Continuing Education for Ministry

If you've ever wished for an inexpensive course to help you grow professionally and spiritually, the Center of Continuing Education for Ministry may have just what you want.

Floyd Bresee is director of continuing education for the Ministerial Department of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

Ministry: Dr. Bresee, what is the Center of Continuing Education for Ministry (CCEM)? When was it started, and what is its purpose?

Bresee: The purpose of CCEM is to encourage and provide continuing education for ministers and their spouses. Functionally it is a joint program involving the Ministerial/Stewardship Association of the General Conference and Andrews University. For example, the chairman of both our executive committee and our advisory council is Elder). Robert Spangler, secretary of the Ministerial Association. The director is Dr. Raoul Dederen, of Andrews University. The program was first started through an Annual Council action in 1981. There had been previous attempts to start continuing education in North America and other parts of the world, but until that time there had never been any salary designated for it. I was brought here to the Ministerial Association in the spring of 1982 to devote most of my time to Continuing Education for Ministry. The Ministerial Association is making its continuing education services available to the world field, although I presume that other divisions will probably develop continuing education centers of their own. In fact, some are doing so already.

Ministry: Why should a preacher have continuing education? Isn't his daily experience an education in itself?

Bresee: Well, the truth, of course, never changes. But the society in which we teach the truth is forever changing. I feel a minister must keep studying to keep growing. Experience is a very helpful but terribly imperfect teacher. Practice doesn't really make perfect; it only makes permanent. When a person out on his own does a thing the wrong way enough times he eventually comes to the place where the wrong way is the only way that feels right. It is good to sit down with other individuals and have some organized program of keeping current in the ministry.

Ministry: Are continuing education units really good for anything?

Bresee: Your question, I think, deserves a two-pronged answer. Some continuing education gives academic credit. This includes the Doctor of Ministry program and the new Master of Arts in Pastoral Ministry program at the Seminary. The latter is for those who do not have a Master of Divinity degree but have been in the ministry for many years and desire a higher degree.

The other form of continuing education is recorded as what we call CEUs--continuing education units. This usually involves practicing professionals. It's on-the-job training, generally highly specialized. Continuing education tends to be problem centered. A pastor wants to sit down and have somebody help him answer questions about how to get the church growing. It is also skill oriented. The goal of continuing education is not so much improved knowledge as improved work performance.

Ministry: So we are talking about practical value rather than purely academic value?

Bresee: Yes, and of course some minis ters are interested in the academic, and we surely encourage this in granting further degrees. But even if a person has a doctor's degree, he ought to continue with some form of continuing education. Continuing education, you know, is required in many professions. The physician must do it. The nurse must do it, the accountant, the attorney, must have some continuing education. Continuing education is actually the fastest-growing segment of education. We have come to the place now in the Seventh-day Adventist Church where the 1983 Annual Council voted that we urgently request each Adventist minister to take at least twenty clock hours of continuing education each year. That is the present official program in the church.

Ministry: Are many conferences sponsoring continuing education programs for their workers?

Bresee: Yes. Continuing education units can be received in two ways. Continuing education can come in the form of an event. To us as Adventists, this typically means a workers' meeting. A conference president who wants to plan a workers' meeting as a continuing education event must meet the requirements in the booklet Continuing Education Guidelines for Seventh-day Adventist Ministers. All administrators in the North American Division are supplied with yearly updates of this booklet. The president fills out a form in the booklet and sends it to CCEM to get approval to grant CEUs for the course.

The other type of continuing education is home-based. Generally these are courses that we prepare at the CCEM.

Ministry: I believe you have about seven of these home-based courses available right now.

Bresee: We have seven available and many more in the offing. The group events, presented mostly at workers' meetings, comprise the bulk of our courses thus far. We have approved about a hundred such courses. We hope that conferences will begin to plan most workers' meetings to include a continuing education event.

Now we do make some stipulations--conference business cannot be included. The course must be at least a five-hour segment on one subject so that a person can say that he has mastered, to some degree, one area of learning.

Ministry: Is there any consistent program for financially helping pastors who want to take continuing education courses from institutions, either inside or outside the church?

Bresee: It is entirely up to the local conference, of course. Many conferences through the years have had what they may have called an evangelistic allowance or an equipment allowance, and are now enlarging this to include a continuing education allowance.

Ministry: Which home-based course have you found to be the most popular?

