* Many of the ideas in this paper have been posted separately on the Theologians Without Borders web site.
* Further ideas have been or will continue to be added to this site so check the previous articles, visit the site often and subscribe to its regular postings.
* Do let other theological educators know about this site by emailing this web address and putting a link to this site from your personal and organisation’s web site.
* Here the ideas appear in the one statement and they are gathered under common themes.
* People wanting to have a hard copy may download the article at this link:
Creativity in Theological Education.
The ideas in this paper are largely responses to a letter I wrote to scores of mainly Baptist theological educators when I asked them the simple question, “What creative things have you got happening in your seminary or what innovative things are you aware of in theological education?” I asked the question to get some current examples in preparation for giving a short address to the Baptist International Conference for Theological Education (BICTE) in Prague, 26-29 July 2008. I received an avalanche of emails in my inbox! For several days I read the responses and was greatly encouraged by what was going on. Sometimes people would begin their letter by saying, “I can’t think of anything creative happening in my small corner but there is this little thing” and then they would write about something that was truly inspirational.
I have posted (with permission) most of the ideas and responses in this paper on the web site Theologians Without Borders in order to:
* Stimulate creativity by the sharing of stories
* Use free and international publishing
* Invite comments and variations on the theme
* Benefit from the facility of hyperlinking and the search functions
* Foster networking as people follow up with writers of the ideas
* Become a living document that grows with new ideas
* Draw attention to the ministry of Theologians Without Borders.
+ There is no attempt to evaluate the worth or rate the creativity of each suggestion.
+ Not all these suggestions are from Baptist people or about Baptist activities but one of the creative aspects that appears in this paper is the collaboration that is taking place across the denominations.
+ Ideas are generally grouped together but not in any order of importance. Where some ideas straddle two or more themes, an arbitrary choice has been made as to where they are located.
+ My letter went out to a limited sample of Baptist theological educators so this paper does not seek to give a comprehensive overview or geographic coverage of creativity in theological education throughout the entire Baptist world.
+ Hopefully this paper will lead to the sharing of many more ideas.
The reports often came with reflections on what led to the creative ideas being formulated and tried. These are often contained in the stories but here is a summary in the way of headlines:
* Creativity and innovative thoughts come to people in different ways
* Some people have a gift for dreaming up “six impossible things before breakfast” while others find this harder
* We can all learn the art of creativity and innovation if we nurture the climate for the creative juices to flow
* Taking time out from our work, engaging in recreation and solitude can often inspire creative ideas
* Often inspiration will come when we are intentional and especially when ideas and problems are brainstormed
* Innovation more often comes when we are together in accordance with Tom Kelley who torpedoes the myth of the lone genius, believing that “great projects are achieved by great teams”
* Creativity and innovation often comes when we move away from our familiar surroundings to travel or live in foreign soil for a time
* Creativity can come when we have ‘our backs against the wall’ such as was the experience of Sioux Falls
* Jhumpa Lahire hinted at the growth of being planted in ‘unaccustomed earth’
* Eric Clapton attributed creativity to the crucible of suffering
* Robert Dessaix highlighted the value of whiling away the time
* Mahatma Gandhi said his most creative experience was getting thrown off a train
* Mozart devotees see discipline at the heart of the composer’s genius
* Paulo Coelho testified to the role of travel and pilgrimage
* John Cleese and the Monty Python troupe credit frustration as the catalyst
If creativity and innovation are about fostering the right conditions in which the juices flow, we know to know what this means for us.
GENERAL SEMINARY REFLECTIONS
Rowland Croucher is Director of John Mark Ministries and he has served as a Visiting teacher/Adjunct Professor at different seminaries in several countries. Being a keen observer of seminaries and their influence on pastors, Rowland notes these creative changes:
1. Theological colleges preparing future pastors for pastoral ministry as ‘vocational seminaries’ rather than purely academic institutions. About 95% of the pastors I talk to can’t see the value of Greek, Hebrew, and much of church history in their day-to-day pastoring. They’d have preferred a crash-course in using a lexicon then more ‘transferable concepts’ of a practical nature. Fortunately this is gradually changing.
2. Pedagogical methodologies moving from ‘jug-to-mug’ transfer of information, to transformative, interactive, action/reflection, ‘redemptive’ models of teaching (see Henri Nouwen’s excellent little book on this, Creative Ministry, which contrasts redemptive and coercive models of education). Theology lectures (for example) which don’t have a ‘wow’ element to them are, I believe, not conducive to doing much more than equipping people to pass exams rather than pass on something transformative.
Morling College, Sydney, Australia has developed Plunge, a “one year of focussed biblical and spiritual engagement for 18-23 year olds looking to journey deeper into life and faith.” It leads to a Certificate in Christian Studies but it is a first step for people testing out whether they want to plunge deeper.
It is interesting to see how seminaries have developed ‘centres’ that offer courses, provide resources and special study emphases. Morling College, Sydney, Australia, is one of the most ‘centred’ seminaries in the world with its Centre for Evangelism and Global Mission, a Centre for Christian Ethics and a Centre for Leadership .
* Lyn Scott, Director of Distance Education at Morling College, Sydney, Australia says: “Morling College has an extensive distance education program (about 220-230 students each semester) which offers courses from the most basic, through to certificate, diploma, degree and graduate diploma level. We cater for students of many denominations. We do not require any on campus attendance as we have students in other countries as well as throughout Australia and we recognize both the expense and inconvenience of on campus attendance for many people. We try to accommodate all situations by providing enough material for students without any access to a theological library, have some courses by workbook (for those without technological resources), supply another on audio CD and others on CD Rom. We use the internet but only in ways which do not disadvantage students with irregular internet access or intermittent electricity. Students may mix both distance and on campus study to fit in with family or work demands. These courses are regarded as equal in quality and standing to those offered on campus, although offered in a flexible mode.”
John Reid adds a note regarding Morling’s distance education programme: “I am presently on study leave but I have a couple of comments to make. They are not novel but they are exciting and empowering. I am presently writing a first subject in distance mode for post graduate work at Morling. We will be using CDs with hyperlinks for readings and online forum discussion groups for participating students. This medium seems to be the most appropriate as it is less intimidating than more sophisticated and more expensive WebCT methodologies and it is appears from our undergraduate distance teaching to be very useful for international students who work in the two thirds world. We presently have in excess of two hundred distance undergraduate students and look forward to the impact of the shift into teaching post graduate work using this methodology with the endorsement of the Australian College of Theology. [Accrediting body]
* Lilian Lim, President of the Asian Baptist Graduate Theological Seminary, reports that ABGTS is launching a three-year pilot project at Thailand BTS in Bangkok in its movement towards high tech learning. ABGTS is getting new computers and other equipment in this exploration of appropriate e-learning methods. Watch this space. Also ABGTS is making it possible for two teachers at a refugee Bible School to participate in doctoral studies through a seminary in Bangkok. This makes it possible for them to study with the Thai faculty, some Singaporeans and an Indonesian. Laptop computers have been purchased to help them to do their assignments and to communicate with ABGTS leaders.
* Myk Habets says, “Carey College in New Zealand has an online system (Moodle) and we use this to keep in contact with students (distance and onsite) with course notes, and information. They upload assignments onto it and have an email forum to carry on class discussions. This is working really well.”
* Thomas Chin says that the Malaysian Baptist Theological Seminary (MBTS) is offering courses through distance learning: “We are using the internet, CDs and correspondence. The trick is getting the program recognized to meet the accrediting standards. For a credible seminary program, there must be some face to face interactions. Providing books and magazine articles and doing this without infringing copyright law is an ongoing challenge. Access to information is critical but this can be a real problem, especially as we are not a big school. We are able to partner with various institutions where we can have access to their libraries online.”
SEMINARY COURSES BY VIDEO CONFERENCING
There are some seminaries that are using video conferencing technology over the Internet in which a teacher is located in one centre with a class of students, while at the same time students are tuning in from another or from multiple locations.
For seminaries this appears to be mainly from class to class not class to a student at home via their computer who might be located in a remote area.
