Sharon Aka, PhD, served as the associate director for the Adventist Learning Community and is currently a leadership consultant and professor of nursing at Notre Dame of Maryland University, Baltimore, Maryland, United States.

Lifelong learning, a natural human drive, leads to increasing knowledge, self-improvement, productivity, professional and personal ability, and social relevance.1 Lifelong learning for pastors helps pastors as well as those they serve.2 In many professions, learning occurs through intentional continuing education (CE).3 In a world that continually asks professionals to learn more, do more, and accept more responsibility, professional learning may be the only way to remain relevant.4

In the realm of ministry, pastors understand that learning should align with God’s design and call on their life. Scripture declares, “Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance” (Proverbs 1:5).5 “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:8). Thus, the true measure of a person is their eagerness to continually improve.

Lifelong learning

Pastors are charged with their own professional and spiritual growth but also must foster church member learning and spiritual development. Ellen G. White writes that “the gospel is not properly taught and represented . . . by men who have ceased to be students.”6 Although current studies do not yet include members of the Adventist denomination, multiple researchers have explored the issue of CE in professional ministry, suggesting that learning and professional engagement appear to be interconnected in pastoral development.7

Strangway discovered that intentional learning and challenging experiences are key components in developing pastoral leadership.8 Meyers and Johnstone suggest that learning while on the job benefits the church, the student minister, and the supervisor and that it is best when the professional development plan integrates both CE and applied opportunities.9 Jividen noted that pastors participating in CE were more likely to serve in growing congregations, suggesting a link between learning and pastoral impact on members.10 Carlson-Johnson underlines the importance of CE in retaining actively serving lieutenants within the Salvation Army church.11 Regarding CE’s possibly central role for lifelong pastoral learning, P. A. Kenney proposes that clergy career and life development happens throughout the lifetime and suggests that CE is necessary to address emerging needs in a rapidly changing world.12

Employee engagement

Employee engagement may be another indicator of individual dedication to the call of ministry. Research shows the benefits of an engaged workforce. “[Engaged employees] bring their hearts, hands, and minds into their jobs”13 and display such traits as “knowledge sharing, creativity, proactivity, and adaptivity.”14 They know how to reach their desired outcomes and protect themselves from becoming stressed in difficult situations.15 In addition, they demonstrate high levels of energy and enthusiasm.16

The Adventist denomination continues to advance efforts to create an engaged pastoral workforce utilizing several strategies, including two annual continuing education units comprising 20 hours of learning.

Adventist CE history

Extending back to the beginning of the denomination, Adventists have repeatedly sought to launch a successful CE program. In 1870, James White began the “Ministers Lecture Association of Seventh-day Adventists.”17 Although the General Conference (GC) adopted the program in 1881, it was deemed unsustainable. From 1889 to 1896, W. W. Prescott ran the GC Bible School in Battle Creek.18 Then in 1896, Prescott and A. T. Jones shifted biblical studies to Adventist institutions of higher education.19 While no formal pastoral CE program continued, for the next several decades, Ellen White and others often spoke about the importance of pastoral CE.20 In 1919 and 1922, the GC president also highlighted the need for pastoral CE.21

The GC launched a formal pastoral internship program during 1926 called “A Ministerial Internship Plan,” detailing 24 pastoral skills in an attempt to tie formal education to on-the-job practice. A. G. Daniells, as secretary of the newly created GC Ministerial Association, led the program.22 In 1964, leadership created a Ministerial Internship Guide to support pastors in the field.23 But while other denominations were increasing collaborative pastoral learning engagement during the 1960s, the Adventist denomination held back.24

The church established the short-lived Academy of Adventist Ministers in 1972. It required 50 annual hours of learning.25 In 1980, the GC indicated the importance of pastoral CE, and in 1981, the Center for Continuing Education for Ministry (CCEM) was organized at Andrews University with Raoul Dederen as salaried director.26 That same year, North American Division (NAD) president Charles Bradford commissioned a research study on pastoral CE by Penny Shell.27 A year later, the GC appointed Floyd Bresee director of CE for pastors. Seminary research revealed the critical importance of ongoing pastoral intern support.28 By 1985, the CCEM had created a tracking booklet for pastoral CE.29

