Introducing the Practice of Ministry, by Kathleen A. Cahalan

Sitting in a large hall surrounded by bright young ministers and wise seasoned pastors, I have a shaking self-revelation. Fifteen years after beginning my first call to ministry, I realize how utterly clueless I was about what I was doing back then. Worse, I realize that no one in that congregation or on its pastoral staff had the words to articulate what I was doing.

This revelation occurs while I am listening to senior nursing scholar Patricia Benner and my research partner, Christian Scharen, tell stories about becoming a nurse and becoming a pastor. They are drawing on a developmental model of adult learning articulated by the Dreyfus brothers, Stuart (engineer) and Hubert (philosopher). Step by step, Benner and Scharen sketch out an arc of learning that moves someone from novice, through advanced beginner, to competent and then proficient practitioner, and finally to wise expert.

As I listen, the awareness wells up in me that I had virtually nothing of this vision of ministry as a practice; nor could I see then how learning ministry might unfold over a period of time beyond seminary. But the really stunning moment comes with the realization that I also lacked any real sense that there was support for this kind of learning in my congregation.