Elderlink: Competencies

April 6, 2010

After Randy Harris’ opening talk on challenges we face in reaching the next generation, John York took the podium and began talking about the key competencies that church leaders need in order to meet those challenges.  Teaching, he says, is not merely about the transfer of information.  Today’s audiences have access to a virtually unlimited supply of information on their computers and their phones.  No teacher can compete as a source of information.  Trying to do so diminishes the teacher in the eyes of the students.   Instead, the teacher needs to provide meaning, context and relevance for the information.  How does this information change my life?   How can it change yours?

That changes the kind of ministry graduates a university needs to produce.  What are the key competencies a divinity school graduate should possess?  What should a school like ACU do to instill those competencies?   And how can they be measured?

Based on data gathered in previous events, John shared with us the competencies those audiences rated as most important for a church leader:

1) Minister’s spiritual life

2) Exegetical skill

3) Interpersonal relationship skills

4) Family life

5) Conflict management

John commented that training in Greek and Hebrew ranked at the very bottom of the list.  Of course, that doesn’t mean biblical languages are unimportant for a teacher.  But it does mean many in churches don’t see it as very important — far out of synch with the effort and emphasis on them in the university programs.

John then proceeded to collect similar survey results from the Elderlink attendees.  And along the way, he collected our self-evaluation of our own competency in those areas.  Our top areas were:

1) Appropriate boundaries

2) Interpersonal skills

3) Listening skills

4) Mentoring skills

5) Spiritual formation

6) Gospel, evangelism

7) Prayer

It is clear that in the view of this group of elders, high on the list of important skills are matters related to interpersonal relationships and reconciliation.  Interestingly, those are not listed among the qualifications in Titus 1 and 1 Tim 3.  (Although it could be argued that they are demonstrated in the kind of family that those passages describe).   In general, the group rated itself as decent but not great in most of these areas.  There is clearly room for (and need for) improvement. We need a way to develop those competencies in elders and in ministers.

I’ve noted before that the ICOC has taken a different approach to building church leaders.  Churches of Christ appear to take people with good academic credentials and turn them into leaders of people through on-the-job training.  The ICOC has done the opposite — attempting to identify people with natural leadership skill, and trying to supplement that with biblical training from time to time along the way.    Neither is ideal, but God can work with weaknesses.  The key ingredient IMO is Lordship.  If there’s one thing the scriptures say over an over, it’s that God can use a person wholly devoted to him, despite great weaknesses.

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