Celebrating fifty years of service in the year 2009, the Center of Continuing Education at Princeton Seminary has discerned a new ministry to meet the needs of pastors and congregations in a changing church and world. The ministry of the School of Christian Vocation and Mission is to be a career-long partner with pastors, lay leaders, and congregations as they follow their vocations in various expressions of mission. Read on to learn more about the courses, programs, and plans for the School of Christian Vocation and Mission.
On any given day pastors do an average of forty-one tasks and have thirty-one contacts with different people, according to E. Brooks Holifield in his book God’s Ambassadors: A History of the Christian Clergy in America (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007). He describes how over the years more roles and tasks have been added to the job description of a pastor, while the authority of the role has declined. In the early 1800s, pastors were mainly responsible for preaching, teaching, and visiting the sick. Later, evangelism and leadership in matters of social welfare were added. By the 1960s, pastors were expected to do all of the above, as well as be managers and administrators of complex nonprofit organizations, i.e., their churches.
In recent decades, the combination of cultural change and economic recession has left congregational and denominational rolls and budgets declining. In some areas of the United States there are more churches than pastors, and in other areas more pastors than churches. Estimates vary, but research by the School of Christian Vocation and Mission shows that a large number of pastors leave congregational ministry before completing ten years of service.
The three short years pastors spend in theological education are dedicated to spiritual formation, mastery of theological and biblical content, and developing skills for preaching, teaching, and pastoral care. There is less time to focus on the other roles of the pastor, such as steward of human and physical resources, public person in an ecumenical context, and member of a profession; furthermore, these roles are easier to explore from within the ministry setting when the pastor actually has the authority to make decisions.

Field education, often cited by alumni/ae as one of the most valuable experiences in their formation for ministry, is a key part of the Seminary curriculum, and an essential first step toward a pastoral identity. Princeton Seminary wanted to do more to build on that foundation. “One core assumption is that we cannot teach everything that a pastor needs to know in three years of seminary study,” said Professor Dennis Olson, who has been involved in the school’s planning process. “We build the foundations. We set trajectories for lifelong learning. But living into a pastoral identity also requires ongoing learning, especially in the crucial years after a seminarian graduates and enters into his or her first call to ministry.”
In response to the situation of the church and the needs of its pastors and congregations, in 2006 President Torrance invited Charles Kalmbach, then an M.Div. student, to join him in researching the needs of pastors. One result was a 2007 article in The Presbyterian Outlook titled “Moving Beyond Prophet, Pastor, and Teacher.” Based on interviews with experienced pastors, the article described four identities of the pastor and a new plan for lifelong learning, one that would take seriously the challenges faced by pastors and their congregations. The article posited a disconnect between the pastor’s primary role of “servant of God,” i.e., preacher, teacher, and pastoral caregiver, and the other roles the pastor was expected to fulfill, such as public person, professional, and steward. “Role incongruence,” as the article put it, was a significant cause of burnout.
A new position in continuing education, pastor-in-residence (a two-year rotating assignment), was created to continue the Seminary’s dialogue with pastors and the church and to advise the Seminary about the needs of pastors and their congregations. Courtney Cromie (M.Div., 1996; Th.M., 2001) is the current pastor-in-residence. “My research was to ask what jobs pastors are doing, and what they need to be able to do those jobs,” Cromie said. Over the course of four months she spoke to 400 alumni/ae from the ten most recent graduating classes about their experiences as pastors. “The intention was to find ways to bridge the gap between what they learn in the Master of Divinity program and what they do as pastors,” Cromie said.
Building on the information gleaned from the interviews, in the fall of 2007 Kalmbach worked with Gordon Mikoski, PTS’s assistant professor of Christian education, to put together a cohort of alumni/ae to explore this gap, and the burnout that resulted, and to find ways to ameliorate it. In April 2008 the first Institute for Pastoral Leadership (IPL) convened at Princeton Seminary.

