The Scientist-Practitioner Model and Training Ministers

There is a model of training in Clinical psychology called the Scientist-Practitioner Model (or Boulder Model) of training. When graduate psychology programs use this model they implement as close to a 50/50 balance between research and practice in their training as possible. The thought is researchers are most effective if they also do therapy and therapists are most effective if they are doing research. This keeps ivory tower researchers from being developed away from real people and real problems.

When it comes to training for ministry we implement something along the lines of 90 research/10 practice. Our classes are more effective if the students are in the trenches and their ministry is better informed if they are receiving ministry education in the classroom. The two go hand-in-hand. I am afraid that often ministry education can be easily disconnected from real people and real problems. It can then become impractical or people get shell shocked when they go and do ministry in the “real world” because they had no idea how to handle conflict, how to lead anyone, how to cast a biblical vision and implement it, or how to deal with elders, church members and other ministers.

Jesus knew that his disciples needed both instruction and practice. It wasn’t enough just to teach them. He also had to send them. When they got back they talked about what happened. I don’t mean to read too much into the text on this or find this model all over the Bible but I do think it is effective. How would ministry education change if we had a better balance between the classroom and ministry in the trenches?

About mattdabbs
I am a minister, husband, and father. My wife and I live and minister in Saint Petersburg, Florida. My primary ministry responsibilities include: small groups, 20s and 30s, involvement, and adult education.

2 Responses to The Scientist-Practitioner Model and Training Ministers

  1. Jerry Starling says:

    The mixture you suggest is sound. Guided experience adds much to the practical side of things; class-room work becomes more meaningful if it combines with the practical, in the field work. At present, nearly all “practical” internship, etc. comes near the end of the student’s schooling. It should be mixed in throughout to be more effective. The after-experience “debriefing” in critical to maximum advantage in student growth and preparation.
    Jerry

  2. Adam Noles says:

    Matt,

    I’m a Senior ministry student at Freed-Hardeman University. I’ve liked reading your blog for several months (I believe I found it from something Mark Parker put on FB)…and this is my first comment.

    I believe you are on target about getting a balance of in-class study and on-the-field practice. I have been blessed to have 3 internship experiences during my summers as a FHU student. I believe that not only do I learn more about God’s word mentoring under seasoned ministers and their shepherds, but I learn more about my own ministry skills and shortcomings.

    I feel like sometimes the universities and preaching schools just want to mass produce preachers and get them into the field ASAP. This mentality can be devastating to a congregation and to a preacher’s ministry.

    Not only do I believe that we need more internship programs but also preachers/professors that are willing to take one-on-one time with a ministry apprentice. Also, the churches seem more likely to hire a youth intern than a preaching intern. I had a preaching internship this summer about an hour away from Nashville and was able to focus on the things that I needed to work on. (Not everyone is called to youth ministry!)

    I don’t know if I have any solutions, but the more mentorship/internship experience a young minister has before he gets out in full-time work, (I think) the better.
    -Adam Noles

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