Education for Reflective Ministry

The picture that pastors have of themselves and of their experiences in the ministry is ambivalent. On the one hand they find the pastoral work which they perform meaningful, important and relevant. On the other hand pastors suffer from chronic stress of some sort, caused by different factors on the micro, meso and macro level of religion, church and society. Many pastors experience the modernization and subsequently the secularization process as a very serious problem, which negatively influences religious life within the parish. Pastors are bowed down by uncertainty over how their work contributes to the parish mission in today's society and, even more so, by doubts over what that mission is, in particular, the diaconal mission. Which direction can, shall, should the pastor take if neither the church nor the theological institutions are able to provide him or her with a clear frame of reference, an attractive perspective, a convincing policy, a plausible course of action, and a meaningful set of aims, goals and objectives ? There is no alternative but to risk taking responsibility for oneself and choosing one's own course of action. To take this risk is not reckless or foolhardy, as long as the choices are always informed by a religious self-reflection that is open to tradition as well as to the future. This allows the pastor to be his own guide, to transgress useless customs and habits, and cross the boundaries into as yet unknown territory. The task of education must be to provide the foundation that enables the pastor to make those choices and take those risks in a well-considered, prudent and truly religious manner. This study represents not only an interpretative description of some of the education for ministry in today's societal, cultural and ecclesiastical context in the western world but also a proposal for a new model: the reflective ministry model.