Personal study is a concept that invites questions. Different people approach it in different ways for all good reasons as we have different needs and different priorities. There are some questions we all need to consider before deciding on how to make best use of any available study time.

I am a great fan of what was described in my profession and many others as Continuous Professional Development (CPD). As a doctor I was required to undertake an amount of CPD; to produce over a five year cycle a balanced spread of approved CPD to maintain my professional registration. I had to think about the subject area, think about how I could go about progressing, and then go out and find the way to resource that. I then had to reflect on what was accomplished and how it had changed or developed my practice.

With that experience I suggest that for any personal study in the Church of Scotland there are two key questions. What is it for? and What do I need?

‘What is it for?’ is the foundation of all of this thinking. It is for the development of your ministry, it is for you to get some thinking and development time in a protected space, it is to build up the body of Christ, it is to develop your resilience and it is for the glory of God.  It is for you and for the people you serve. But it is not possible that this list is complete and it is certainly not possible that it is all dealt with at the same time. So, prioritise and plan to cover several areas in different ways over a stretch of time.

The next question “What do I need?”  I think it starts with a series of questions such as what your role is now and how it is changing; about what is energising for you and what is draining; about elements of your remit you do well and others you struggle at, or about which parts of the Bible you are being directed to.  Whilst these are reasonable questions, they still don’t provide the answer about what to do, but they will throw up some suggestions.

It is a human tendency to have difficulty in assessing ourselves and I expect it is difficult to get objective feedback as a minister. Using others for support can be very useful, if you can find an independent voice to engage with. Ministerial Development Conversations are great for this. There will be certain elements of your remit you struggle with and maybe you delegate them or they may be ripe for a focus in CPD. A supportive other voice can help you untangle this.

As a doctor, CPD was not optional for me, and it might be helpful to think of it in this way for ministry. CPD is important but not urgent, so should be planned into your year creatively. CPD should be a response to you and your context and I think the hint is in the title – Continuous – it should happen more than once. Professional -your CPD is not just for you, but for the colleagues you work with, your congregation, and the other places you minister. Development – it makes a difference.

Overall, I found CPD to be hugely beneficial in my working life, and appreciated the challenge to make this part of my ongoing practice as the medical world shifted and developed throughout my career.


Chris Mackintosh is a recently trained Executive Coach and also holds a qualification in personal coaching.