Gaining momentum in the world

Pastoral CE gained momentum when the GC Ministerial department developed a system to tether pastoral employment to participation in CE. It advised divisions on how to develop their own tracking system.30 The church’s largest ministerial convention, the World Ministers Council, a CE event, convened in 1985. The GC assigned Rex Edwards with pastoral CE oversight and a subsequent World Ministers Council took place five years later.31

In 1988, leadership defined the role of ministerial director. The position’s 10 job responsibilities included supporting the completion of 20 hours annually of pastoral CE.32 Between 1970 and the early 1990s, the church launched the successful CE program PREACH33 to a multidenominational audience.34 In 1990, the GC ministerial department created a pastoral manual for interns outlining 50 skills/functions. Unfortunately, it received limited acceptance.35 From 1996 to 2005, Nikolaus Satelmajer produced highly successful CE seminars for pastors.36

During 1995, the South German Union implemented a formal pastoral CE program.37 Recognizing a void in pastoral CE efforts, the NAD began delivering digital CE in collaboration with the Hope Channel and Adventist Media Productions.38 In 2000, more than 7,500 pastors attended a ministerial CE event during the GC session in Toronto, Ontario.39 In 2001, leaders appointed Walt Williams as associate ministerial director and off-campus coordinator of CE for the NAD. In addition, the division established the InMinistry competency/proficiency–based seminary master’s degree through both in-person and online delivery.40

During this time, the GC Ministerial Association developed and delivered more than 100 CE seminars.41 In 2006, the GC appointed Anthony Kent as an associate Ministerial secretary, with one of his responsibilities being CE. He focused on providing professional development for pastors around the world, coordinating Ministry Professional Growth Seminars. This was succeeded by Ministry-in-Motion, a weekly video series exploring best practices in ministry, hosted by Kent along with cohost Derek Morris, and later Ivan Williams.42

From 2014 to 2016, Adam Fenner and I, while part of the Adventist Learning Center (ALC), worked with the NAD Ministerial department to establish CE standards and structures to be integrated into the ALC platform. They then began helping create dozens of digital pastoral CE courses. In May of 2015, ALC was launched (including a tracking program for pastoral CE).

In July 2015, the NAD Ministerial department, led by Ivan Williams, held the CALLED convention, attended by over 6,000 NAD and international pastors. The church presented a renewed CE focus, along with a document outlining the seven core qualities of a pastor. Between 2014 and 2018, the NAD worked to integrate the seven core qualities and proficiencies of the NAD pastor across the span of pastoral professional development, from undergraduate to seasoned professional.43 During this period, the South Pacific Division established a similar seven-pastoral-competencies structure.44

At the 2017 NAD year-end meetings, Jiří Moskala, dean of the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University, announced the integration of the seven core qualities into the Master of Divinity program.45 In addition, an updating of the NAD working policy handbook incorporates the pastoral CE policy of 20 hours, or two CEUs, annually.46 In 2018, the seminary implemented new admission standards based on the completion of undergraduate programs containing the seven core qualities of a pastor.47

In November 2019, Patrick Johnson, Trans-European Division (TED) Ministerial director, presented a new seven-competencies framework for pastors at the TED year-end meetings.48 The GC Ministerial department continues to lead pastoral support for all divisions and is a major provider of professional growth for ministers of all denominations. Unions and conferences come under the purview of the division ministerial departments.49

Fostering learning in church members

Pastors are entrusted with awesome responsibilities. Not only must they maintain their own professional and spiritual growth, but they are also charged with fostering church members’ spiritual development. Consistently, they should model a learning culture that nurtures continuous growth for members within their congregations and communities. Research suggests, “As the major technological, economic, and social currents change, so must citizens adapt by never ceasing to learn throughout their lifetimes.”50

Now, more than ever, pastors face unprecedented complexities in a rapidly changing world. Pastoral CE is a critical cornerstone in supporting pastors as they grow their faith communities and remains an invaluable gift offered to the global faith community by the Seventh-day Adventist denomination.

