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Along the Journey  |  

Protecting Our Investment Through Lifelong Learning 

During a theological school or seminary consultation, I occasionally offer my elevator speech on the importance of lifelong learning for clergy.

It goes something like this. 

“You fret about the $160,000 to $170,000 it takes out of your endowment to graduate one MDiv, but in five years, half of them are out of ministry. What are you doing to protect your investment? That’s what lifelong learning is for, and why you need to offer it.” 

Lifelong learning through professional continuing education programs is a universal practice in many professions, often required, but that is not generally the case for clergy. 

Ministry is hard and just getting harder.

Society and culture are continuously evolving, as are the complexities of people’s spiritual, emotional, and societal needs.

The challenges faced by congregations stress not only churches but their leaders.

In that environment, clergy must be lifelong learners, seeking to grow and adapt in their capacity to lead congregations and to minister in widely-ranging contexts. 

Continuing Education is Valuable

Lifelong learning helps clergy stay updated with contemporary theological thinking, societal issues, and pastoral best practices.

It aids in their ability to effectively address current societal and moral challenges, speaking to their congregation in a language and context that resonates with them.

The value of a dynamic and relevant ministry cannot be overstated.

It strengthens the bond between the clergy and their congregation, fostering a spiritual community that thrives on mutual growth and understanding. 

Moreover, lifelong learning fosters personal growth.

It enables clergy to sustain their spiritual vitality, continually renewing their understanding and the renewal of their calling through the long arch of the ministerial vocational trajectory.

This personal growth directly translates into more impactful spiritual leadership. 

What Can Be Offered? 

The Center for Lifelong Learning at Columbia Theological Seminary supports its alumni and church leaders across all denominations and faith traditions through its continuing education programs.

Through programs and courses, the Center provides opportunities for lay and ordained leaders to participate in communities of practice and address the multiple challenges of congregational ministry and ministerial development. 

The Center supports ministers experiencing vocational transition and forced termination through the Ministering to Ministers program. 

And for those desiring a more sustained learning experience, the Leadership in Ministry and certificate programs in spirituality, spiritual direction, and older adult ministry provide participants with solid content and a meaningful community.  

Seminaries are not just institutions for initial training; they should be hubs of continuous learning and resources.

By offering lifelong learning programs, seminaries can provide clergy with the necessary tools, knowledge, and community of practice to navigate the vocational arc of ministry.

They can promote intellectual and spiritual growth beyond the initial years of theological education, truly fulfilling their role as cradles of spiritual leadership and protecting their initial investment in training clergy for ministry.  

To learn more about the Center and its offerings, email LifeLongLearning@ctsnet.edu or click HERE to view the latest course/program catalog.

Israel Galindo is Associate Dean for Lifelong Learning at Columbia Theological Seminary. He directs the Pastoral Excellence Programs of the Center for Lifelong Learning.

Along the Journey Continued Education