Evaluative Continuing Education
Continuing Education (CE) is an effective means by which pastors can grow spiritually, professionally, and personally. Survey results find that 100% of Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) pastors have participated in some form of continuing education, whether formal or informal in nature. This unanimous participation demonstrates that continuing education is an important aspect of full time pastoral ministry. Yet despite a collective assent to the value of continuing education, the majority of WELS pastors and their congregations participating in the survey conducted for this thesis approach pastoral CE with little or no focus or plan, greatly diminishing CE’s potential benefits. This thesis will answer two questions regarding this situation. First, what challenges do WELS pastors face as they pursue CE? Four consequential challenges are studied. Second, how can pastors better engage in more targeted CE? In view of the challenges and a historical study of CE paradigms in WELS, and most significantly, in view of scriptural principals of growth, this thesis will propose a new paradigm of pastoral continuing education referred to as Evaluative Continuing Education (ECE). ECE is defined as a growth-oriented, assessment-based approach to CE that considers a pastor’s gifts in light of the congregation’s ministry in order to remove haphazardness from CE by targeting a course that is of greatest value to pastor and parish. Evaluative Continuing Education promotes targeted, mutual growth for a pastor and his congregation, resulting in more effective ministry.