC), made up of representatives from each of the regions, approves every program. The growing diversity in each region has made this kind of international evaluation and approval crucial, even though at first there was discomfort in regard to having an international committee approving all of the regional materials.
Regional directors asked one another, “Can we trust each other enough across the regions to say when something is validated in Africa, it can be used in other regions if needed?” The answer was “yes,” and this was an important component in regard to how we now train ministers globally.
SR: Yes, we are now seeing that without this interregional approach, many congregations would lack sufficient means to train ministers who take up residence and plant new ministries outside of their home countries.
GP: TECHNOLOGY BRINGS THESE REGIONS TOGETHER, AS WELL, RIGHT?
DC: Video and internet technology allow, for instance, Spanish-speaking residents in the United States to receive training in Spanish with validated curriculum from one of our Latin American regional centers.
SR: Many districts are benefitting from these advances.
GP: TALK ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF CONTINUING EDUCATION FOR CLERGY, EVEN AFTER ORDINATION.
DC: Since coming to this role, Stan has helped us better articulate this need and has also helped us provide innovative ways to make this happen.
SR: Emphasizing continuing education begins with reframing how we look at ordination. Ordination is not the place where you finish your education. It’s really more of a point of initial competency, which means the church is saying that we have enough confidence in you to ordain you and launch you into a lifetime of ministry. We need more than initial competency, though. We need situational or contextual competency. This comes from ongoing growth in the context of ministry, and this is an equally important part of being an ordained minister. One way we have addressed this is through our lifelong learning registry, which is a self-reporting system designed to facilitate lifelong learning for every minister (learning.nazarene.org ). It is meant to not only help ministers report their learning experiences, but also to help them shape their learning experiences in a variety of ways. The concept behind the 20-hour minimum is not for ministers to focus on simply complying with the minimum, but for them to be thinking in terms of being a lively participant in lifelong learning.
DC: According to the Manual , ordination education is based on some foundational components—being, knowing, and doing—and then the four areas: Content, Context, Competency, and Character. So, lifelong learning takes those same components and presses them into the future beyond ordination. As Stan is saying, we are hoping to change the DNA of the church in regard to how we view ordination: it is a doorway to lifelong learning and development, and not the end of one’s educational journey.
GP: FINALLY, JUST WHAT I S YOUR ULTIMATE VISION FOR CLERGY EDUCATION IN THE CHURCH OF THE NAZARENE?
DC: The earlier image of the synergistic partnership between the local church, the district, and our schools stewarding the call of God upon a woman or a man. When God calls someone, there’s a sense in which the local church, the district, and the school have an obligation to come alongside and help steward that call. The team that Stan and I work with is challenged to help make sure all three of these are adequately resourced.
SR: I think Dan summed things up well. I would add that we are particularly focused upon bringing those resources together in ways that make sense in a global context, recognizing the changing needs in each region.
DAN COPP serves as education commissioner and director of global clergy development for the Church of the Nazarene.
STAN RODES serves as administrative director of global clergy development for the Church of the Nazarene.