Continuing Formation of Pastors
Seventeen graduates from PTS’s ten most recent graduating classes attended that first Institute for Pastoral Leadership, which focused on the various identities of the pastor by using cases in a problem-based model of learning. “Pastoral ministry doesn’t happen in the abstract,” said Mikoski, who teaches at the institute. “It only happens in situations.” The problem-based model locates learning in a ministry context. It also develops the skills needed to solve problems. “In How We Think, John Dewey suggested that thinking begins when you come to a fork in the road, when you have to decide which way to go,” said Mikoski. “Problem-based learning supplies students with the opportunity to apply procedures, frameworks, and plans, and then to reflect on that experience.”
Won-jae Choi (M.Div., 2002) is temporary supply associate pastor at Newtown Presbyterian Church in Newtown, Pennsylvania. She attended the October 2009 institute with nineteen other pastors from as far away as Texas and Oregon. “I came away from the institute with an effective way to think critically about how to deal with ministry issues,” she said. The case studies described complex and multi-dimensional problems, such as an elder asking the pastor to perform an interfaith wedding for his daughter, who does not attend church, or an urban congregation with a failing building and two factions, one elderly group wanting to save the building and another younger group wanting to relocate the congregation to the suburbs. “When we received the case study in our group, our first response was, ‘What a mess! Who let the situation get this bad?’ but once we got over our emotional reaction, we could see in a non-anxious moment what steps to take. The [problem-based learning] model helped us think through that process,” said Choi.



Gabriel Salguero, Director of Programs and Director of the Hispanic Leadership Program
The HLP offers Congreguemenos, an annual gathering of Hispanic lay and ordained leaders focused on doing ministry in the Latina/o context, and the Academy of Biblical and Theological Studies (ABATS), a program in Spanish to train commissioned lay pastors. A Spanish language version of Called to Community, Comunidad de Pastores, will facilitate the education of a new cohort of commissioned lay pastors participating in ABATS. This year’s keynote speaker at Congreguemenos is Samuel Pagan, author, PTS alumnus, and former president of the Evangelical Seminary in Puerto Rico.


Choi was excited about the Seminary’s commitment to focus on the long-term development needs of pastors. “The Institute for Pastoral Leadership realizes that pastors aren’t pastors in an ideological vacuum but are pastors in real situations…. Just that premise is enough to create excitement about the new programs because the starting point accepts the reality of what pastors are facing, and shows that [the Seminary wants to] build a program that will help support pastors to continue to grow in the formation of those identity roles,” she said.

The Institute for Pastoral Formation continues where IPL leaves off, offering many two-and-a-half-day courses on areas identified by the school’s research as potential gaps for pastors, such as evangelism, engaging the public, healthy boundaries/care of self and family, and spiritual practices. Courses will be taught by Seminary faculty and experienced pastors and practitioners. The school is coordinating with the M.Div. program and with the Office of Field Education and the Office of Student Relations and Senior Placement to accomplish the Seminary’s mission to prepare men and women to serve the church.

Kalmbach and his staff are also coordinating with the faculty to better integrate the school’s courses with those of the M.Div. program and to create a smoother transition into ministry for new graduates. Professors Olson and Mikoski, along with Professors Paul Rorem and Sally Brown, are currently planning a new course for senior seminarians planning to go into congregational ministry, titled “The First Call: Living into a Pastoral Identity.” “The class will seek to help students make the transition from being a student to being a pastor with a primary identity as a contextual theologian, and will highlight four major elements, each of which will be considered in theological perspective: Starting Strong, Leading, Managing, and Self-Care,” Olson said. The school is offering the course in a non-credit format titled “Transition into Ministry” in May 2010, for both seniors and pastors in their first year of ministry. The course will provide an overview of how to analyze a congregation, basics in conflict management, and effective transition tools, such as support networks.