This technology saves the teacher and seminary time in teaching and traveling, it adds more students and gives richness as people pool their insights from different geographical contexts. Video conferencing is live so it offers interaction back and forth between the teacher and students and between the classes in different centres.
Take a Glimpse
Take a look at what the Dallas Theological Seminary is doing with video conferencing. Judging by the video clip on their site it seems to be a positive experience, at least for the teachers.
* The FAQ section explains what it is, why it is offered and it presents some special DTS features. Not all courses are offered at Dallas in this way (presumably because it is deemed to be not as good as the real thing) and during a semester the teacher will appear at least once at each teaching centre to teach in the flesh.
* There is a need for teachers to adjust their teaching style and be attentive to interacting and listening to students via the screens. There is a significant cost outlay, ongoing broadcasting costs and probably a need for technical assistants to be ready at each centre to assist when there are transmission challenges.
* This technology depends on the availability of speedy and effective Broadband Internet facilities to ensure that connection is clear and consistent.
* Unfortunately, in seminaries and Bible Schools in many parts of the world where they could benefit from this method, they will be restricted by poor or no Internet service as well as high establishment and running costs.
* When video conferencing first came on the scene the pundits said it would cut back on business people doing so much travel. But the word is that with low quality connections and the favoured, old-fashioned approach of meeting people face to face to negotiate and strike deals, it has meant that video conferencing has not caught on as the prophets said it would. But will the soaring oil costs and the corresponding effect on the airline industry mean that video conferencing or an improved incarnation might come into its own?
* See the article on ‘telepresence’—the next step up from video conferencing
SEMINARIES BRANCHING OUT
It is interesting to see how some seminaries are multiplying their effectiveness and increasing their student numbers and multicultural mix by growing branches that stretch over national regions and across international borders.
One seminary that excels in sprouting branches is the Malaysian Baptist Theological Seminary (MBTS). At Penang they have an international community and every word in chapel, the lecture theatre and the dining room is translated from Chinese to English or English to Chinese. Courses are also taught in Bahasa Malay, which represents a further way of crossing borders.
Trunks and Branches
Thomas Chin writes about the emergence of ‘branches’ that grow from the seminary ‘trunk’ in Penang, Malaysia. In addition to the branch at Klang Valley (Kuala Lumpur), the Malaysian Baptist Theological Seminary (MBTS) is seeking to take the seminary to people, especially in remote places, where there are not many opportunities for people to get a solid theological education.
The seminary currently has ten branches in other countries with another eight in the process of being finalised. Faculty staff members in Penang are encouraged to spend several weeks each year teaching in one or more of the branches. This is a strategic way of reaching a large and growing group of people who otherwise would not be able to experience a seminary education.
Mission not a ‘Money Spinner’
More students do not necessarily bring about more income from fees as these branches are extending into countries where the church is poor. Consequently the seminary at the home base is often subsidising or covering the entire cost of the student’s fees as well as paying for airfares to fly teachers to conduct intensives. Funds are often raised specifically for extension work like this in other countries.
There are several other seminaries that are growing international ‘branches’ like MBTS, often to equip people of their own culture who are part of the great Diaspora of people who live in other countries to work and send money home.
Many of these ‘branches’ extend into countries where there is not the freedom to learn and teach, hence, the unspecific nature of this section.
In addition to seminaries intentionally sprouting branches in the ‘uttermost parts’, there are ‘Macedonian calls’ of help and requests from small and fragile learning centres that they be grafted into a stronger seminary. This involves an adjustment for both parties but it provides the weaker school with access to teachers and accredited degree programmes.
TURNING LOCAL CHURCHES INTO SEMINARIES
Joyce Abugan, Principal of the Philippine Baptist Theological Seminary (PBTS), shares a way of assisting the training of leaders in and through the local church:
I ask local pastors who would like to train key leaders to avail themselves of the extension approach to do this through their local church.
Some of the Benefits:
* It is economical since you don’t have to rent a facility
* The church receives direct visible results when leaders are trained
* It has a flexible schedule since leaders can agree on a common time
* It saves travel time because most of the students are already located in the area.
George Wieland, New Testament lecturer from Carey Baptist College, New Zealand, shares an idea on bringing together academy and church, blending teaching, resourcing and partnership in ministry. George says:
It started as a pragmatic response rather than a theoretically driven initiative, but it sits well with my theoretical convictions!
I have researched, written and taught on mission in the New Testament letter to Titus and have sometimes taught on the topic in local churches e.g. in one-day seminars or church camps.
One church asked me to help them think about mission in their local context by presenting some of my Mission in Titus material in the form of a series of four sermons on consecutive Sundays. I was unable to block out a month of Sundays for this but I also felt that a visiting speaker trying to apply what was learned from the New Testament to their own context was a second best. Surely it would be more fruitful for the church itself to make the application?
So I proposed an alternative – I could go along for one Sunday service but a few weeks before their “mission” month I would spend an evening with a group of people from the church, resourcing them to think through and prepare a series of Sunday services in which mission insights from Titus would be presented and applied to their local context.
That is what we did. I met with about a dozen people (the church’s pastors, worship leaders, others involved in aspects of the church’s leadership and teaching ministry) for 2-3 hours one evening. We gathered after work for pizza and then launched into a teaching session in which I presented background information, some exegesis, theological ideas and some practical suggestions for application in four main areas.
One of the pastors took responsibility for dividing the participants into work groups, one for each of four Sunday services, and allocating to each a particular aspect to develop.
I returned to preach at the first of the four “Mission Insights from Titus” Sundays. The team for that week had prepared appropriate worship, there was a drama to reinforce the main application and one member of the group had written a song taking up some of the ideas from Titus.
The dozen participants were themselves greatly enthused by the project and the excitement was rippling out through the church. After that first service Home Group leaders asked if their groups could be involved in thinking through the mission issues, so with a little more input from me the pastor overseeing the series produced study notes so that the groups could participate. The senior pastor commented that the process of involving members of the church in working on the Biblical text and relating it to their own situation had galvanized the church as a whole and there was a sense of ownership that would have been difficult to generate from a series of sermons from someone from elsewhere.
I felt that the experiment had been fruitful for the church, building Biblical and theological capacity, and from the participation of the church members I in turn was able to learn what the ideas I was drawing from the Biblical text looked like translated into a specific local context.
Off-Campus Classes in Church Leadership are run by the Union of Indonesian Baptist Churches in areas that do not have any Baptist Seminary. The teachers are called ‘Flying Teachers’ and classes are held at someone’s house or a church. Teachers who come from other countries usually will stay for a week. The students are church leaders, not new believers. Payment of tuition fees is by instalment and given whenever they have money. The teachers often have to help to find a place for the students to sleep because they come from different areas.
In this paper Allan describes the non-residential modular study program that has been running since 2004 at the Asia Graduate School of Theology (Malaysia/Singapore/ Thailand), a consortium of most of the theological/Bible training institutions in Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand which are linked to the Asia Theological Association (the evangelical network with about 170 member and associate institutions).
Initially, two post-graduate programs in Christian Education are offered by AGST-MST: a Master of Theology (Education) and a Doctor of Philosophy (Education). Further programs are being developed. Some key features of AGST-MST’s ethos in developing its programs: The programs are structured to enable participants to study without massive ministry and family upheavals. The program fees are set to be affordable. AGST-MST is concerned to train Asian Christian leaders in their own context, which means that they run the programs locally.
“Tabor College offers a Master of Arts in Church Practice in partnership with Open Seminary. The program runs over six semesters or three years and each semester has one unit where participants learn from a church, their lecturer and their peers. The module of study starts with reading, continues with a week of learning from Tabor lecturers and an experienced leader, missionary or pastor, and is concluded with a research phase where students work in cluster groups on projects related to the ministry context visited and their own situations.”
