We like going to conferences—meeting up with friends, hearing inspiring speakers, having a chance to rest, getting some time apart to dream. Conferences are great, often high energy. We come back to our ministry setting renewed, encouraged and ready to face challenges head on.
Attending conferences are an important part of ministry life, helping us to do the work of the ministry over the long haul. But, we need more than conferences. We self select conferences. This means that to some degree the conferences we attend fit with our current philosophy of ministry and theological orientation. We certainly get challenged but often what we hear are words to the choir. We are already onboard. It can become incestuous.
Strangely enough, I am a strong advocate for lifelong learning in a seminary context. Whether working towards an advanced degree, or just taking courses, learning beyond the conference circuit is important for the chiseling growth of a ministry practitioner.
It is easy to get into a rut. We live it ruts. They are comfortable and safe. But we need to be pushed out of our box into new ways of thinking and doing ministry. This is the value of seminary learning.
Fuller DMIN and Lifelong Learning offers the very best of ongoing theological training. The faculty is diverse. The students are diverse. We come from every continent, a variety of theological traditions and denominations. We are ethnically diverse. We are both men and women studying together. It changes the atmosphere.
It is not always easy. When we meet people who are different. It challenges our thinking and our assumptions. If we are honest, we can no longer do ministry as we once did. This leads in greater ways to a faith that is humble, gracious and convicted.
This is more than a pep rally. This is serious theological reflection. It is disturbing, but the other side is rich.