Dayle Rounds, Director of Programs and Director of the Institute for Youth Ministry
Princeton Theological Seminary founded The Institute for Youth Ministry in 1995 to offer specialized theological education for people in ministry with youth and young adults. The IYM supports research and degree instruction and offers an innovative program of continuing education and leadership development. Its offerings include the Princeton Forums on Youth Ministry, the Youth, Church, and Culture Podcast, the Certificate in Youth and Theology, the upcoming Conference on Emerging Adulthood, and the recently published OMG: A Youth Ministry Handbook, with Abingdon Press, edited by Kenda Creasy Dean.


Called to Community

Another reality that pastors of all tenures face, according to research done by the School of Christian Vocation and Mission, is isolation. A member of the first Institute for Pastoral Leadership asked for a “Facebook for pastors,” a place where pastors could meet online in a protected and private setting to discuss their struggles in ministry, sensitive or confidential pastoral care issues, and resources for ministry. The result is Called to Community, an online community built on sophisticated social networking software and hosted by Princeton Seminary for those serving the church.

Members can connect with colleagues, access resources from Seminary faculty such as lectures and webinars, and participate in private groups to discuss sensitive pastoral care issues, or just to form a network of clergy in their area. Because Called to Community is behind the Seminary’s firewall, the conversations are not searchable by Google or other search engines.

“The idea is to reach pastors where they are, and where they are is on the Internet,” said Cromie. Raymond Bonwell, one of the school’s directors of programs, agreed. “Participants tell us that fifty percent of them come to the event for the topic, twenty-five percent to network, and twenty-five percent to reconnect with the resources of the campus,” he explained. “Now we can extend all of those opportunities after people return to their ministry setting, using the Internet.”

The site allows pastors from across the country and around the world to access quality resources for ministry, to connect with one another, and to form small groups for discussion and support. “When I was ordained and served as a solo pastor for a congregation for a number of years, one of the most important support systems I had was an already established lectionary study group of area pastors that met every Tuesday morning,” said Olson. “But many other young pastors do not always have access to such a support group. With technology and the Internet, the School of Christian Vocation and Mission is able to create virtual groups of support among new clergy.”

Many of the school’s events are recorded and put on Called to Community for downloading, and many are streamed live. The Pastors’ Monthly Roundtable is an opportunity for Princeton-area pastors to do research at the library, enjoy fellowship over lunch, and converse about important topics. Now the roundtable dialogue is available via webinar. The software allows participants around the country and abroad to log in, see and hear, and ask questions via online chat rooms. December’s roundtable featured Professor Sally Brown, who lectured on preaching during the Advent and Christmas season. People from twelve states and nine countries logged on to participate via webinar. Yena Hwang (M.Div., 1997) logged on from Wheaton, Maryland, where she is associate pastor at Wheaton Community Church, serving the English-speaking congregation of a Korean American church, and vice moderator of National Capital Presbytery. “I’m always looking for continuing education that is practical, that I can readily use,” she said. And the webinar format suited her perfectly. “I can’t drive to Princeton for a one-hour lecture,” she said. “But this was a good opportunity to hear faculty speak.”

In the fall Institute for Pastoral Leadership when Called to Community was introduced to the group, those participants with laptops signed on, and within five minutes there were nine requests to join the online community. Steve Jewell (M.Div., 2004) is solo pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Arkport, New York, a 120-member rural church. “I can create my own private groups for our congregation or ministerium…. I enjoy things that have theological muscle because in church ministry you don’t always have access to some of those conversations going on in the academy.” Choi agreed. “It’s a great way for us to access resources and that’s the hardest thing if you’re solo, or in the middle of the country. I look forward to reading faculty lectures and convocation sermons, the things I love Princeton for,” she said.
Called to Community is open to all PTS alumni/ae to find resources, form discussion groups, and access programs. Registration requires only your name and an email address, and you can keep your email address private from other users if you wish. To register, visit



James F. Kay, Joe R. Engle Professor of Homiletics and Liturgics and Director of the Joe R. Engle Institute
Made possible by the dream and generosity of Joe R. Engle, this institute is for preachers in their first two to eight years of ministry who wish to nurture and strengthen their preaching vocation in the company of colleagues. This year’s institute will be June 6–11, 2010, and the preacher-in-residence is Juan Perez-Alda, interim pastor and head of staff of the First Spanish Presbyterian Church of Miami. Perez-Alda is also pastor emeritus of Primera Presbyterian Church of Bayamón, Puerto Rico, where he served for twenty-six years.


