Saturday, March 18, 2006

An idea for a Seminary Curriculum

An idea for a Seminary Curriculum

  1. Engage with God. As long as seminary is just another degree producing experience, it’s perfectly understandable. But the Christian life is about walking in a love relationship with Jesus. As the seminary community experiences the love of God together, each participant will grow in practices of prayer, worship, submission, love, etc.

  2. Engage with the Bible. This includes both an ability to figure out what the text means (yes, I know the ambiguity of that term and I’m happy with it) an ability to live it out, and to lead others to engage with it in similar ways.

  3. Engage with the Christian tradition. By partaking of Christian history and theology, one will not only know and understand the basic content, but to do with the end of becoming a participant in both.

  4. Engage with the Church. Each church has a culture and way of doing things. Leaders need to know how to discern and shape that culture as they lead the people in being and making disciples.

  5. Engage with people. We all come to seminary with a variety of people skills. Some (often the extraverts) find it easy, while others find it hard work (some of us introverts). As Christian leaders our engagement with people will include listening to them, paying attention to them, conversing with them, connecting them with the church and with Jesus (and his resources).

  6. Engage with culture. Every culture in history has had two conflicting propensities: to seek Jesus and to kill him. As Jesus’ followers we take up his mission of sharing (through word and embodiment) the Good News of the Kingdom and suffering the consequences.

After 6 months or a year of the basics, students will be separated into cohorts of ten or so, aiming for a balance in terms of personalities and spiritual gifts. These cohorts will then go through ministry experiences together. Three types of experience would be envisioned.
Experience in a long-established church. There are a bunch of churches out there that haven’t changed significantly in ages – except for decline in numbers and increase in age. How do you live out faithfulness in that context?
A cross cultural experience. Since seminaries are cross-cultural institutions, it’d be most useful to have two of these to increase the chances of the experience truly being cross cultural for all the students.
A six month immersion in the life and ministries of a growing church. What does it look like to reach people, draw them into the body and equip them for ministry? What models for ministry work in different kinds of context?
A final year church plant. In their last year of school the cohort will together plant a church, putting into practice everything they’ve learned. To keep one area from being saturated with church plants, the final year of class work would use TEE (Theological Education by Extension) model. After the year is up the cohort will be free to continue the church plant together, divide up and plant others, or take up posts in other congregations elsewhere.

What do you think?
What obvious things have I left out?
Are there any seminaries working this way today?

8 Comments:

Blogger John said...

It's a high-risk curriculum that will require students to depend heavily on the power of God for success.

I like it.

1:32 PM  
Blogger Christopher Drew said...

I like it too, but alas, many coming to seminary lack even basic knowledge of the bible. The only issue with your proposed cirriculum is that it would take most folks about 7 years.

5:07 PM  
Blogger Richard H said...

But if that 7 years includes planting a church, surely it's worth it!

6:06 PM  
Blogger John said...

So as long as those extra four years are paid for by the school with a nice salary so that I can support a family, I'll be glad to go to seminary for 7 years.

7:16 AM  
Blogger Steve Heyduck said...

You've got a plan here, Richard, that does a great job, it seems to me, of balancing the graduate school and the technical training that seminaries often find difficult to balance.

Practically speaking, it also strikes me as the kind of plan that, if further developed, could even draw financial support from visionary laity.

10:33 AM  
Blogger gmw said...

Sounds pretty thrilling...and practical in terms of preparing leaders for the church. Though I love school, and the academic parts of it, it does seem to me that we need to reckon with the cultural-embeddness of our Western academic model. Maybe it's not the only/best model for every culture...including ours...

It would be helpful to have something that brings together (1)the academic rigor that develops our minds and our creativity and that gives our ministry some theological integrity, and (2) an apprentice-ship approach (thank you, Eugene Peterson and Dallas Willard) that takes seriously doing and learning. I think that combination is supposed to come together in the model of serving a student appointment during seminary, but I'm not so sure that actually happens much.

2:52 PM  
Blogger gmw said...

oh, and I would incorporate some sort of strong spiritual direction component for every participant. maybe we get some Catholics to do it for us or something... That would be my #3 in my other comment.

4:38 PM  
Anonymous OneOfMany said...

Not an entire answer but at least part of it would be to refuse admission to seminary of any man or woman who had not first demonstrated a practical commitment to pastoral ministry with a proven record of productivity specifically in leading and growing a local church. If someone wants to do social work, etc., that is fine. But seminaries should not waste time or space duplicating what is offered as well or better at colleges and universities. Seminaries should prepare men and women for practical ministry in the local church setting. There are plenty of people already available who are qualified to administer institutions.
Second, every professor of evangelism or preaching should be evaluated and none retained unless he or she can demonstrate that they actually know how to effectively preach and do evangelism. Specifically a preaching professor should actually be able to preach so that laypeople are interested in hearing him or her preach. Applause by fellow academians is not a relevant evaluation. A professor of evangelism should only be that man or woman who has a proven track record of personally leading people to a saving faith in Christ. No amount of academic preparation should be at all considered as satisfying this requirement. Simply being the pastor of a large church that has large numbers of people joining should not be the relevant critieria. Evaluation should be based on how that man or woman actually goes out and seeks to share the gospel with lost people and on how many make a positive response.

4:21 PM  

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