“The following modules make up the course:
* Theologia: doing theology in context
* Koinonia: leading and building community
* Kerygma: communicating the gospel
* Leitourgia: leading people in the presence of God
* Diakonia: missional church service
* Paideia: spiritual formation
“The intensive happens in the context of ministry – so last semester’s unit was on worship and the teaching happened at two churches which are exploring and leading the way in alternative worship and contemporary worship respectively.”
“The Forge Mission Training Network was started in Melbourne ten years ago by Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost, authors of The Shaping of Things to Come. It now runs courses in six states of Australia, in New Zealand and it is starting to develop networks in the United States. Forge runs a training program focused on church planting, and increasingly also remissionalisation, in the Western world.”
“The foundational year long ‘internship’ consists of:
* 3 four day intensives, on ‘Paradigms of the Missional Church’, ‘Spirituality, Sustainability & Discipleship’ and ‘Pioneering Leadership’. These are based on the skills Forge identified church planters needed and that colleges were not always offering. We give students readings for background, but the focus of teaching at intensives is on inspiration and stories of innovative mission more than information and theory.
* A missional field placement, reflecting on the intern’s own missionary context or a new one that stretches their comfort zone
* Fortnightly coaching for an experienced missional practitioner
* Monthly cluster group meetings with other interns”
“Past interns are now planting house-churches, cafe churches, doing community development in schools and in some of the poorest areas of Melbourne. They are seeking to live out their lives as missionaries in their everyday lives. Forge is not a church, denomination or college but thrives on win-win relationships with each of those groups e.g. they are not accredited in their own right but work through partnerships with other colleges for whom they teach courses. About one third of interns do their training through an accredited college towards a BTh, GradDipMin or MA, and two-thirds do it just for its own sake without wanting accreditation.”
“Forge invites denominations and churches to partner with them for $1000 per year and in exchange gives two free tickets to any and every.”
“Forge’s staff members are working 1-to-3 days per week, paid or voluntary, and are involved in some other context of mission upon which they draw for their teaching and the supervision of interns.”
“A new internship program called ‘IN*FORMATION Internships’ is providing an option both for younger teachers and students. Studies are pitched at a diploma level with a focus on training in Baptist churches. Students are also asked to complete an internship with a local Baptist church. This could be in a range of areas such as working with youth, offering pastoral care to the elderly, preaching and leading Bible studies. Interns are provided with a ministry supervisor who they meet with on a regular basis.”
“In terms of theological training, units have been established to link with the ministry that is being undertaken by the interns. Units offered include Evangelism, the Big Questions (issues that Christians have wrestled with for centuries), Spirituality, Introduction to the Bible, Growing as Leaders, Leading Bible Studies and 21st Century Jesus (a theology unit looking at how we see Jesus today.)”
“The aim of these studies has been to build a bridge between Whitley College, the Baptist Union and Baptist churches throughout Victoria. Teachers are mainly women and men in their 30’s who are ministers throughout Victoria. Units are offered online for regional students.”
“Each year we draw the interns together for 2 weeks, where 2 subjects are taught and we build relationships. Interns stay in contact with one another throughout the year by means of web-based discussions. At the time of writing we have 17 interns for our first year who are each completing four units.”
TRAINING THROUGH NETWORKS
You’ve heard of classes and courses, intensives and modules. Now there’s a growing interest in training through networks.
This isn’t just a matter of semantics. Networks bring people together (permanently or for a set term) around a shared interest or learning objective (e.g. New Testament Studies, Fourth Gospel Scholars, Rural Ministry, Emerging church, Peace Studies and Peacemaking).
Networks are about equality—everyone with the same right to share resources in person or it is often done or supplemented through the Internet by email, Yahoo Groups or a social networking platform like Facebook, Twitter or MySpace. Recently on Facebook there have sprung up networks (or groups) called Empowering Peacemakers in your Community, the Australian Public Theology Network and the Baptist Historical Society.
‘Attendance’ obligations on a network isn’t usually required or stipulated, in contrast to a traditional course. It becomes more a case of ‘take it or leave it’ which seems to suit the new generation of learners.
Darren Cronshaw writes: “At the Baptist Union of Victoria (Australia) we are developing a Leadership Training Network to gather together those interested or involved in training for networking, information sharing and inspiration.”
Teaching as Tutorials
Graham Hill, Lecturer in Pastoral and Practical studies at Morling College, Sydney, Australia, shares a simple idea of how he has transformed lectures into tutorials with good effect:
This semester I have been running one session per weekly lecture as a tutorial. My class times look like this:
Ministry Formation – one 50 minute tutorial, and then two 50 minute lectures
Youth in the Churches – two 50 minute lectures, and then one 50 minute tutorial
Leadership – one 50 minute lecture and then one 50 minute tutorial
The tutorials are adding dynamism and a participatory element that students enjoy and learn from.”
“In addition to the use of debates, role plays and simulation games, I am now using a case study in every lecture. I do this to help focus the topic, get students grappling with specifics and illustrate the method of practical theology, that is, reflection on specific mission situations.”
“In our ministerial training unit DP260.30 Theological Reflection for Ministry, the year long unit is taught completely in three-week-long case studies, with the first week given to outlining the case and eliciting from students the central issues, the second week given to some theological input (perhaps using experts in biblical studies or systematic theology or whatever) and the third given to detailed discussion by students according to guidelines and their written assignments.”
The Harvard Business School (HBS), which claims to have pioneered learning by the case study method, makes this pitch for learning by case studies:
“We believe that the case method is by far the most powerful way to learn the skills required to manage, and to lead.”
“The case method forces students to grapple with exactly the kinds of decisions and dilemmas that managers confront every day. In doing so, it redefines the traditional educational dynamic in which the professor dispenses knowledge and students passively receive it. The case method creates a classroom in which students succeed not by simply absorbing facts and theories, but also by exercising the skills of leadership and teamwork in the face of real problems. Under the skilful guidance of a faculty member, they work together to analyze and synthesize conflicting data and points of view, to define and prioritize goals, to persuade and inspire others who think differently, to make tough decisions with uncertain information, and to seize opportunity in the face of doubt.”
“Pioneered by HBS faculty in the 1920s, the case method began as a way of importing slices of business reality into the classroom in order to breathe life and instil greater meaning into the lessons of management education. Today, although we also make use of lectures, simulations, fieldwork, and other forms of teaching as appropriate, more than 80 percent of HBS classes are built on the case method.”
While the Harvard statement relates specifically to the learning of leadership and management, it is applicable to other disciplines. Other Harvard information addresses these subjects:
What is an HBS Case?
How does the case method work?
Learning from one another
Why is peer learning so important?
The role of faculty
Is the case method effective?
Myk Habets from Carey College says:
“I have a Café Theos I set up – interested students sign up to read something I provide (a book chapter, article, case study) and over coffee we theologically reflect and then apply. This builds relationships. It seems to work well if we get interested students signing up.”
Learning Ministry from Practitioners
In teaching about ministry subjects (including Field Education), Graham Hill, Lecturer in Pastoral and Practical studies at Morling College, Sydney, Australia, shares about gathering insights from ‘experts’ or ‘specialists’:
“Over the 26 lecture weeks, almost every week would include a guest ‘specialist’–I do the first lecture and then the guest talks about the application in their own setting, church, mission or ministry. These include pastors of large churches, pastors of established churches being reshaped or transformed, leaders of mission and parachurch ministries, specialists in multicultural settings, evangelists and missionaries, youth and children’s specialists, etc. This is a rich and creative year for the students, with a balance between theory and practical insight.”
On this theme Rowland Croucher writes:
“Several seasoned clergy have wondered, in our conversations, why they’ve never been asked to interact with trainee-pastors in our seminaries. Although they might not be academics, they felt that half a century’s ministry-experience might have something to offer future pastors!”
Learning from Conferences
Ross Langmead from Whitley College Melbourne says:
“We accredit all sorts of ‘outside teaching events’ by asking students to attend and then ‘top up’ with further reading, perhaps a tutorial or two and some assignments. Examples are the units Conference Study in Theology (built around a conference), Exposure to Cross-cultural Mission (built around a short-term mission trip), Context Training (built around a GiA intensive week), and three intensives built around intensives run by the Forge Missional Training Network (emerging church movement).”
