50 Things I Did Not Learn in Seminary

Are you aware of the Lewis Center for Church Leadership at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington D.C.?  For those who subscribe, the Lewis Center sends a free weekly email article containing helpful resources for local church ministry.  One of their most popular resources is the 50 Ways to Build Strength Series.  Each of the 9 resources in the 50 Ways Series contains 50 short and practical ideas that can improve ministry in that particular area.  Check out   http://www.churchleadership.com/resources/strengthening_congregations.htm for:

  • 50 Ways to Build Strength Caring for Children
  • 50 Ways to Build Strength Caring For Youth
  • 50 Ways to Build Strength in Participation
  • 50 Ways to Build Strength in Welcoming New Members
  • 50 Ways to Build Strength in Adult Education
  • 50 Ways to Build Strength in Communication
  • 50 Ways to Build Strength in Church Finances
  • 50 Ways to Build Strength in Encouraging Faithful Giving
  • 50 Ways to Build Strength in Your Annual Stewardship Campaign

While these tips are most helpful for pastors, they simply do not address many of the situations we encounter every day.  So here’s my list of …..

50 Things I Did Not Learn in Seminary

  1. How to drive the 15 passenger church van without causing it to shake and shimmy
  2. How to turn on the sound system when no one shows up to run it
  3. How to dance liturgically without making a fool of myself
  4. How to gather up enough courage to jump off a cliff into the Boundary Waters with the youth group (I couldn’t do it)
  5. How to play basketball at church camp with all men and not get hurt
  6. How to respond to someone calling collect from the jail
  7. How to respond to a male parishioner whose only comment going through the line after the worship service is, “Nice shoes!”
  8. How to react when my toddler daughter escapes from the nursery on Sunday morning, runs down the aisle and jumps onto my lap in the chancel
  9. How to give my son the evil eye when he’s making paper airplanes in the front pew while I’m preaching
  10. How to rely on Holy Sprit power when the electrical power goes out right before worship
  11. How to choose between a church board meeting and my son’s soccer game
  12. How to do a children’s sermon well enough so that every question I ask doesn’t have “Jesus” for an answer 
  13. How to make it up to Mrs. Jones when I repeatedly call her by the wrong first name
  14. How to make sure parishioners don’t notice that I’m wearing 2 different color shoes
  15. How to deflect attention from the fact that I have a huge hole and run in my hose on Sunday morning
  16. How to react when the grandmother of the bride collapses in the middle of the wedding service
  17. How to keep a straight face when the person providing special music has no clue how to sing
  18. How to respond when my own child is sent home from youth group
  19. How to recover gracefully when I trip on my robe in front of 500 people
  20. How to referee a feud between two irate mothers, both of whom are blindly defending their own fighting children
  21. How to resist the temptation to throw my computer in the trash when I’ve just lost Sunday’s sermon and have to start over
  22. How to find any practical use for the Greek class I took in seminary
  23. How to get a good night’s sleep the night before I preach
  24. How to have a life outside the church
  25. How to keep a promise when a woman asked me right before she died to take care of her cat, and we already have 4 cats who have no intention of welcoming Muffin into their kingdom
  26. How to find a good home for a fruitcake that arrives each Christmas as a gift from a parishioner
  27. How to tactfully end rambling by persons making reports during worship
  28. How to be in four places at one time
  29. How to stay sane when I leave for church before the sun comes up and return home after the sun goes down
  30. How to sit still when I’m on my 9th meeting of the day, and I haven’t had dinner yet
  31. How to keep the church financially afloat when, on my first 3 Sundays in my first pastorate, worship is canceled because of blizzards
  32. How to receive love from a congregation instead of always insisting on being the giver
  33. How to smile more
  34. How to hold my tongue
  35. How to avoid learning how to run the dishwasher
  36. How to conquer my fear of scary elevators, especially in churches and hospitals
  37. How to approach a church member for a large financial gift
  38. How to read a budget report
  39. How to change my style of ministry in different settings
  40. How to be an agent of grace in the middle of worship wars
  41. How to shoo bats out of the sanctuary
  42. How to encourage a congregation to move beyond “How Great Thou Art”
  43. How to hold people accountable for their behavior in a pastoral way
  44. How not to make inappropriate comments when my mic is live
  45. How to avoid passing parishioners in the car while driving too fast on the way to church because I’m late
  46. How to ensure that I greet people at coffee hour and not unintentionally ignore others and thus hurt their feelings
  47. How to politely avoid wearing earrings that a bride gave me to wear for a wedding, earrings that matched what she and the bridesmaids were wearing
  48. How to get anything done when I receive 100 emails in a day
  49. How to explain how my son got lost on the CROP Walk
  50. How, when I don’t know what to pray, the Holy Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words

I’m sure you have gems as well.  Please feel free to email me what you didn’t learn in seminary!  If I get enough, I’ll publish them in a future Leading from the Heart. 

Blessings, Laurie

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