Dr. Green was the pediatrician for our first child. I had just finished college and we were preparing to move to Atlanta for me to start seminary. Lena and I took six month old Jason for his last check up before we re-located.
As we sat in the doctor's office in Chattanooga I told Dr. Green that we were moving so I could pursue my call to ministry. I explained that I would begin classes at Candler School of Theology at Emory University in the fall.
Dr. Green said to me, "Theology school will differ from medical school in at least one way. You won't have to buy books but once. In the medical field things are always changing and you have to keep up. You won't have that worry in the church."
He was a good pediatrician but it was obvious that the good doctor did not know very much about church work. I knew it then and forty years later I am much more aware that the study of scripture, preaching/teaching, pastoral care, leadership development, church administration, time management, visioning and planning, and all other aspects of "church work" are not static. That is true today and I suspect it has always been true.
It is certainly inaccurate to think that you can learn it all and then just coast the rest of your ministry. The more you know, the more you realize you don't know. One must grow in knowledge, understanding, and wisdom to be relevant and effective in ministry. This applies equally to clergy and laity.
Georgia Pastor's School (www.georgiapastorsschool.org/) is a cooperative effort of the North and South Georgia Annual Conferences that convenes the end of this month. It provides a combination of continuing education and personal renewal. It is one of many opportunities that I and other clergy attend to keep ourselves spiritually and practically fit for ministry.
The churches of North Georgia are served through many learning and growth experiences that are regularly offered. More than a dozen events planned for the summer and fall are currently listed on the conference website. There is a mission education event and training for leaders of Disciple Bible Studies as well as folks who want to work in disaster relief. Multiple worship workshops focused on planning and creativity, led by Marcia McFee, are also among the offerings.
Several "Great Start" sessions, for newly appointed pastors and the laity from the churches they serve, address topics including missions, best practices and working as a team. These are designed especially for pastors and administrative assistants, church finance chairs, treasurers and financial secretaries, senior pastors and associate pastors.
These and other opportunities help us to "present ourselves to God as persons approved, workers who do not need to be ashamed and who correctly handle the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15, NIV). You can learn more about these learning experiences and register for them at http://www.ngumc.org/pages/detail/16.
[Taken with permission from "Monday Morning in North Georgia," July 11, 2011. North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church.]