One minor thing I am trialling with a colleague this year is having students keep a journal of their OT reading. I have found in my brief experience that students studying the Old Testament read what scholars have to say about the OT, but never get to reading it for themselves. Here is a sample extract from our course outline:
b) A reading journal of Genesis – 2 Kings 14 (15%)
The primary purpose of this exercise is for you to read carefully the text of the Old Testament so that you might develop an understanding of the structure and main themes of the individual books.
This assessment will be submitted in two parts. The first part will cover the books of the Pentateuch (Genesis to Deuteronomy). The second part will cover the books of Joshua to 2 Kings 14. The reason for submitting in two parts is so that you can receive back your journal notes on the Pentateuch to prepare for the final exam (in which there will be a question based on your work here – see above).
As you read, you will need to determine the main themes of each book (Genesis – 1 Kings). This is best done chapter by chapter or section by section with a sentence or two that summarises the content and/or theme(s) of each section. After finishing the book, try to outline the main structure of the book (in broad terms) and summarise its main themes in a couple of paragraphs. You are only expected to engage with the text of the Old Testament itself, and will be marked on this. However, you may choose to supplement your journal with notes from the set texts, commentaries and the class notes.
You can present this assignment in either two exercise books (one for each part of the assignment), or hand-written A4 pages bound in two parts, or in typed form bound in two parts. The marker will be looking mainly for a demonstration that the text of the Old Testament has been carefully read.
You would do well to draw up a reading plan for yourself to ensure that you allow adequate time to read the text before the assignment is due. Note the due dates:
Part A (Genesis to Deuteronomy) 10th April, 2008 (week 8)
Part B (Joshua to 2 Kings 14) 5th June, 2008 (week 13)
Creative Teaching Methods
Johnson Lim, Singapore-based author and teacher in several subjects, including Old Testament and Homiletics, provides this bundle of creative teaching methods:
Some key words for me include: Relevance, (Re) Contextualisation and Creativity.
1) Contextualisation e.g. When I taught the book of Ruth, I used popular Indonesian songs to illustrate and also I sought to make it a musical to make the book more exciting.
2) Instead of exams I have the students (a small group of 5) choose a theological theme from the book and act it out (drama, mime, ventriloquist, powerpoint, video, etc). Also I get students to compose poetry, songs, do a painting or a sculpture to illustrate the book. At times they do a debate on the pros and cons.
3) To teach Genesis, I use great paintings (Renaissance) to compare and contrast and teach them how to interpret art.
4) I sometimes get students to cut out articles on certain biblical themes from newspapers, magazines to illustrate the contemporariness of the book.
5) In teaching biblical languages, I use Hebrew songs to augment their knowledge and help them appreciate the Hebrew culture. I also bring students to the synagogue to dialogue with the Rabbi.
6) I show a DVD clip to illustrate and reinforce the teaching.
7) I prepare a pre-Test on the course (all would do badly and get depressed) and at the end of the course prepare a post-test with similar questions to help them learn.
Creative Classes in Biblical Exegesis
Keith Dyer, Whitley College, writes:
“It’s not new (as it goes back to Athol Gill, of course), but I still find that our Introduction to the New Testament unit is one of the few I know of that BEGINS each 3-hour session with an open-ended exegetical workshop discussion (in groups up to 12 for 1 hour) that the students have prepared from a worksheet given out the week before. THEN, after that, we talk about hermeneutical methods, relevant background material, and so on, that emerge out of the discussion. I still find that most courses/units (and introductory texts) are structured the other way around: here are the methods, their strengths and weaknesses, now go and do it — OR, even more typically, here is a survey of the NT books, some relevant background history, and some methods/questions to guide your exegesis, now go and do it (and maybe some texts are looked at as examples and illustrations).”
“All of the workshop papers which we give out to the students now have some visual element to them also (a relevant art work on the cover).”
The Bible and Contemporary Culture
Keith Dyer, Whitley College says:
“The ‘Theologies and Practices of Love’ unit is running again this year for the second time! Mark Brett (Hebrew Bible) and I (New Testament) have resolved that every week we will incorporate some kind of hermeneutically based reflection at the beginning, on the Love theme, such as a Biblical text, a video clip, newspaper cutting, a popular song or piece of music, or as we had this morning, a student presenting a summary of Henri Nouwen’s reflections on Rembrandt’s Prodigal Son painting (using a big print placed in front of the class). It was a very moving beginning, and led to some of the most helpful discussions we’ve had with the group. Our resolve as a group is to engage the Biblical text in the context of some cultural icons of contemporary culture in every session. The results are varied and unpredictable at times, but we are convinced it is worth persevering.”
Creative Assessment in Old Testament Studies
Tim Bulkeley of Carey Baptist College in New Zealand writes:
As a teacher of Old Testament I try to be creative in my assessment packages for three main reasons. Ever since (as a recent BSc graduate) I was given the task: “Write an essay on Amos for next week” I have been convinced that essays ought not to be the only means of assessment in biblical studies. I also cringe at the inexpressive readings of Scripture we often suffer in church, worse still are the readings that express unintended meanings! The third motive is a desire to bridge the gap between scholarship and church, which we all claim “ought” not to exist, but which nevertheless does.
Analysis and Synthesis
Studying a text involves both analysis and subsequent synthesis. Analysis alone gives one a good understanding of the component parts of the text. Depending on the approach used this may be: a historical understanding of where the text came from, or a literary understanding of the techniques its author(s) used. However, and especially when the text is ancient and one that a faith community accepts as authoritative, a synthetic move is also necessary – to work out what the text means, and to explain that meaning to others in the community of faith.
Exegesis and Application
Often the assignments that we set for students address one of these moves in isolation from the other. So, an “exegesis” provides good practice in analysis, and a good assessment of the student’s skill in analyzing texts. However, when the teacher asks for a strong “application” section to the exegesis – at least in my experience – either application “takes over” and little analysis gets reported (and often the message seems only tortuously related to the text ) or the “application” reads like some pious thoughts tacked on to the end of the otherwise careful and scholarly essay.
Performing the Bible Text
One way I have addressed this problem is through an assignment I call “Performing a Biblical Text”. By “perform” I mean presenting the text (in written or oral form) in such a way that its interpretation is clear to an audience. The instructions require the student to add as few words to the text as possible. Performances have included: setting a text to music, disposing the words on a poster, screen presentations which combine the text with images, acting out the “story” using the words of scripture (a “dramatized reading”) and the like.
Justifying the Performance
As well as the performance itself students are required to prepare a “justification” which explains their performance in terms of the features of, and techniques used in, the text which suggest the “reading” presented by the performance. It is this justification rather than the artistic quality of the performance itself which is assessed and marked.
The main advantages of this assessment are:
* Students are required both to analyse with care, and to attend to putting things back together into a working whole. The two moves cannot be separated or a poorer mark results.
* Students are often “inspired” with enthusiasm and sometimes produce much better work than I expect (on the basis of previous conventional tasks).
* Students produce work that they actually use in church settings – so both integrating study and life and improving the quality and richness of Bible reading in church.
* Students sometimes tell me that they have undertaken a similar process in real life use of the Bible.
The main disadvantages of this assessment are:
* It requires more work from the student, and so leaves less time in the class mix for reading.
It can lead to sad cases where the performance (as a performance) is brilliant, but because of poor exegesis the student does not get the mark they (and I) think the performance was “worth”.
* One needs to be careful that students without acting, graphical, music skills do not feel that “they cannot do it”. In fact some of the least “artistic” students have produced great results – remember the performance itself is not marked as a show!
It is difficult to explain clearly to students the first time they do it – on the other hand, how much time and effort is required to explain “write an exegesis”?
Click on Project Instructions to see the written information the students received.
Click on Project Marking Sheet to see the criteria against which the projects were assessed.
Here are two sample performances, I have not presented the students justifications – that were marked – you can work them out for yourselves (as homework 😉 these were chosen as good examples of what is possible, and because they are quite different from one another. They were also two for which the students concerned had given permission for me to show them off!
