Many years ago the Seventh-day Adventist Church adopted a comprehensive plan for the development and training of its ministry. Included in this plan was a widening of the formal educational horizon and a complementary system of field training known as an internship. This nontheological terminology connotes a ministerial application of a practical development program for the young minister similar to that adopted in certain professional areas.
This plan of field training grew out of the recognized deficiencies resulting from an inadequate field program during the academic years. Preaching is one of the great arts that like all others can be developed only in the university of hard doing. The more familiar one is with the actual field circumstances the more progress he can make in His chosen labor. A lad may study all about motorcar mechanics, its theory, its master designers of the past, its magnificent production-line techniques; but until he dirties his hands and scrubs the grease from some car of old vintage and scrapes the carbon from a piston, or grinds a valve, the whole educational program leaves an empty void bordering at times perilously close to frustration.
Thus it is the denominational plan for the conference president to direct the field ministry of a young preacher by associating him with one of experience. Too often the ideal has been thwarted by a wrong use of the youthful laborer, by assigning him to menial duties oftentimes out of proportion to other tasks he might have done which would have been more profitable to the ministry. In the book Evangelism we read:
"One worker who has been trained and educated for the work, who is controlled by the Spirit of Christ, will accomplish far more than ten laborers who go out deficient in knowledge, and weak in the faith. One who works in harmony with the counsel of God, and in unity with the brethren, will be more efficient to do good than ten w ill be who do not realize the necessity of depending upon God, and of acting in harmony with the general plan of the work."—Page 109.
How is this to be accomplished best? What is the divine plan for the ministry itself? Clearly the blueprint sets forth the plan:
"Ministry comprehends far more than preaching the Word. It means training young men as Elijah trained Elisha, taking them from their ordinary duties, and giving them responsibilities to bear in God's work,—small responsibilities at first, and larger ones as they gain strength and experience. There are in the ministry men of faith and prayer, men who can say, 'That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; . . . that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you (1 John 1:1, 3) . Young, inexperienced workers should be trained by actual labor in connection with these experienced servants of God. Thus they will learn how to bear burdens."—Prophets and Kings, pp. 222, 223.
This was an essential part of the apostles' own experience.
"This feature of Paul's work contains an important lesson for ministers today. The apostle made it a part of his work to educate young men for the office of the ministry. He took them with him on his missionary journeys, and thus they gained an experience that later enabled them to fill positions of responsibility. When separated from them, he still kept in touch with their work, and his letters to Timothy and to Titus are evidences of how deep was his desire for their success."—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 368.
This was real follow-up, with the burden for training younger workers a real facet of the larger ministerial vision.
Now that the denomination has adopted a further step in the educational enrichment of our ministry, the Theological Seminary has set about to develop a strong field program. The heart of this plan is centered in a Pastoral Council in which the basic needs of a training program can at least be begun during the period of Seminary study.
The Basic Field Plan
The Seminary offers a potentially superior field training service to its student body. This plan is designed to meet the needs of three general types of students composing our enrollment. These may be classified as follows:
1. Students fresh from college without any previous field service except that received in a limited sense during collegiate years.
2. Students whose previous ministerial experience makes certain aspects of the academic field pro-grain impracticable. Proper recognition is granted in view of this experience.
3. Students whose future programs are directed toward fields other than ministerial or evangelistic service, and who thus require a minimum of field work before graduation from the Seminary.
The students in the second and third categories fill many speaking appointments which are constantly open in the area churches. These include calls for Seminary men to make mission appeals, take part in Missionary Volunteer meetings and Sabbath school activities, and preach sermons. These groups are made up of Bible teachers, missionaries home on furlough, ordained ministers, et cetera.
Meeting These Needs
In order to be able to offer a satisfactory program consistent with the needs of our student family under category one, the Seminary has adopted a long-range program that is presently functioning effectively. In order to put this plan into proper perspective we reproduce it in part. These actions have received official approval of the conferences involved and the Board of Trustees of the Seminary.
"A. A Seminary Field Committee to be constituted to include the president and members of the Department of Practical Theology of the Seminary, the president of Washington Missionary College, and the presidents and secretary-treasurers of the Potomac, Chesapeake, Allegheny, and Columbia Union conferences.
The formation of a Pastoral Council to be created by the Seminary Field Committee. This council is to consist of members of the Seminary Field Committee and the regularly employed pastors of the field area within a radius of approximately sixty miles from the Seminary, and representatives of the Department of Religion of Washington Missionary College. This council to study the integration of Seminary students into the local church program by such activities as– -
Acting as assistants to the pastors
- Participation in church departmental programs
- Personal visitation
- Conducting Bible studies under pastoral guidance
- Conducting church revivals, MV rallies, etc.
- Serving as coordinators and sponsors of lay-worker groups
- Observing church board problems, school problems, etc.
- NVorking under pastoral guidance in various church campaigns
- Speaking opportunities as the pastors may arrange
"C The pastors thus become vital links with the Seminary in integrating the students into a field program.
"D By arrangement with the conference leadership brief refresher institutes to be conducted occasionally by Seminary and General Conference personnel, to enable the area pastors to coordinate these objectives. These institutes to be held under the guidance and suggestion of the Pastoral Council at such time as is practical both for the pastors and for the Seminary.
"E Student evangelistic campaigns to be conducted by men with sufficient exchange of responsibility during such a campaign to assure a wide range of experience to each student.
"These student campaigns to be authorized by the Field Committee in counsel with the Pastoral Council.
"F Occasional major evangelistic campaigns to be conducted under faculty direction in close counsel with the local conferences and the Columbia Union, thus utilizing a large number of our students.
"G The Pastoral Council to work in close cooperation with Washington Missionary College, thus integrating the interests of both institutions more closely."
Through these means the Seminary is able to offer its student body a superior supervised field training ministry. Each student assigned under these provisions to a church is also given a faculty field adviser whose function it is to serve as a counselor to the student and a liaison officer between the student and the pastor or district leader in whose church or area the student ministers. This is an important supervisory facet in the field training program.