Friday, January 31, 2014

The Future of Theological Education

A few weeks ago I attended consultation on, among other things, the future of graduate theological education. Robert Saler, Director of the Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Programs, presented 15 “Thesis for Discussion” on the topic. Indeed, Saler elicited some great discussion at the conference and still has me thinking. Here’s how: 
1.  I am increasingly convinced that the church needs innovative leaders that are fully conversant with culture. Or, as Saler put it, “Future ‘missionaries’ in the North American context will need to be skilled in the hermeneutics of culture as well as the Christian doctrinal and theological tradition…
Corollary: I remain unconvinced that our seminary faculty should be composed of so many Ph.D.-holding, briefcase-toting, book-writing, Greek-translating, teacher-scholars (YES, I love these folks and, on my best days, seek to be one.) But we need more entrepreneurs on our faculty. We need to care about number of retweets and page views as well as academic citations.
2.  Saler suggested, “It may be helpful to think of pastors with multiple sources of income, not as ‘bi-vocational,” but as having ONE vocation LIVED OUT in multiple ways.” Exactly. The point reminded me of a post I wrote back in 2009, “Why ‘Bi-Vocational’ is a Dirty Word.”
Corollary: I remain curious about to the possibilities of seminaries adding certificate programs in fields beyond the traditional M.Div. For instance, I would have loved to study graphic or web design at Columbia Seminary. If we expect future pastors to have multiple sources of income, our graduate theological education should support and model how.
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2 comments: said...
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I couldn't agree with you more about the need for a holistic approach to theological education. This spring (Lord willing) I will complete my MDiv and as much as I read for this program I often find myself reading on the other areas of ministry where I serve as well such as: graphic design, copy writing and video editing.

The question that probably comes to mind is, "What do these have to do with ministry?" The short answer is that in my context over the past few years these skills (dare I say gifts) have become more and more useful in the local church as we work to spread the gospel to our community. It appears as though these skills are meaningful and helpful in some contexts so they should be incorporated in some way in the studies of those who feel called to serve in a cultural context where visual stimuli abounds.