Displaying Project Performances
The Genesis 1 project was presented in the way of a physical object. The Genesis 22 project was presented as a Powerpoint performance. The programme Camtasia has been used to display these projects on the Internet.
Creative Assessment in Australia
Rowland Croucher offers these ideas:
* The DMin students I taught at Fuller Seminary were excited by the idea of writing a chapter for publication in a devotional book (in the Still Waters Deep Waters series) as part of their class-work. Their efforts were not simply to collect dust somewhere but provide spiritual nurture to many others.
* My own DMin dissertation was published as a book, together with a kit comprising DVDs, discussion questions etc.
* A Presbyterian theological student in Melbourne uses his acquired learning to edit Wikipedia articles on the topics he’s studying. He’s worked on about 20+ articles already.
* Others engage with people on Usenet newsgroups (see http://jmm.aaa.net.au/articles/16255.htm), blogs, etc.
Creative Assessment in South Africa
Regina Claus (Germany) writes of her time in South Africa:
“A creative venture was a course I gave at the Baptist Convention College in Soweto, South Africa, on project management. Knowing that the future pastors would be confronted with the challenge of not only being the spiritual leaders of the churches, but also having to manage social projects like a church owned kindergarten/day care centre, or care for aids patients, or low-maintenance income generation projects, I invited the students to choose their own project and develop a project plan from A – Z, present it to the class and use the classes feedback to fine tune the plan. Outside the curriculum I encouraged the students to evaluate after 6 – 12 months what they had implemented of their plan.”
“Some students kept to their theological studies and developed a plan for a youth ministry project, an evangelistic outreach or such, but some used the opportunity to develop their own income generating project, knowing that their meagre pastors’ salary would not get them far in terms of raising ‘lobola’ (marriage endowment) and supporting a family. The best idea was from a student in the Far North who was determined to go back to his village and start a church there. He wanted to open a high fashion hair saloon because he said the villagers wanted to look as stylish as the townspeople but could not afford to travel far to town just to go to a hair dresser. With a wicked smile he added: If they sit in my chair for treatment, they can’t run away while I tell them about Jesus!”
Ross says: “I take students to a Mind.Body.Spirit Festival where they help with the running of our Community of Hope stall. They share with people contemplating new spirituality via a number of methods including the Tarot. At the stall we have used a prayer chair, interaction with angel stories, all for the purpose of sharing the gospel. It’s simply the Acts 17 missional approach.” (For further information see ‘Beyond Prediction: The Tarot and your Spirituality’ by Ross Clifford & John Drane and Exhibition Evangelism by Philip Johnson).
When Louise Kretzschmar, Systematic Theology and Ethics Professor at UNISA, conducted an ethics class in South Africa, she partnered with an environmental organization for funding and took a group of about 15 African students to a nature reserve. It was their first experience of their own country’s wilderness, and the encounter was very impressive. Dealing with the fear of wild animals, discovering their own roots as a ‘people of nature’, studying environmental issues and African mythology, all this made for a very holistic experience.”
Louise Kretzschmar adds these ideas about theological education:
* Instead of using only essays (within Distance education or residential education) as a means of assessment, using projects and portfolios. The latter is a type of journal that the student keeps with answers to questions posed in the study material, encounters with others encouraged by the material etc. A colleague, Madge Karecki, in teaching an inter-faith course, got her students to meet with a person from another faith, go to the mosque with them, have a meal with their family and then write up their experiences and discussions after each encounter.
* I also share part of my life story with the students (e.g. in an “Ethics and spirituality” course) and encourage them to write their own stories and link it with the teaching material.
* At UNISA I include pictures and other graphic material as well as many stories and “activities” that encourage interaction with the material (This is important especially for distance education).
* I think that actual encounters with people from other faiths or cultures or classes, etc. are essential.
* Also it is valuable for students to visit another college of a different religious tradition where they can attend each other’s classes, play some sport together and then have a meal and conversation.
* Visiting churches and projects may also be better than just inviting speakers; students need to be exposed to different contexts and ministries.
* Spiritual formation is an essential part of theological education. Jill Manton in Melbourne has been doing this in the establishment of the WellSpring Centre, a church-based centre that offers students (and others) a space and place to explore their faith in addition to undertaking college courses on spirituality.
* At the Soweto College we also had an annual week long Winter School of Theology attended by students, lecturers, denominational leaders, pastors, church members, and international visitors (including students)—this was a dynamic mix.
“We seek to set assignments that require students to relate theology to life. For example, in the course Faith and the Environment, students have to research a specific environmental issue and ask what difference, if any, it makes to think or act Christianly on it. In the course, ‘Interfaith Dialogue’, students not only go out to temples and mosques; they have to interview a believer in another faith. For many students this is the first time they’ve spoken in depth to a Muslim, Jew, Hindu or Buddhist. In the course, ‘Reconciliation’, students are required to design a project that builds peace or reconciliation and prepare a proposal for their church or agency to that effect. In the course, New Missional Communities, students have to dream up and develop a proposal for an ‘emerging church’ for a specific sub-cultural group.”
Josué Fonseca writes about the Seminario Teológico Bautista (Baptist Theological Seminary) in Santiago, Chile, going on mission together”:
* This week (commencing 25 May 2008) the complete Seminary community will travel 2000 kms by bus (36 hours trip) to do a week of mission in northern Chile.
* Faculty, students and personnel will perform many activities as an In-Field-Training-theology project—a way to celebrate our 69 anniversary as Seminary.
* We will assist 30 local churches in eight major cities, witnessing in radio, newspapers, open air, home visiting, rallies, lectures at secondary schools, visit to prisons, elderly homes, children homes, poor villages, army bases, and so on.
* Here you have one in seminary completely in action next week. It is two decades now that we as Seminary realized that theological education without practising together can be only theoretical and empty in many ways. Being together in full action is another completely different story.
* It could have been much easier just to send the students off on assignment while their professors stayed back to mark essays and write lectures. But think of the sense of community that will be built up by professors and students travelling and ministering together? What opportunities for theological reflection! What credibility this is likely to give as students see their teachers engage in ministry.
Canada and USA
In reflecting on his journey as a theological teacher Paul Dekar writes about cross-cultural teaching and immersion experiences:
“We gained confidence that finding our truest self does not lead us away from the world, but to purposeful ways to love and serve God in the world. We struggled to relate to the global context.”
“I encouraged students to explore the wisdom that those who have lived in many places are not likely to be deceived by the local errors or one’s native village. Quoting an East African proverb, ‘One who has never traveled thinks mother is the only cook,’ I instituted cross-cultural learning experiences.”
“In late 1986 I facilitated an immersion course that became a staple of my teaching. At McMaster, I led groups to India, Bolivia, aboriginal communities in Ontario and Nunavut, and in Toronto with refugees. At Memphis Theological Seminary, I have continued to offer such courses, leading students in Cameroon, Trinidad, urban Memphis, and aboriginal communities in Oklahoma and Nunavut.” (68-69)
To read the entire article, follow this link:
Paul Dekar, ‘Teaching Evangelism in a Community of Learning’, Journal of the Academy for Evangelism in Theological Education, Volume Twenty-Two, 2006-2007, 64-84.
Creativity through Experimentation
One of the good things is to see the measure of experimentation going on. Often we do not know how a teaching method or course will go until it is tried and a good idea is to run something as an experiment. Here is an example from Ross Langmead from Whitley College who says:
“I am experimenting with teaching a topic at two levels. I teach a one-semester degree unit called ‘The Multicultural Church’. I also offer a four evening workshop for all comers, at lower rates and couched in plain English, on Exploring Multicultural Church.”
INTEGRATIVE AND HOLISTIC EDUCATION
Carey Baptist College in Auckland, New Zealand has introduced a ‘thematic integrative seminar’ which is a compulsory capstone course in their BAppTheol. (Laurie Guy).
Myk Habets elaborates:
“The most creative thing we do is the Thematic Integrative Seminar. The brainchild of Paul Windsor, it is now in its 5th year. Final year students of the Bachelor of Applied Theology have to do this.”
