How African American pastors learn the role of ministry
Harrison, William Timothy
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The purpose of this study is to understand the learning of African American pastors, specificallyhow they learn their roles and the means to fulfill them. A qualitative approach was employed as the methodology to gain insight from the perspective of the pastors themselves. The focus of the interview questions were the means of the pastors learning and were conducted at the pastor’s churches. The pastors were asked what roles they learned in their jobs, and how they learned theroles. The influence of the governance structure of their denominations was important to the learning and contributed to a support system for the pastors as well. The pastors were asked what role socio-historical context may have on their learning. Context was believed to play a very important part in learning according to the pastors. Finally, the pastors were asked how they learned their roles. Interviews were conducted with ten pastors from Baptist, Methodist, and Pentecostal churches. Follow up questions were asked and visits were made to the pastor’s churches to observe a service. Based on the data from the interviews and field notes, this study describes how learning takes place and makes suggestions for helping pastors learn their roles. The findings of the study revealed the importance of experience, structure, and history in the development of roles as well as the pastors’ learning of the roles and how to fulfill them. While formal education was important to the pastors, they believed the actual roles that were most important to the church they discovered in the action of doing the job. Situational learning, specifically workplace learning, was employed to contrast the learning of the pastors and other professionals. The theory help describe the process of learning that the pastors describe in their interview. Through personal interaction with other minister, mentors, and doing the job itself, the pastors learned what the spoken and unspoken roles were and mapped a strategy for fulfilling those roles. The pastors learned to navigate through the interpersonal issues in churches to discover their roles.