Many pastors remember struggling in their first ministerial position—isolated geographically or professionally, lacking ready access to mentors and peers. The first person to greet young Daniel Aleshire after he led his first worship service “told me my sermon was ‘the worst damn sermon’ he had ever heard.”
Aleshire was forewarned that the man was a troubled congregant. But the comments from the rest of the Baptist congregation months later “were so ambiguous that I was never sure how I was doing,” said Aleshire, now top executive at the Association of Theological Schools.
More than a decade ago, analysts of congregational ministry for the Lilly Endowment decided that seminarians’ customary year or nine months of internship at a church were not enough to prepare graduates for the pitfalls and anxieties facing a new pastor.