“It starts with a two day seminar and ends with a two day seminar. In the first seminar, four of us on staff teach the method then model it. We take a theme (song lyric, advertising, contemporary slavery, etc – a feature of our contemporary society) and we go From – through – To. From a contextual engagement with the ‘text’ (sociology or anthropology or psychology or philosophy or…) then Through a biblical and theological engagement with it (Biblical: creation-fall-redemption-renewal or a dramatic five act play approach, Theological: taking one of the –ologies and interrogating the text for meaning), then To: looking for missional implications.”
“In the second two day seminar at the end of the course students present for ten minutes a creative approach to their missional outcomes. The closest thing we can find to what we are doing is Vanhoozer’s book, Everyday Theology. But we find this book (our new text for the course) is weak on the missional ‘To’ but strong on the contextual ‘From’.”
“This Integrative Seminar is taught and marked by four faculty (biblical, theological and applied) and models the qualities of research and discipleship we try to inculcate in our students. I think it is quite unique, innovative, and works really well!”
“Students are required to read Vanhoozer’s book, read two essays from students of previous years, submit a 6000 word research essay (From – through – To), give a ten minute presentation to class and finally interact with the work of others in an appreciatively critical way. All essays are double marked by two of the four faculty involved.”
Thomas Chin at MBTS says:
“Theological education must be more than the academic in a seminary context. We have for many years tried to approach theological education holistically. That means there is formation not just of the head, but of the heart and hands. We try to bring spiritual disciplines into the curriculum, including the mentoring of students and practical elements.
Ross Langmead of Whitley College writes about learning that seeks to integrate the theological disciplines with mission practice:
“We have a unit designed for the concluding year of a theology degree, called ‘Integrating Theological Study’. It invites students to search for an integrating metaphor or image and explore what study has meant for them and where it might lead them. It allows for assignments in the form of art and music, combined with theological reflection.”
The Seminario Teológico Bautista (STB) offers these creative initiatives, according to the Dean, Josué Fonseca.
* New projects: offering Christian literature for Sunday school, e-learning, continuing education, itinerant faculty, modules taught at churches, in other cities, programs for regularization of studies, programs for youth, women, or lay leaders, not just for ministry, etc.
* Classes, using all sorts of methodologies, ‘develop a project’ way of learning, small groups, etc.
* Use of the Web and a web site, photolog, blogs, YouTube advertising, live videoconference with professors abroad, etc.
* Openness; as we are opening the Seminary for all people, from all denominations, including the chance for people outside the seminary community to join all of our activities: retreats, worship services, evangelistic programs, concerts, rallies and choirs. This also includes professors from other traditions to teach. Openness for accreditation as well.
* Inclusiveness, equality for men or women in joining the same programs, including pastoral ministry, as a revolutionary concept in churches here; we have developed a ‘Cross-form Commitment’, a kind of ethical code for all personnel, faculty and students that exemplifies what we want in theological education, values, moral standards, roles, identity and goals.
* We have sought to be creative in administration especially by renting our buildings partially, using facilities for a Retreat Centre and using dorms as Christian Hostel.
* We have engaged in cooperation by preparing agreements for mutual enrichment with other theological schools, with Catholic Faculty and with Christian world organisations.
* We have encouraged participation in the world of the culture with Universities and with the Government in areas of mutual interest. This has involved serving the Congress of the Republic in areas of consultancy on ethical issues and laws (perspectives on divorce law), the abolition of the death penalty, peace and reconciliation, non-discrimination regulations and the day-after pill.
* Worship, creativity in worship services, always intending to create a sound environment for new ideas, new guest speakers, such as a Rabbi, an Orthodox or Roman priest and what we called ‘silence-in worship service’. We arrange worship services according to different traditions such as an Anabaptist service from the 17th century, a John Wesley styled service, a John Bunyan service (we called it ‘The Pilgrim Service’), a nonconformist service, ‘the Franciscan service’, the ‘women service’, the ‘hip-hop service’ etc.
CREATING NEW CLIENTELES
Non-English Speaking Background (NESB) Church Leaders
Missiologist Ross Langmead says:
“Whitley College in Melbourne has tackled the training of Non-English Speaking Background (NESB) pastors and leaders by introducing the TransFormation Programme, a three-year, rolling, once-a-month Saturday-based theology and leadership course for new migrant leaders and pastors, with the option to get diploma credit and/or lead to ordination.”
Ross adds, “It takes great creativity to teach in very plain English while not dumbing-down the content. It has drawn good numbers (more than 50 each year), brought together the ethnically-based churches and been deeply appreciated by these people who are so keen to learn but many of whom work full-time in factories as well as pastoring their congregations.”
By providing a course to overcome the barriers of time, language and money, Whitley College has developed a new group of people that it is serving.
Miyon Chung, Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology at Torch Trinity Graduate School in Seoul, Korea, describes the way her seminary changed gears to provide training for new groups of people:
A special programme has been created by Torch Seminary for CEOs.
* On Tuesday, March 8th 2008, the Christian CEO Program debuted at Torch Trinity with a dinner and an address from the President of the Seminary. Approximately 130 professionals registered and many had to be turned away because of a lack of space.
* The Christian CEO Program challenges executives to think theologically and biblically about management, business and personal development.
* The Christian CEO Program will last throughout the semester with weekly meetings on Tuesday evenings and Saturday mornings. Several open-classroom trips are also scheduled during the term. The participants will get an opportunity to reassess their successful careers and their professional passions from a Christian perspective.
Miyon Chung says of Torch:
* We offer Master of Divinity studies to professionals who are mostly between their mid 40s to 65 years of age. We have just graduated a man who is over 70!
* These are men and woman who often are highly successful in their career and are looking for “meaningful” work after retirement.
* Our president challenges them and many want to take an early retirement, go abroad (missions) or work with Christian NGOs.
* Because they are already well educated they like the challenge of learning Greek, Hebrew and other subjects in a Master of Divinity.
* Classes for this group of people are offered on two evenings and all day Saturday.
* To make it even more attractive we get some of the most respected professors to teach special electives.
* People in this course are not only excellent students but they are proving to be able ministers and a good source of scholarship for students!
Thomas Chin says: “The Malaysian Baptist Theological Seminary (MBTS) has been offering training to people who are looking for meaningful service following retirement. One mature-aged couple has finished their Master of Divinity and now they spend a big part of each year teaching in the branches of the seminary in different parts of Asia.”
CREATIVE TEACHER DEVELOPMENT
Personal Story—Paul Dekar
In an article Paul Dekar writes about teaching evangelism and mission by offering reflections on thirty-two year as a professor of evangelism. He names some important assumptions of his calling as a theological educator, describes the pain he encountered in his early teaching career, his dilemma in teaching courses on evangelism and mission, how educators like Parker Palmer and Thomas Merton helped him to rethink his pedagogy and how this practically translates into his teaching style.
Here is a sample from Paul Dekar’s story:
“As a graduate student in the 1960s and early 1970s, the curricula of institutions I attended offered excellent scholarship but little occasion for spiritual growth or the work of justice. In 1976, when I began to teach at McMaster Divinity College in Hamilton, Ontario, I found a dearth of concern for spirituality and justice in the curriculum. Moreover, in my own life, I did not find my experience of teaching work as enlivening.”
“A practicing Christian and an activist formed during the sixties at the University of California, Berkeley, I had been a conscientious objector to war, a journey that took me to Africa for three years. Now an instructor preparing leaders to serve as preachers, teachers, and missionaries I was trying to bring the pain of the world into the classroom. As I designed courses, I ran into a presupposition of modernity. A secular realm of facts and a sacred sphere of values must be kept separate. I was not to move from teaching about God to knowing firsthand the One to whom the Bible bears witness with the result that I experienced alienation, separateness, and disconnection from heart, students, and colleagues.”