Lifting Up the Lives of Congregations

Pastors are not solely, or even primarily, responsible for the ministry of the church. The Reformers believed that all Christians, not just pastors, have a vocation, and the School of Christian Vocation and Mission offers programs to support congregations in their shared ministry with pastors. The new School of Lay Theology will offer congregations educational opportunities in three areas: foundational knowledge (understanding of the Bible and theology), relational knowledge (skills such as small group leadership, active listening, and Christian caregiving), and functional knowledge (such as how to incorporate new members into the church, or make the church more accessible to people with disabilities). Ernie Kimmel, recently retired stated clerk of the Presbytery of New Brunswick and an elder at Pennington Presbyterian Church, is helping to plan the School of Lay Theology’s offerings. “First Corinthians tells us that each member has been given gifts for the common good,” he said. “And in the Presbyterian tradition, the office of the minister of Word and Sacrament is described as one of shared ministry. If we take the concept of shared ministry seriously, then the School of Christian Vocation and Mission needs to provide opportunities for the officers and members of Christian congregations to develop their gifts, learn new skills, and grow in their understanding of the faith.”

There are many programs at the school that support congregations. The Institute of Faith and Public Life allows clergy, lay leaders, scholars, and community activists to explore together what it means to “do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly” from within an integrated theological and ethical framework, according to Gabriel Salguero, one of the school’s directors of programs and director of the Hispanic Leadership Program. At the May 19–21 institute, speakers include John M. Perkins, a leader in civil rights and the founder of several Christian community development ministries in Mississippi and California; Serene Jones, president of Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York; Ron Sider, founder of Evangelicals for Social Action; Kate M. Ott, associate director of the Religious Institute in Westport, Connecticut; and Richard Cizik, senior fellow at the United Nations Foundation and a leader of the “Young Evangelicals” movement in America.

The Science for Ministry Institute is a three-year program that pairs a pastor and a scientist to study theology and science together, and then take their learning and dialogue back to their congregation for further exploration. Topics covered include evolution in cosmology and biology, the creation of the universe, human evolution, neuroscience and cognitive science, and human morality and ethics.

And traditional Advent and Lenten Bible studies nourish members of congregations and all Christians seeking to live out their calling as followers of Jesus. The Lenten series for 2010 featured Professor Ross Wagner on “Five Perspectives on Easter: The Gospels and Isaiah.”

The school also offers specialized leadership training for church officers. In January 2010, 160 officers in Presbyterian congregations from six presbyteries came to PTS. Cosponsored by the Presbytery of Monmouth and the Presbytery of New Brunswick, the event included workshops on a variety of topics from basic elder and deacon training and training for clerks of session to older adult ministry, stewardship, and evangelism. Three of the tracks were recorded for use by other presbyteries in their leadership training. Programs are being planned for chaplains and church educators as well.

Other programs focus on specific “mission expressions,” such as youth and young adult formation (see box on the Institute for Youth Ministry), lay formation, and the church in the world, which encompasses multicultural relations as well as faith and public life (see box on the Hispanic Leadership Program for one example). The Institute for Multicultural Ministry equips lay and ordained leaders to construct vital congregations of many nations, cultures, languages, generations, and denominational backgrounds. ( see inSpire story, fall 2008/winter/spring 2009, p. 32).



