Monday, May 7, 2012

Trial and Error; Adaptation

FocusWhen I pulled out of seminary back in 2010, I almost immediately started pursuing a path toward getting on the LCMS church worker roster as a Lay Minister, going back to my alma mater, CUW, to take four courses over the internet. This would NOT make me a pastor, obviously, but it would get me on the roster and make me eligible to serve a parish full time, have Concordia Plans benefits and the whole nine yards. And I could also use lay ministry as a detour that could eventually lead back to seminary (maybe alternate route if not taking another crack at the Master of Divinity degree).

The timing of this was such that I took my first Lay Ministry class pretty much right after moving out of the seminary. And I passed it. It was challenging, but I was able to pull it off.

However, the thing about this program is that you take one class every eight weeks. And you have one after another pretty much nonstop. The problem was that because I had taken almost all of the required classes during undergrad, many months would pass before my next required class was offered. I had to wait for the next class that I needed to become available. Then because of a scheduling error on my part, I went to register for my second class only to find out it was almost over.

So I finished my first class at the end of 2010, didn't take anything in 2011, and my next class is in its eighth and final week. That class didn't go so well for a number of different reasons which I won't detail at this time, but suffice it to say that I withdrew from that class toward the end of last week.

Here is one conclusion I've drawn from all of this:

In retrospect, as a seminary dropout with some ambition to return to seminary at a later time, I made a tactical error in looking at Lay Ministry as a possible path back to seminary. [Note: here's where I went to determine whether to use strategic or tactical.] Now, if a young man who is a traditional undergrad student at CUW graduates with all the necessary lay ministry credentials and goes immediately to seminary, that's one thing. Or, if he's a rostered lay minister serving in the field who decides to go to seminary, that's fine, too. But to NOT be a lay ministry student in undergrad, then to go to seminary, then to jump back to undergrad level lay ministry coursework (in a non-residential program) is an extremely rough transition.

See, I still think of myself as a seminarian. I haven't given up. My seminary career is merely suspended, and being a deacon keeps my seminary career a holding pattern (it's kinda like long-term field work, or a sans-pulpit vicarage). This is trial and error; some things work, others don't, and I try to adapt accordingly. It's all a big learning process. "Adopt, adapt, and improve. Motto of the Round Table."

I recognize that I have some weak spots in my academic skill set and that my ADHD continues to sabotage my efforts. It's a daily struggle. My wager was that I could hone my academic skills by going back to undergraduate-level coursework, so that I could climb my way back up to graduate-level coursework at seminary. Put differently, I was trying to stay inside my vertical.

So my main objective is to pursue pastoral formation, and the question is how to get back to that point. I tried going vertical (going down a notch so that I can go back up), but that didn't work. My overall strategy remains the same: build up skills so that I will have a successful seminary experience, but the tactics must change. So instead of building these skills and whatnot by staying within my vertical, I need to make a horizontal shift, not a vertical shift. I will use something DIFFERENT as my proving ground.

So I'm taking up martial arts, which is suggested for those with ADHD.