Paul Dekar’s pain led him to teach in different way with different responses: “I offered the course regularly. Overwhelmingly, feedback was positive. When I have re-connected with students from my McMaster years, they have claimed it was the elective that most shaped their ministry.”
Read further about Paul’s dilemma in teaching a course on The Mission of the Church and the way that educators like Parker Palmer and Thomas Merton have helped him to rethink his pedagogy.
Creative Teaching Methodology
* John Reid draws our attention to the research of Charles Foster whose extensive work of researching seminaries across the USA for three years has been funded by the Carnegie Foundation. A Media Summary, entitled ‘Educating Clergy: Teaching Practices and Pastoral Imagination’ can be found at this link and a Study Guide at this link. The survey forms and list of participating institutions can be found at this link.
* Several USA seminaries have been hosting projects under the general title of Sustaining Pastoral Excellence which are sponsored by Lilly Endowment grants. (George Bullard) This is focusing the learning needs and identifying the best ways that the subjects and skills are to be taught.
* The Columbia Partnership at www.thecolumbiapartnership.org, is teaching eight different masters level courses in Christian leadership coaching for Western Seminary in Portland or at their Portland, Sacramento, and San Jose campuses. (George Bullard)
Keith Dyer, Whitley College says:
“We now have data projectors in the ceiling of each main classroom at Whitley (and accompanying sound systems), so we are working on using PowerPoint (or the superior Apple Keynote software) for more than just lecture summaries with pictures (helpful though they can be). I’m taking my laptop to every class and hooking up with Accordance Bible software running (in the background), indeed, most of the Biblical Studies lecturers in the Melbourne College of Divinity [Melbourne consortium] have now bought Apple computers just so that they can use Accordance software which enables simple or complicated Bible searches, vocabulary comparisons, translational comparisons between Hebrew, Greek, Latin and all English versions to be done on the spot in response to students’ questions and portrayed textually, or graphically or with reference to the entire picture library of the Biblical Archaeology Society, the entire corpus of Josephus or the entire Jewish Mishna, just for a few examples. It is an extraordinarily powerful tool and one that could be abused or misused easily but already it has helped sharpen up and brighten up some of the discussions in my classes. I realise that not all seminaries can afford such resources but many can right now, and their availability (like the copies of the Gospels in the early church) will increase greatly in the next few years. We need to use these resources creatively (in life-giving ways) rather than just as a chance to get across more pre-digested content! We need to equip our students to use such resources wisely.”
Seminaries on YouTube and Online
There are many seminaries that are putting lectures on YouTube (or their web site) and making these available for the public to learn e.g. Yale University-Introduction to the Old Testament course.
Videos are also being used to promote the College e.g. Check out the YouTube range from Carey College in Auckland or click on this Introduction to the Carey Faculty. Other videos are at Carey Baptist College Online. The North America Baptist Seminary (NABS) in Sioux Falls, South Dakota has a series on YouTube at this link: NABS. Check out the video entitled, ‘Seminary for More than Preparing Pastors’.
Seminary Web Sites
It is amazing to reflect on the way that less than two decades ago, 1992 to be precise, the World Wide Web was launched. Since then so many seminaries have established their seminary web site which has become the chief means of informing prospective students of your style, your teachers, your courses—just about everything is posted there. Often the website is the base for the seminary’s distance education programme.
Frequent newsletters and postings are the name of the game to keep your site fresh and worthy of attracting return visits. Even blogs from the Seminary President and teachers are becoming routine and are informational and promotional tools for communicating with students, staff and supporters.
Geoff Pound says, “As part of my role in interviewing new students, I asked one young man from Singapore how he decided to come and study in Melbourne, Australia. He simply said, ‘The website. I checked out your College’s web site and what I read convinced me that this was the one!” He wasn’t the only student who decided on the basis of what was found on the website. Now websites and email are indispensable for those that have them. Yet, hundreds of Bible Schools around the world do not yet have a website and they operate in places where the Internet link is so hit and miss that email contact is haphazard.
When David Coffey, President of the Baptist World Alliance, was asked about creative happenings that he saw in theological education, he immediately said, “The Arab Baptist Theological Seminary (ABTS) in Beirut. He added, “I am most impressed by the leadership of Elie Haddad who is the Provost of the Arab Baptist Seminary. He is a walking example of creativity. Read his page on their web site on Preparing Christian leaders for the World. Their annual Middle East Conference is a gem and the material they produce is cutting edge. Many Baptists keep their heads down when there is political conflict—look at the number of MPs in Lebanon who have lost their lives through car bombs—the ABTS seems to get stuck in and makes a valuable contribution to the wider region. Their web site gives many clues about their life.”
Acadia Divinity College
It is impressive to see all that Acadia is offering to the world from its web site in Nova Scotia, Canada—the President’s welcome, course information, an events calendar, an academic calendar, ways of donating to the seminary and much more.
The Arcadia web site also has:
* Regular written news and resource postings, to which you can freely subscribe. This does not make you a member like many subscriptions do when you sign up but a subscription means you get an alert (in your inbox or reader) when there is another posting
* Podcasts of chapel preachers to which people can subscribe and receive an alert every time a chapel service is posted.
* Video Lectures including this sampling:
* For people who are living in countries a long way from a seminary, web sites like Arcadia’s offer wonderful theological resources.
* Web sites say much about the seminary, they become effective in recruiting and they contribute significantly to the promotion of the institution and its many events.
* If a web side has a rich bounty in its ‘shop window’, people will ‘bookmark’ the site, make it one of their favourites and freely subscribe to their regular offerings.
* More information is at this posting.
CREATIVE SEMINARY COLLABORATION
From 1928 the Danish Baptist Seminary had been in existence but toward the end of the twentieth century there were serious questions about whether it could survive.
According to Principal Bent Hylleberg, the old Baptist Seminary was rurally situated, about 60 km from Copenhagen. Learning was campus-centered, it was mono-denominational ‘the Baptist College’, its reason for being was primarily to train people for the pastoral ministry, it was in maintenance mode, it had a traditional curriculum, the non-academic setting was not helpful, the three year programme had no accreditation and there were only five to seven students with two teachers. It was hardly viable and it needed partners to survive.
It so happened that a new bridge (the Oresund) between Malmø (Sweden) and Copenhagen (Denmark) was being built (construction started in 1995) to unite the two cities thus creating the largest city area in the Nordic countries.
The Danish Baptist Seminary leaders contacted the church-based theological school in Malmø two years before the new bridge was completed (it was opened in 2000) asking for a joint venture in education. At the same time they invited the small Danish free churches into the process, the Pentecostals, the Covenant Church and the charismatic branch of the Lutheran State church to join them.
Not satisfied with simply enlarging the student community and teaching staff the vision was to create a new model to provide church-based theological education, to train leaders for missional churches in an old Christendom-culture and to get an academic accreditation in the Swedish educational system.
Add Some Salt
So there emerged the Scandinavian Academy of Leadership and Theology (SALT), a group of churches and theological schools that have worked together to create a relevant training for the contemporary church.
SALT is a joint venture of Örebro Mission School (S), Hyllie Park Folk High School in Malmö (S), and the following partners in Denmark: Baptist Theological Seminary, The Pentecostal Church in Copenhagen, The Lutheran organization OASE, and The Covenant Church.
The SALT partners have agreed on a Mission Statement. SALT belongs within the framework of theological traditions formed by international evangelical theology, the charismatic renewal, and the quest for Christian unity as professed by the ecumenical movement.
The purpose and goal of SALT is:
* To provide a church based theological education for the leaders of the contemporary church.
* To focus on the identity of the Christian Church and its mission in a pluralistic and international environment.
* To contribute to the renewal of theology from a mission oriented perspective.
* SALT offers a richly faceted and flexible education with opportunity for specialization.
Students can study full time as well as part time, use the distance study opportunity or attend single courses.
* SALT, therefore, seeks to meet the needs for education of preachers, as well as evangelists, youth workers, music workers, social workers, etc.
* SALT offers a church based theological education. The academic theological studies are always related to the missionary mandate of the church and to the current challenges in church and society.