  1. See Maren Elfert, “UNESCO, the Faure Report, the Delors Report, and the Political Utopia of Lifelong Learning,” European Journal of Education 50, no. 1 (March 2015): 88–100,; Ulrike Hanemann, “Lifelong Literacy: Some Trends and Issues in Conceptualising and Operationalising Literacy From a Lifelong Learning Perspective,” International Review of Education 61, no. 3 (July 2015): 295–326,; Malesela J. Masenya and Johannes J. Booyse, “A Community Needs Responsive Management Training Model: Re-envisioning Management Training for Pastors of the International Assemblies of God Church,” Verbum et Ecclesia 37, no. 1 (2016): 1–9,; and Kapil D. Regmi, “Lifelong Learning: Foundational Models, Underlying Assumptions and Critiques,” International Review of Education 61, no. 2 (March 2015): 133–151,
  2. See Sharon Aka, “A Quantitative Comparative Study of Employee Engagement Among Full-Time Seventh-day Adventist Pastors in the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists and Its Relationship to Level of Participation in Annual Pastoral Continuing Education,” (PhD diss., Andrews University, 2020), https://
  3. Malan Nel, “Continuing Theological Training at the University of Pretoria,” Verbum et Ecclesia 30, no. 3, (2009): 1–7,
  4. American Nurses Credentialing Center, “Nursing Continuing Professional Development,”; Dorothy Sutherland Olsen, “Adult Learning in Innovative Organisations,” European Journal of Education 51, no. 2 (June 2016): 210–226,
  5. Scripture is from the English Standard Version.
  6. Ellen G. White, Pastoral Ministry (Silver Spring, MD: General Conference Ministerial Assoc., 1995), 48.
  7. See Julie Lynn Carlson-Johnson, “An Initial Evaluation of the Continuing Professional Education Program of the Salvation Army Eastern Territory” (EdD diss., Trevecca Nazarene University, 2019),; T. R. Ferro, “Toward Refining a Theory of Interdependence of Providers of Continuing Professional Education: A Case Study of Selected Lutheran Seminaries” (EdD diss., Northern Illinois University, 1989),; Dan R. Jividen, “Study to Show Thyself Approved: The Case for Clergy Continuing Education” (DMin diss., Liberty University, 2009),; Stanley G. Johnstone, “Continuing Professional Development of Canadian Forces Chaplains: The Way Ahead” (DMin. diss., Acadia University, 2001),; C. A. Meyers, “The Training of Church Ministers at a Distance by Means of Correspondence Study: A Program Evaluation” (doctoral diss., Oral Roberts University, 2007); and M. D. Strangway, “The Development of Transformational Leadership in Pastors of Protestant Churches” (EdD diss., University of Georgia, 1999),
  8. Strangway, “Development of Transformational Leadership.”
  9. Meyers, “Training of Church Ministers” and Johnstone, “Canadian Forces Chaplains.”
  10. Jividen, “Show Thyself Approved.”
  11. Carlson-Johnson, “Initial Evaluation.”
  12. P. A. Kenney, “Pastoral Ministry as a Developmental Process: Sustaining Excellence Throughout the Clergy Career,” (PhD diss., Michigan State University, 2002),
  13. Tracy Maylett, “Engagement Magic: The Five Keys of Employee Engagement,” DecisionWise, accessed January 19, 2021,
  14. Liat Eldor, “Looking on the Bright Side: The Positive Role of Organisational Politics in the Relationship Between Employee Engagement and Performance at Work,” Applied Psychology 66, no. 2 (April 2017): 234,
  15. Eldor, 233–259.
  16. Saar Langelaan et al., “Burnout and Work Engagement: Do Individual Differences Make a Difference?” Personality and Individual Differences 40, no. 3 (2006), 521–532; Eran Vigoda-Gadot, Liat Eldor, and Lior M. Schohat, “Engage Them to Public Service: Conceptualization and Empirical Examination of Employee Engagement in Public Administration,” American Review of Public Administration 43, no. 5 (2013), 518–538.
