Resources for Continuing Education in the Church

September 25, 2018 Andrew Osborne

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In a perfect world, our churches would have all the financial means to employ ginormous staffs who can serve both the people in our congregations and the communities around us. We’d have people hired to teach Bible studies geared specifically to certain age groups. We’d have communications experts who could craft social media posts to reach all the people in our communities to draw them to our churches. We’d have it all. But as we all know, the world isn’t perfect, and our churches can’t always afford to hire people to fill each role we need to do the ministry God has called us to do. That doesn’t mean, however, that God doesn’t provide exactly what we need to accomplish what He wants with what we’ve got.

While we’re limited in the number of people we can afford to pay to work at our churches, those people are not limited in what they can accomplish. While most of us have one or two areas we really feel called to serve in, we know that most of the time we need to wear multiple hats in order to serve the church effectively. These roles are not always things we are perfectly skilled and trained in, but that does not mean we can’t do them.

I’ve worked for two different churches so far in my career, and in both congregations, the position I was hired for has only ended up being a small portion of what I do day to do. In my current position, I work as the director of worship. Some of my main responsibilities are to choose music and musicians for each week, lead rehearsals, and work with the pastors and other worship leaders to shape our Sunday morning services. In the year that I’ve been here, however, I have also taken on a lot of other responsibilities that don’t necessarily fall under my job description. I’ve been creating videos for use in worship and on social media, I’ve helped lead Bible studies, and I assist with youth ministry.

It’s helpful to have staff that can do more than just one thing, but perhaps you’re saying to yourself, “That’s just not me. I don’t know how to edit videos, or lead Bible studies, or work with youth.” While I think some people are just naturally gifted in certain areas, anyone can pick up different skills the church needs just by taking the time and putting in some effort. Especially with the internet, there are countless ways to continue learning in different areas useful for ministry. My hope is to give you some ideas on how to find those places.

Theological Training

For many of us working in the church, we have the desire to understand our faith more fully and to be able to pass that faith on in ways that are understandable. Lots of us have great educations from highly respectable universities, but even then, you can’t learn everything there is to know about our faith in four years of undergrad. You’ll have to look for other outlets to continue building on that theological foundation that was poured in those four years.

Seminary

If you’ve ever wished you had more theological training but don’t feel called to pastoral or deaconess ministry, you may want to check out some of the resources our LCMS seminaries are putting out. On both the Fort Wayne seminary and St. Louis seminary websites, you can find all sorts of blog articles, podcasts, and videos that help you dig into your faith. They can be very helpful if there’s a certain topic you want to know more about but want to stay close to our Lutheran perspective. One of my favorite resources from St. Louis is a pre-seminary course recorded by Dr. Joel Biermann, professor of systematic theology, that goes through tons of topics of our faith. I love being able to look up a topic and learn what our seminaries teach about it.

CPH FaithCourses

Great Christian publishers like Concordia Publishing House do a lot more than just publish amazing books. They also provide congregations with resources to continue learning and teaching their people in new and interesting ways. A lot of us learn better in a digital format than we do by reading. CPH FaithCourses provides videos that help you dig deeper into some of their books and books of the Bible, and give you a new way to take in the information. One of the books they currently offer a study for is Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up? by Rev. Dr. Matthew Richard.

Podcasts

I do a decent amount of driving to and from work, and I also have been trying to keep myself in shape by running regularly. For the past few years, there have been some really good podcasts that I listen to during both of these activities that seem to make the time fly by. Two of my favorite podcasts are produced by 1517. The first is a podcast called The Thinking Fellows, which explores one topic per show, ranging from apologetics to doctrines of the church to great leaders of the faith. I listen to this podcast because I learn so much about topics I had not heard of, and I get a deeper understanding and a lot of the background behind what we as Christians believe. The second podcast by 1517 that I listen to is called Ringside. On Ringside, three Lutheran pastors discuss a variety of topical and theological ideas. They tend to be humorous and yet make you think and grow in your knowledge of the faith.

Management

Knowing theology is important for church workers, but it’s not the only bit of information they need. Many of us went into church work because we love people and want them to know the love of Christ. But just loving people doesn’t mean we know much about staying organized, dealing with difficult personalities, or shaping staffing structures. Many of these topics are things we as the church can learn from people in the secular world, and we can find a way to use what we learn in an environment that is filtered through our faith and trust in Jesus. I don’t love sitting down and reading books, but when I’m not listening to podcasts during my drives and runs, I’m most likely listening to audiobooks. There are places like Amazon where you can pay a monthly subscription fee and find nearly any audiobook you can think of, but I tend to go the cheaper route and use my local library.

Using the smartphone application Libby, I can log in using my local library card and browse through tons of ebooks and audiobooks that my library provides and check them out as I would a normal book. I have listened to some very helpful books, such as The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey and Good to Great by Jim Collins, taking some of the ideas for corporate leaders on how to lead their companies and work with people, and applying those ideas to ministry.

Technical

Churches tend to be able to find workers who have the theological and many times even managerial skills and knowledge needed to run a church. But the area where I’ve seen the most need tends to be in technology. Many churches have seen the benefits of adding technology to the way we do ministry, reaching more people in creative ways with the Gospel than ever before. We have some amazing pastors sharing the Gospel in videos on social media and through podcasts. But not all of our churches have staff members who have experience in making things like videos and podcasts. Thankfully, the internet is full of helpful lessons on how to do these things at all levels of sophistication.

For many of us, if we’re trying to figure out how to fix a lighting fixture in our house, we’ll turn to YouTube to find a demonstration of how to do it. Well, the same is done for learning how to use technology in the church. For example, many of us can see how useful it is to know how to create videos to share our messages with the people around us and on social media, and companies like Pro Church Tools have entire series of lessons free on YouTube teaching how to do just that.

While YouTube is great, being free and all, finding good lessons can be hit or miss sometimes. You may watch a fifteen-minute video thinking it’s on the topic you’re searching for, but it sometimes ends up not covering the topic like you’d hoped it would. If you (or your church) can afford it, a more complete solution might be to get a subscription to a website like Lynda.com. On Lynda.com, you can find thousands of high quality lessons on a variety of topics such as videography, design, music, web development, and much more. The lessons are well organized and taught by respected professionals in those fields. You can even find courses that teach the ins and outs of a particular software, like Adobe Photoshop. The pitfall to Lynda.com is the price, which is about $30 per month, but if you’re looking to gain skills to keep your church on the cutting edge and to find new and creative ways to share the Gospel, there’s no better place I know of to learn them.

Join the conversation as we live-chat with Andrew about how church workers can keep learning new skills.
Thursday, September 27 at 11:30 a.m. (CDT) on Facebook

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