Monday, April 12, 2021

Pastor Training School: Part of this Complete Mission Statement

(This post is part of a series on S4P's mission statement. Here's a link to introduce you to the series.)

When you were growing up, how many times did you beg your mother to purchase the latest sugary cereal? She may have ignored your cries of, “But, Mom, it’s part of a complete breakfast! It said so on TV!” Sowers4Pastors is a lot like a “complete breakfast.” Some parts are a little flashier than others, but it all works together to support their mission statement.

Pastor training school is a key component in the Sowers4Pastors mission to empower pastors. It doesn’t have the “wow factor” of delivering backpacks. The pictures probably don’t spark the same warm fuzzy feeling you get when you see pictures of kids in feeding centers. But it is “nutrient rich” and absolutely essential. Before settling on a ministry “menu,” Allen and Trish spent plenty of time seeking advice from other missionaries. The big question was, “What’s the most needed thing?” They didn’t want to move into town and offer the missionary equivalent of a big bowl of Crunchy Sugar Loops since the area undoubtedly needed something more substantial. One of the answers they received was, “training for pastors.”

Allen saw that the pastors in the area had a love of Jesus, but they didn’t have a lot of training. Sending the pastors off to seminaries would have been cost prohibitive and it would have meant the pastors would be abandoning their flocks. Plus, few of the pastors in the area have enough education to waltz right into a seminary. But they don’t need seminary degrees to establish a stronger foundation of biblical knowledge. A local training school seemed like the answer, but Allen’s gifts aren’t in teaching.

As it turned out, one of the indigenous missionaries the family spoke to before deciding to settle in Gracias was Dr. Julio. Dr. Julio, a Honduran-born medical doctor, was preparing to go to Peru to begin a pastor training school there. When that opportunity didn’t come to fruition, Dr. Julio was available to take on the teaching role of a training school while Allen handled the administrative side of things.

The students would arrive for three days of training, once a month, so they would not be kept from their livelihoods or their flocks for too long. They received 16-20 hours of classroom training in eight sessions per year. Training school operates from March-October, allowing the pastors to work the coffee harvest.  

To date, 125 pastors have graduated for the three-year program. Fifteen pastors have gone on to complete a fourth year. Over time, the school developed a mentoring system, with the second-year students assist in teaching the first-year students, and the third-year students assist in teaching the second-year students.

The results of this program, according to Allen, have been remarkable. Many of pastors have gone on to become district supervisors for their denomination. The congregations are benefiting from improved teaching, as well. Pastors were sticking to very basic teaching before - mostly the Gospel message and some passages of the New Testament. The teaching the pastors have received at the training school have enabled them to expand their preaching to include more difficult topics in the New Testament, and the relationship between the Old Testament and the New.

For several reasons, the school has been closed down for most of 2020. Obviously, COVID-19 was one reason. The school has not been able to reopen due to the ongoing lock-down in Honduras (which is slowly starting to ease), but, thanks to the trickle-down method of educating, local pastors who have completed more training are able to share their knowledge with pastors who aren’t as far along in their training.

In the meantime, Clay Powell, the head teacher of the program, had to return to the States with his family. He will not be able to return for several years. This leaves the school without a seminary trained teacher.

Allen has requested that people add this to their prayer list, that once the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted a teacher with the right training and temperament might hear the calling to join the ministry. Please join the crew at Sowers4Pastors in praying that this need might be filled.

- posted by Christi.

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