The climate of a congregation and its growth depend largely on the spirituality, skills, and leadership of its pastor. Thus, the leadership of the South German Union is determined to provide the best possible education for future ministers. Effective pastoral training includes both theory and practical work. Students must be acquainted with all aspects of ministry to prepare themselves for coping with difficult issues and situations.
The theological seminary
In Germany the educational level of the general population is constantly in creasing, and this is reflected in our churches. In large cities about 30 per cent of Adventist young people are pursuing at least a master's degree. We are thankful that our seminary has earned official recognition as a university, offering two different theological graduate degrees. These are comparable to a M.Div. degree in the U.S. educational system.
Since the importance of academic education is easily overestimated, we seek a balance between theory and practical work. Seminary students are introduced to the different tasks of the ministry. Their first 10 trimesters are invested in practical work with a nearby church, doing everything from conducting Bible studies to leading the Pathfinders.
During their second year seminary students engage in several weeks of initial internship. In consultation with the theological seminary the various conferences select district pastors to supervise the interns. Each intern lives with one appointed district pastor, observing both ministry and family relationships, and fulfills certain tasks assigned at the seminary. Thus students get an insight into what ministry is all about and are evaluated by the district pastor.
During the last year of studies, semi nary students apply for employment as regular interns. Once they are accepted by a conference, an internship of one full year begins immediately upon graduation. Interns serve with experienced ordained pastors who expose them to all facets of pastoring. The manual for in terns and their supervisors serves as an outline and provides structure for their mutual work.
First the pastor and intern discuss a particular task. Then the pastor demonstates how to do it, while the intern observes. An evaluation takes place. Later the intern tries it himself/herself and is again evaluated. In this way the intern can move from theory to practice. The manual for interns and their super visors contains 50 topics covering different aspects of pastoral service. Half of these topics are covered during the year of internship, with the remainder accomplished by the time of ordination.
Before district pastors and interns work together, the ministerial secretary meets with them, setting guidelines for the sake of creating a climate of acceptance, trust, and personal growth. Both parties need to know their responsibilities as well as their privileges, so that interns are not overloaded on one hand or underestimated on the other.
During the internship year interns send in special monthly reports beyond those that all pastors, including interns, turn in to the conference. These internship reports are more detailed, specifying areas of study and observation, plus allowing for practical and theological questions. Both the conference president and the ministerial secretary read them and respond at their discretion.
Additional training during the time of internship
Interns and licensed pastors meet once a year for a special training session lasting two to four days. This event is organized by the respective union conference. Topics include how to con duct special services, such as the Lord's Supper, baptism, and wedding ceremonies, as well as working for youth.
Toward the end of internship, the union conference organizes another training event lasting two weeks. This time, however, licensed ministers do not participate. Lecturers are specialists in different fields, addressing pastoral ethics, personal spirituality, leadership, church growth and mission, training laity, counseling, and working with young people. Since most interns graduated at the same time from the same seminary, their former tutor meets with them, discusses their experience in the ministry, and solicits an evaluation of their formal education at the seminary.
Employment as pastors
After internship is successfully accomplished, the intern is employed as a licensed minister. Normally ordination follows three to four years later. As indicated above, attending an annual special training event is required for all licensed ministers. Beyond this they may attend continuing education events with their ordained colleagues.
Pastors in Germany are required to take six continuing education units (CEUs) within three years. The courses normally last from Sunday evening to Monday morning and provide one or two CEUs each. Pastors choose from a variety of topics that include both theory and practice, along with theological issues. Beyond the continuing education courses offered by the union conference, there are other possible ways to obtain CEUs, such as the continuing education curriculum from the General Conference.
In conclusion, we believe in good education and training for our pastors. There remains much room for improvement, but we also have made some progress. Of course, education itself is not the ultimate goal. The aim of a better education is to serve our Lord more effectively and to perform our ministry with joy and with the power of the Holy Spirit for the glory of God.