How are seminaries preparing students for effective, transformative ministry in an ever-changing culture? In this series, we interviewed seminary leaders from across North America to get their first-hand take on what’s trending in seminary education.
How is your school connecting seminary students with current church leaders—mentoring, internships, etc.?
MARSHALL SHELLEY, Director, Doctor of Ministry Program, Denver Seminary: We do this on two levels. First, our degree programs include a required training/mentoring component that connects each student with an academic mentor, a ministry mentor and a mentor from the business world. These relationships develop aspects of ministry leadership that can’t be learned in the classroom.
Second, we have a residency program with a number of churches in the area that pay for a portion of a student’s tuition in exchange for that student leading and serving in their ministry, under the supervision of the church’s pastor. These relationships benefit both the students and the churches.
BOB WHITESEL, Founding Professor, Wesley Seminary: From the very beginning of Wesley Seminary’s launch, I have stressed that spiritual formation and accountability are critical aspects of seminarians’ education that were missing when I was in seminary more than 30 years ago.
All of our M.Div. (master of divinity) students must be involved in church ministry at least 20 hours a week. Therefore, their homework consists of assignments that they apply weekly in their ministry setting. This keeps them connected firmly with church leaders. We also require a spiritual formation course every semester during the M.Div. and doctor of ministry degree programs. Students are required to find, meet with and report highlights from their journal to a spiritual mentor.
CLINTON E. ARNOLD, Dean, Talbot School of Theology: To better prepare future generations of students to be well-trained in the Scriptures and empowered by the Spirit, we are creating the Center for the Study of the Work and Ministry of the Holy Spirit Today. The center will not only conduct research related to the Holy Spirit, but will also enable students to learn from and network with Christian leaders who are at the forefront of what God is doing throughout the world. Our goal is for it to become a catalyst for networking, mentoring and internships for our students.
SHAWN C. BRANCH, Senior Leader, Threshold School of Ministry: All students enrolled in the full program are required to complete an internship. These internships are crafted to help them gain experience within their chosen ministry field. They are required to be involved at least 10 to 15 hours over the three years to help gain a full perspective of the life cycles of the ministry. Students are paired with an experienced practitioner who meets with them regularly to monitor and guide their progress.
LEROY GOERTZEN, Doctor of Ministry Director, Corban University: All of our graduate ministry programs require field experience, which we call Supervised Leadership Experience (SLE). Students in the M.Div. program are required to take four semesters of SLE, which is a rather involved program that requires the establishment of a covenant between the student and the ministry organization they are serving. A mentor from the organization covenants to oversee the student’s progress in ministry, requiring specific personal and vocational goals and objectives as well as assessment from Corban’s SLE director.
ED HINDSON, Dean, School of Divinity, Liberty University: We have multiple, full-time staff members whose job it is to build a network of churches as well as other ministries. The nature of these relationships is reciprocal. We hope to connect our students to opportunities, which we believe to be a benefit both to the student and to the ministry. We also believe that these relationships over time result in more students enrolling in our programs.
Read about more trends in seminary education:
- Equipping Lifelong Learners
- Responding to Church and Cultural Change
- Developing Diverse Leadership
- Combatting Biblical Illiteracy
- Safeguarding Against Ministry Burnout