The Institute of Theology is a family-friendly program for lay and ordained Christians to study together on parallel tracks. There will be three foci from which to choose: Reformed theology and its application to life and ministry; mission; and Science for Ministry. The first Institute of Theology harks back to the summer of 1942, and is the precursor to Princeton Seminary’s Continuing Education program. Stay tuned for more on this program, kicking off August 2–6, 2010.


Semper Reformata: Always Reforming

The Reformers believed that the church is always reforming to more fully live its witness to the gospel. Kalmbach said that the School of Christian Vocation and Mission will continue to reform, insofar as it seeks to serve the church as it lives out its mission to follow Jesus Christ faithfully in new contexts. “What it means to be in service to the church will continually change,” said Kalmbach. “We’ve made a paradigm shift, from what the academy thinks the field needs to letting those in the field tell us what they need. We’re listening to pastors and to congregations.”

Continuing formation of pastors and Christians has a long history at Princeton Seminary. President McCord established the Center of Continuing Education in 1962. In McCord’s “A Preliminary Report—A Center and a Program of Continuing Education on the Campus of Princeton Theological Seminary,” the former president defined continuing education as “not a sporadic and nostalgic return to the campus for the joy of trying to recapture alma mater feeling…but the involvement in some systematic, continuing, and valuable discipline after the days or weeks on the campus are over.” Today the School of Christian Vocation and Mission is fulfilling that vision by creating systematic programs that will shape pastors and Christians of all vocations for a life of ministry. “Healthy churches raise up healthy leaders,” said Cromie. “And healthy leaders nurture healthy churches.”


Advisory Group Supports SCVM

A new advisory group has been established to support the School of Christian Vocation and Mission, made up of three PTS faculty members, three pastors, and an elder. The members are Professor Dennis Olson, Professor Sally Brown, Professor Richard Osmer, Pastor Muriel Burrows of Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church in Princeton, Pastor Karen Hernandez of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Trenton, Pastor Donald Lincoln of Westminster Presbyterian Church in West Chester, Pennsylvania, and Ernest Kimmel, an elder at Pennington Presbyterian Church.




May 3–7, 2010: Transition into Ministry
Designed for Master of Divinity seniors and pastors in their first year of ministry in a congregation

May 6–7, 2010: Latino Leadership Institute
This annual two-day institute in May is dedicated to educating ordained clergy on pastoral leadership in the Hispanic church. Offered in Spanish.

May 8, 2010: Congreguemonos
An annual event for Hispanic leaders and laity that centers on doing ministry and being church in the Latina/o context

May 17–19, 2010: Institute for Pastoral Leadership
For alumni/ae in their first ten years of ministry

May 19–21, 2010: Institute of Faith and Public Life
Empowering pastors and lay leaders to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly from within an integrated theological and ethical framework

June 6–11, 2010: Joe R. Engle Institute of Preaching
For preachers who want to refine their craft

July 26–28, 2010: Institute for Pastoral Formation: Better Worship and Preaching through the Seasons
This program encourages pastors and their worship leaders to come together to focus on better worship planning, share practical resources, and be enriched for better worship leadership. Pastors will also have the opportunity to focus on exegesis for preaching and to discuss pedagogical tools for teaching. Worship leaders will focus on worship planning through the seasons.

August 2–6, 2010: Institute of Theology
This summer program, begun in 1942, served as the precursor to Princeton Seminary’s Continuing Education program. Returning after a hiatus, this family-friendly program will offer several engaging and parallel opportunities to apply Reformed theology.

October 13–15, 2010: Institute for Pastoral Leadership
For alumni/ae in their first ten years of ministry


To learn more about the programs at the School of Christian Vocation and Mission or to join Called to Community, visit To share ideas and ministry experience with staff of the school by phone, call 1.800.622.6767, ext. 7990.

All alumni/ae and friends are invited to a convocation on the afternoon of October 19, 2010, on the role of the seminary in a changing church. The convocation will be streamed live over the Internet. Tune in and join us!