  17. Walton A. Williams, “Evolving Adventist Theological Education (Part 1): A Historical Perspective,” Ministry, August 2001, 8–11,
  18. Gilbert M. Valentine, “William Warren Prescott: Seventh-day Adventist Educator” (PhD diss., Andrews University, 1982),
  19. Valentine.
  20. Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5 (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1948); see Penny Shell, “A Study of Selected Variables Dealing With Continuing Education Interests of Seventh-day Adventist Pastors and Judicatory in the North American Division” (EdD diss., Andrews University, 1983),
  21. Williams, “Evolving Adventist Theological Education,” 8.
  22. Williams.
  23. Williams, 10.
  24. Shell, “Selected Variables,” 31.
  25. W. J. Cleveland, “Academy of Adventist Ministers,” Ministry, November 1972,
  26. Floyd Bresee, “Continuing Education for Ministry,” Ministry, February 1985,
  27. Shell, “Selected Variables.”
  28. Williams, “Evolving Adventist Theological Education,” 11.
  29. Bresee, “Continuing Education.”
  30. Bresee.
  31. Rex D. Edwards, “Pastoral Continuing Education: Fast Food or Planned Meal?” Ministry, February 1990,
  32. Floyd Bresee, “Pastor’s Pastor: How Ministerial Secretaries Help Ministers,” Ministry, October 1988,
  33. PREACH is an acronym that stands for Project Reaching Every Active Clergy Home.
  34. Personal communication with Nikolaus Satelmajer, January 2017.
  35. Bresee, “Ministerial Secretaries Help Ministers.”
  36. Personal communication with Nikolaus Satelmajer, January 2017.
  37. Roland E. Fischer, “Mentoring Interns and Young Pastors,” Ministry, September 2014, Ekkehardt Mueller, “Training for Pastors: A German Model,” Ministry, October 1995,
  38. Nikolaus Satelmajer, “Beyond the Expected,” Ministry, January 2006, 4.
  39. Personal communication with Nikolaus Satelmajer, January 2017.
  40. Walton A. Williams, “Evolving Adventist Theological Education (Part 2),” Ministry, October 2001 ,
  41. Satelmajer, “Beyond the Expected.”
  42. Derek Morris, “Ministry-in-Motion,” Ministry, September 2012, 4; Jarod Thomas, “Ivan Williams Joins Ministry-in-Motion Team,”
  43. North American Division, 7 Core Qualities (Silver Spring, MD: Ministerial Department, North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists, 2014).
  44. Personal communication with Brenden Pratt, September 2016.
  45. Personal communication with Jiří Moskala, October 2017.
  46. North American Division, Working Policy 2017/2018 (Columbia, MD: North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists, 2017).
  47. Personal communication with Jiří Moskala, October 2018.
  48. Personal communication with Patrick Johnson, November 2019.
  49. Personal communication with Anthony Kent, November 2017. See
  50. Senad Bećirović and Jasmina Sinanovic, "The Determinants of Lifelong Learning, European Researcher 103, no. 2 (2016): 107,

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.

comments powered by Disqus
Sharon Aka, PhD, served as the associate director for the Adventist Learning Community and is currently a leadership consultant and professor of nursing at Notre Dame of Maryland University, Baltimore, Maryland, United States.

February 2021

Download PDF
Ministry Cover

More Articles In This Issue

The last word of the book of Daniel

A grammatical mistake or a conscious choice?

From surviving to thriving

Effective ministry and evangelism in the COVID-19 era and beyond

View All Issue Contents

Digital delivery

If you're a print subscriber, we'll complement your print copy of Ministry with an electronic version.

Sign up

Recent issues

See All