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A Letter from the Senior Associate Minister to Presbytery

Things Seminary Never Taught Me
March 20, 2014

Dear Brothers & Sisters in Christ,

One of the great joys of my ministry in the presbytery is working with the Commission on Preparation for Ministry (CPM). I am given opportunities to speak with many of the 55 students under care about what God is doing in their lives.  This month, I will be spending a day at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary with others from CPM to speak with and support those “under care” of our CPM process.

In addition to praying and speaking with those under care, I also have the opportunity to see many of these students take their first call in Pittsburgh Presbytery.  This is the time as many say, “ministry meets the road.”  Or, to put it another way, “when theology is lived out in the crucible of real life.”  It is in these first few months of new ministry that I will frequently get phone calls lamenting what seminary did not teach him or her about “real life in the parish.”  Questions arise like:

To be fair to seminaries, there are many aspects of ministry that cannot be taught in the halls of academia, but can only be learned through experience and living day by day with God’s people.

This reality has prompted me to prepare short, topical presentations for sessions on:  conducting pastoral reviews, developing a functional Personnel Committee, leadership training, missional thinking, reading the emotional system, conflict management, etc.  I have been collecting a list of talented pastors and elders with various skill sets who can be a valuable resource for pastors, churches, and the developing branches of the presbytery.

The Body of Christ works best when we use our God-given gifts to strengthen our common ministry.  Christ’s ministry is served when we don’t hesitate to ask for help or seek another’s wisdom.  Ministry is not to be done in isolation, but together. Do you have a gift or expertise to offer? Have you identified your growing edges and asked others to come along side of you?

Maybe seminary didn’t teach us everything we need to know for effective ministry to happen, but we have everything we need with each other and the help of God!

Lenten Blessings!


The Rev. Dr. Douglas E. Portz, Senior Associate Minister to Pittsburgh Presbytery


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