I am proud to be a Children’s and Family Ministry graduate. I think we are the ones who bring the touch of whimsy to the classroom – we’re always drawing and using markers. It’s a fun program at Bethel Seminary, that of course would not be possible without the help of our own children and families. It is an exciting thing to finally bring our families here to Bethel to actually see what we’ve been doing for the past few years. Certainly without the help of family, this program is simply impossible. So we owe family a great vote of thanks, I know I do.
And of course the Master of Arts in Children’s and Family Ministry program would not be possible without the leadership of Dr. Denise Muir-Kjesbo. She has taken the time to show us all the different pieces of ministry, theology, and leadership – now we can step back and fully appreciate the whole. I know I have appreciated her mentoring, insight, and friendship.
But if I could sum up my entire seminary experience in one story, I’d tell you about an online interaction I had just a few weeks ago.
I do quite a bit of online interaction (outside of Blackboard) because you should participate in the kind of community you are trying to build, and in my effort to help build the community of children’s and family ministry online through the Cory Center for Children’s and Family Ministry I came across a young pastor, much like myself, who was reflecting on seminary. This pastor is a popular leader – his website is found on many blogrolls and he is often tweeted and retweeted.
The subject of his blog post the day I stumbled upon his site had to do with seminary. He has a friend who went to seminary and has regretted the experience. For this young pastor, seminary is a complete waste of time. He quipped, “Ultimately seminary teaches you answers to questions no one is asking.”
Now, this is a very witty turn of phrase. It’s the kind of thing that you hear and you think, “Oh – that’s deep.” But once you look at it you realize how ridiculous it sounds.
I could not pass up the opportunity to respond. I simply stated that first and foremost, his friend did not go to Bethel. Bethel has taught me so much about myself, about leadership, mentoring, and collaboration. If he regretted his seminary experience, he must have gone elsewhere.
Second and more importantly, as spiritual leaders – we need to be asking questions no one is asking. That’s the locus of change, that’s the nexus of innovation, that’s where things start to happen all the way from the invention of the flexible straw and the intermittent wiper to greater understanding of the atonement or creation care. The personal computer was not because created Bill Gates really loved using an abacus. “It’s so easy, you just move the beads from one side to the other side. This is the perfect instrument for handling complex mathematical problems.” When we look at history, we will find that every innovation, every invention, every flash of genius took place precisely because men and women began asking a question no one else was asking.
I did not spend the last 4.5 years learning answers to every question. Yes I did spend some time investigating the finer points of the Epic of Gilgamesh (and a tip of my two hats to Dr. Howard), but I spent more time finding out where to answer questions no one is asking and who to answer these questions with. And the truth of the matter is that Bethel found a way to teach me, a guy who thought that I already knew the answer to everything, that unless men and women lead others through forays into the questions no one is asking, we will not be able to answer the questions people are asking. And now I am confident as a children’s and family ministry leader that I can begin to address these questions and bring change and innovation to our field and leadership in my own ministry contex