Training vs. Educating: Why You Can’t Pick Just One

Emerging leaders have a host of options when it comes to professional training and ministry education. Bible schools and seminaries of all types and sizes have long been a trusted resource for those seeking ministry training. In more recent years, ministry internship, Christian gap-year, and church residency programs have grown in popularity and there is increasing demand for more frontline training programs. But rather than choosing between the academic and ministry training environments, why not offer a model that includes the best of both? Doing this will set you apart as a training program and give your students more complete training to launch them into ministry and leadership.

The Pendulum Swing Temptation

Like most ministry leaders, you probably have some Bible college or seminary training. At some point in your life, you felt the need to grow your knowledge base and gain some skills to move forward in your ministry calling. And that led you to some kind of academic institution where you took classes, studied the Bible, and pursued a degree. Then you entered ministry and found some holes in your training. 

The university model of education provides many benefits, but it struggles to equip a person for the more hands-on side of ministry. You likely came out of school with some skills that helped you to read the Bible, preach a sermon, and explain complicated theological truths. But once you got into ministry, you saw there is a lot more to it than preaching a sermon. You have to keep up with technology, implement programs, organize and bring people together, and much more. In ministry, many of the things that take up the most time are the things that you never had a class on.  In fact, if you are in a role that is not primarily a teaching role, the vast majority of your daily rhythms involve things Bible college did not necessarily equip you to do.

Many ministry leaders like yourself take these experiences and throw themselves into building a new kind of training or discipleship program. Many ministries and churches now offer internships, gap-year, or residency programs designed to provide this different sort of environment for emerging leaders to learn and grow in. While Eleven:6 would be the first to promote these kinds of learning environments, as we have been on the leading edge of that space for over twenty years, there is still great value in partnering with traditional Christian universities. 

The Knowledge and Credentialing of the Academic World

Knowledge is what people often think about when they think about education. Knowledge is an essential component of good ministry and leadership training. After all, zeal without knowledge rarely leads to good places.

Schools are designed to be storehouses of knowledge. Much of the knowledge that emerging leaders need can be found inside your ministry and in the people who lead and teach there. But your team likely also has some gaps in what they know or have experience with. That is where schools, with their classes and programs, can partner with you. Just as you realized when you entered real life ministry that your Bible college training may have had some gaps, your ministry may have a few, as well. A good partner school can help to fill those gaps for you.

Beyond that, schools also help provide what you might call “credentialing.” Someone who goes through your program and tries to get a job somewhere will have to create a resume. While you and that student can attest to the quality of your program, not everyone who sees that resume will value your program in the same way. But if that same resume can show that your program led to a college or graduate degree, then that all changes. Suddenly, your program is seen with increased legitimacy and value. The degree your student holds also is viewed more highly. The degree functions as a credential that opens the door to a future job. And having the unique hands-on experience that your program offers puts them ahead of many others.

You cannot properly educate without also training. And you cannot properly train without also educating. When you design your program strategically and build the right school partnership, you can do both. And it is that combination that can set you apart as a training destination for emerging leaders.

Eleven:6 has been serving ministry leaders for over twenty years in helping them build practical ministry training programs that can also earn students academic credit towards a degree. If you are working to make this transition, then schedule a call with us, today.