The “Inside the PTS Curriculum” series gives you an inside look at what students are learning in their courses at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Each article focuses on one class, its subject matter, what students can expect to learn, the required texts, and the kinds of assignments students can expect. We’ll let you know whether the course is required or available for the Master of Divinity (MDiv), the Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies (MAPS), or Master of Theological Studies (MTS). Each article will include the professor’s bio.
This week’s course is: “Pastoral Listening and Communication Skills.”
About Pastoral Listening and Communication Skills
During this term, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary students are learning about pastoral care and counseling skills with the Rev. Dr. Leanna Fuller in the class “Pastoral Listening and Communication Skills.” This course is available for students in the Master of Divinity (MDiv) degree and Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies (MAPS) degree programs and open to students in the Master of Theology (MTS) degree program.
This course is designed to help students develop or deepen such pastoral care and counseling skills as listening, assessing, responding, referring, and intervening in crisis situations, with special attention to the congregational context. Students learn to differentiate the pastoral roles and tasks unique to providing pastoral care, pastoral counseling, and spiritual counsel, and the relationships among them.
By the end of the course, students will be able to develop and deepen communication skills for ministry, including listening, assessing, responding, intervening, and referring in both typical and crisis situations. They will demonstrate the ability to discern and respond appropriately to deeper patterns embedded in personal life stories (including one’s own) and communal narratives. Finally, they will be able to distinguish the pastoral roles and tasks of pastoral care, pastoral counseling, and spiritual counsel.
In addition to attendance, assignments include class participation, reflection papers, and a two-part verbatim analysis project. Required reading includes The Power of Listening: Building Skills for Mission & Ministry, Lynne M. Baab; Hearing Beyond the Words: How to Become a Listening Pastor, Emma Justes; Crisis Caring: A Guide for Ministering to People in Crisis, Roslyn Karaban; Microaggressions in Ministry: Confronting the Hidden Violence of Everyday Church, Cody J. Sanders & Angela Yarber; and Recalling Our Own Stories: Spiritual Renewal for Religious Caregivers, Edward Wimberly.
About the Instructor
A graduate of Vanderbilt University (Ph.D.), Vanderbilt Divinity School (M.Div.), and Furman University (B.A.), the Rev. Dr. Leanna Fuller is in her element when teaching about caring ministry. Ordained in the United Church of Christ, her most recent book is titled When Christ’s Body is Broken: Anxiety, Identity, and Conflict in Congregations (Wipf and Stock, 2016). Dr. Fuller has earned numerous fellowships, awards, and honors. She concerns herself with church conflict, and her book uses two case studies to examine the issue toward constructive outcomes. Fuller advises pastors to develop an intentional plan for dealing with congregational conflict—before the conflict arises! Some of the first steps, she says, include acknowledging that anxiety will be present in such circumstances and that the more serious the conflict, the more time it will take to resolve it constructively.