If your continuing education projects are time-consuming endeavors, you’ll need the support and understanding of your congregation to make them work. Here are some suggestions that stem from the actions I’ve found most effective in cultivating the support I needed for my own continuing education pursuits.

  • Pull together some people who might have helpful input on the continuing education project you wish to embark upon and ask for their support. For example, if you want to pursue an MBA, contact some members of your congregation who have MBAs and ask them to accompany you when you introduce the project to the governing board.
  • Develop a written rationale for the program, identifying why it will benefit you, the congregation, and the denomination. Do a simple cost benefit analysis (for instance, explain what you would gain and what you would have to give up to pursue the program).
  • Meet with your congregation’s Personnel Committee and/or governing board and present your written rationale for the program, including the time you’ll need weekly to accomplish your goal and the duration of the program. Explain how the project can be undertaken without taking you away from core commitments at church. Be prepared to identify what you will give up in order to make time for the project.
  • At a congregational meeting, devote some time to the educational project. Have a lay leader introduce the subject and explain the governing board’s support for it. Then make your own presentation on your learning goals. I don’t advise asking the congregation to vote on the project, but they need to be informed about it.
  • Regularly interpret your learnings to the congregation through sermons, the newsletter, and at annual meetings, and offer progress reports regularly to the Personnel Committee and the governing board. Don’t try to hide the program. After all, it’s not something to be ashamed of. You are proud of it! Besides, everyone knows about your participation in the project, so you can’t hide it anyway.
  • In worship, celebrate your successful completion of the program. You have accomplished something huge and you couldn’t have done it without the congregation. That is cause for a party!

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Featured Resources

AL221_SMLearning While Leading: Increasing Your Effectiveness in Ministry by Anita Farber-Robertson with Meredith Brook Handspicker and David Whiman

As the world changes, so do people’s expectations of their faith community and clergy. This book uses three case studies to speak to religious professionals about the challenges they face, to provide readers with specific, user-friendly techniques to become more aware of how they function, and to learn new ways to lead. Clergy will find real-life examples of how more effective leadership enhances the life of the community and promotes the deepening of members’ faith.

AL247_SM Why You Should Develop a Pastor-Parish Relations Committee by Anita Farber-Robertson with Meredith Brook Handspicker and David Whiman

Alban consultant and author Roy Oswald puts forth a new vision for the role of the pastor-parish relations (or “mutual ministry”) committee, suggesting that the group’s sole task is to monitor the quality of the relationship between the pastor and the congregation. Rather than fielding complaints, conducting evaluations, or setting salary, tasks often assigned to such groups, committee members should work to understand the pastor’s perspective, hopes, and needs, and to convey to the pastor their understanding of the congregation’s life. When pastor and congregation truly understand one another, as Oswald explains, their relationship becomes healthier, and both pastor and congregation thrive.