Bresee: Probably the first two that we put out. The first one, called Decisions, was made up of a book written by Mark Finley plus a study guide. We asked conference presidents to purchase this course as a gift for the ministers in their field to introduce them to continuing education for ministry. Our local conferences were most cooperative. We have sold out the first printing of five thousand and have now printed five thousand more of the same course. Our second course was on preaching. It appeared in MINISTRY throughout 1984.

Ministry: Are you getting quite a few of the certificates indicating that ministers have completed courses they have taken?

Bresee: Not very many are sending in for the credit yet, but we have had the machinery for that in gear for only a few weeks. So it still remains to be seen how many will actually finish their courses. And, of course, only a percentage of those who do finish will consider it important to send for the CEU credit. But I think that as time goes by and as people realize that the church is keeping track of CEUs there will be more and more interest in acquiring CEUs.

Ministry: It was recently voted to have a copy of a worker's continuing education record included in the same file with the service record. Do you think that administrators looking for someone to fill a specific position will begin to pay close attention to what a person has studied since graduation?

Bresee: That is not the only purpose we have in mind for filing the continuing education record along with the employee's service record. We hope that providing this permanent record of continuing education will encourage employers to regard it as significant and also will inform them of any previous training that a minister may have received that could be utilized. The president can glance through the record and say, "Now here's a fellow who has had some training in giving marriage counseling seminars. We could use him in our field to do that sort of thing."

Another reason that we are so pleased that the Annual Council has voted this means of keeping track of continuing education is that it says to the individual minister that the church is serious about continuing education. Every minister knows that his retirement depends upon his record as an employee. Now his continuing education record will be linked right with his service record. Both will follow him all his life.

Incidentally, that continuing education record blank was patterned purposely after the employee's record. It says at the top "Minister/Spouse Continuing Education Record." In other words, if the spouse of the minister is interested in having continuing education recorded too, it will show how the two of them have studied together or how they are prepared to complement each other in the ministry.

Ministry: Do you believe this type of information will ever be included on the centralized personnel information data base that is currently being developed at the General Conference?

Bresee: During the 1984 Annual Council our Continuing Education Administrative Council met and voted to recommend that this be done.

Ministry: What sort of new courses do you have on tap at this time?

Bresee: We have several authors working on courses. Perhaps the most exciting thing right now is the upcoming World Ministers Council, which will meet just before the General Conference session in New Orleans. Our present plan is that some of the thirty-six seminars that we are offering there will be made into continuing education courses. Tapes of the seminar lectures will form part of the courses.

Ministry: What about ministers' spouses—are you planning any courses for them?

Bresee: We have finished our first course designed for spouses. It is called Transitions. The study guide was written by Dr. Donna Webb, from Walla Walla College. We asked the conference presidents if they would like to introduce this to the wives just as they did our continuing education courses for the ministers. The conferences again have been cooperative and have purchased this as a Christmas gift for the wives of the workers in the field. We have sold approximately three thousand of these.

The other course designed especially for wives is Care-Fronting, written by Betty Lou Hartlein, from Andrews University.

Ministry: What do you see in the future of CCEM?

Bresee: One of the emphases right now is to encourage more continuing education outside North America. There is probably greater need and more interest in many overseas divisions than here in the United States. Our Administrative Council has suggested that the guide lines we prepared for North America be studied by the overseas divisions with the idea that they adapt our basic concepts to fit their fields. One of our immediate projects is to encourage every division to develop a guidelines booklet as we have now done here in North America.

Ministry: MINISTRY ran a continuing education course last year and currently carries another one. What sort of response have you gotten? Can you tell whether most of the people who started the course are carrying through to the finish?

Bresee: We have just finished our 1984 preaching course, so it is impossible to know how many are going to apply for continuing education units yet. But we were pleased that about twelve hundred clergy sent for that course and have been learning about preaching from MINISTRY magazine. For 1985 we are doing something similar on the subject of keeping church finance Christian.

Ministry: It sounds as though CCEM has a growing program that's going to keep on expanding.

Bresee: Continuing education is here to stay. Workers' meetings are going to include continuing education. Ministers are going to be taking home-based coursesoften along with their spouses. Our prayer is that all this activity will keep our ministers alive, growing, and ever more effective in winning souls for the kingdom.

Ministry reserves the right to approve, disapprove, and delete comments at our discretion and will not be able to respond to inquiries about these comments. Please ensure that your words are respectful, courteous, and relevant.

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Floyd Bresee is director of continuing education for the Ministerial Department of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

February 1985

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