The education has two main components:
o Studies, aimed at providing thorough knowledge of theological subjects.
o Church work and mentoring.
o SALT provides teaching and learning in four different ways.
§ The class room.
§ Study groups.
§ The Internet.
§ Special assignments.
o Due to the church related nature of many of the SALT courses not all of these can be accredited. SALT is seeking international relations in order to provide possibility of having the full three year program accredited officially.
* SALT now has about 30 students, 5 teachers (2 full time and 3 half time) + 1 working on his PhD.
* It is an inter-confessional community thus bringing enrichment.
* It is multicultural (5 partners in DK; 3 partners in Scandinavia)
* It is church-based education, with mentors appointed from churches
* Students are located in a congregational setting
* Students are two days per week in the Academy (Copenhagen/Malmo)
* The focus is for training people for leadership with the provision of different tracks according to the gifts and calling of students
* It has an urban setting with an academic milieu and is richer with theological partners
* Accreditation comes from Orebro Theological University, Sweden
* The degree offered is a three year Bachelor of Theology
* A Youth Ministry programme is accredited by Bristol College, UK
In 1999, Bent Hylleberg (then the Principal of the Danish Baptist seminary) presented a paper to the Academic and Theological Work Group of the BWA when it met in Dresden. This paper gives more background to this bridge-building in theological education but in 1999 the new model was still being created, hence, like the Nordic bridge, it is an unfinished story. Bent’s paper can be downloaded from this link: Denmark as a Case Study in Theological Education.
A further developmental stage is that SALT is now linked into a Consortium of Baptist Theological schools in Europe (CEBTS) which is designed to give mutual fellowship and support and is looking at practical cooperation in such things as library resources, common registration of courses and staff sharing.
The bridge linking Sweden and Denmark is most often referred to as Öresundsbron or Øresundsbroen, respectively. The bridge company itself insists on Øresundsbron, a compromise between the two languages which would symbolize a common cultural identity of the region. Perhaps this name is symbolic also of the kind of compromise that needs to be made by partners in a theological enterprise which stretches across denominations and cultures.
Thomas Chin at MBTS says:
“Partnering with different schools and organizations has given us a huge advantage. Our partnership with Compassion International has made us a leading school in child education.”
“Our partnership with Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (USA) enables us to offer credible PhD programs in different disciplines.”
“Our partnership with various mission agencies enables us to have a very strong mission program.”
“First, we have found a way through shared agreements to find a way to economize our ministry with the help of an ABC college and an ELCA college a few blocks from us. We now share some degrees with one of them, and have found a sharing of services to be helpful to the other. Our comptroller left and we moved the business responsibilities to the business office of Augustana College for one-third of the cost. When our IT person left, we opened an agreement for IT service for the cost of the salary (with 11 people helping us instead of one). When Augustana’s staff psychologists retired, we took over their campus’s counseling needs for a cost savings to them. In fact, we are moving to a new facility near their campus and will merge our theological collection into their library which is across the street and will use their chapel space for our chapels, saving costs in our building project. We are building classrooms that they can use and planning to use classrooms they are not using because they are too small (just right for us).”
“Regarding motivation, economic necessity has led us to some extremely creative thinking. I believe that small to medium size seminaries now and in the future will need to find creative ways to continue to meet the needs of the church by their ministries. Now we are stronger and getting stronger with finding ways to economize.”
“Second, we are moving to an educational approach that we call “contextual learning.” Instead of the classroom providing the hub of learning, ministry contexts become the focus. Some courses are in residence, some independent, some mentored, some through internet connection, etc. We are in the process of curricular changes so that the ministry context (whatever and wherever) provides the locus of learning. We have had to educate mentors, churches and ministry sites, students, and faculty to embrace a paradigm shift in how we achieve the competencies and outcomes we desire in our graduates. In addition, this model shifts to a lifelong learning emphasis that is most helpful for long term health in ministry. We are still in process, but it has opened new doors for meeting the needs of today’s church.”
“This second creative change came about by the realities of church needs. If less and less students are willing to leave their regions or local church ministries, coupled with reticence on the part of churches to support seminaries that only seem to wish the support to support their own agenda(s), then we need to find creative ways to equip future ministers given the current and not the past needs. We still exist only to serve the church. But we need to listen to them.”
Mike Hagen adds this comment: “One of the shortcomings with seminary education remains how little ministry practice students receive. Supervision and/or internships are either too little or not integrated into the whole learning experience. We are attempting to integrate. A by-product is that many underserved churches by partnering with us have a chance to have a pastor and pay for their education with faculty and mentors walking with them.”
This is a work in progress. Watch this space or check the President’s blog where occasionally he writes about it.
About the future Mike says: “Even faculty portfolios will look different. We believe we cannot add a ‘program’ on to what we are doing; instead, we need to rethink the whole enterprise and we are several years into the redesign. Bits are in place. In other words, lest I be misunderstood, we are changing so that the whole learning enterprise will look different.”
“Most of the ‘vision casting’ processes created by the corporate world and adopted by our churches are designed to discover that which comes from us.”1
“In the April/June issue of Baptist World magazine, my editorial made reference to On the Way to Trust2, a 38-page resource to which four distinguished British Baptist theological educators collaborated – Paul Fiddes, Brian Haymes, Richard Kidd and Michael Quicke. The booklet is a very accessible resource produced in the last decade of the twentieth century partly to aid those who develop structures of oversight within Baptist churches and their wider ecclesial bodies not only in that century but in the current one as well. Today, we offer our readers excerpts of this very valuable resource.
“[W]e need a theology of trust in our relationships together… Baptists have always been at their best when they have had the trust of another” (p. 34).
“… uncompromising rejection of worldly notions of leadership and authority lies at the heart of the covenant community of trust.” (p. 32) “Instead of organizing hierarchies of control, God gives creative freedom for people to belong together in mutual trust which is open and vulnerable.” (p. 30)
“ … models of leadership emerge in the world of management which seem to commend themselves as ways of ensuring success and which cut straight tracks across what people may see as inefficient and untidy bonds of trust.” (p. 31)
“Many contemporary models for effective leadership are totally task-oriented as they outline techniques to influence people and achieve goals and objectives… [T]hese leadership aids can easily subvert the very texture of the gift of life in covenant relationship which is in the unique offering of Christ. By focusing on the directing to be done and the tasks to be achieved they can discount the vulnerabilities and possibilities of mature trust in community.” (pp. 32-33)
“Strategic alliances in the world of business today take three basic forms, which we may call Networking, Sharing Resources and Joint Ventures.” (p. 23)
“The fashionable reaction against denominations may be in accord with the prayer of Christ that ‘… all may be one,’ but it might also just be a desire to keep our association with each other under our own control. God always challenges us to pay the cost of living in trust.” (pp. 26-27)
Callam concludes: “We are grateful for the guidance the excerpted portions we have offered provide for all those who make decisions about relevant structures for churches and wider ecclesial bodies for the twenty-first century.”
“When bonds of trust are replaced by systems and structures of control, churches and ecclesial bodies lose their pneumatic center, their spiritual core, and are reduced to convenient bodies of affinity!”
1 Robert Tinsley, Finding God’s Vision: Mission and the New Realities. Veritas Publishing, 2005. p. 13.
2 Richard Kidd, ed., On the Way to Trust. Whitley Publications, 1997.
CREATIVE FUNDING AND STAFFING
Tony Cupit writes: “In Ghana a few years back, the Baptist Convention (which formally had been supported by the International Mission Board) set up a business person’s group to help fund the work of the Convention. There was a committed group of reasonably wealthy laymen committed to this and it was working well while I was there. That might not be unusual in the Western world but to me it was a surprising and creative initiative in West Africa.”
Geoff Pound said:
“Many of the Bible Schools in China take students who come from poor regions where they cannot pay course fees and their churches are unable to assist much with the tuition and residential living costs. In addition to finding generous support from seminaries in other countries many of the schools run on finance donated by Christian business people.”
Thomas Chin says: “MBTS is blessed to be able to recruit more people power in our seminary by securing different kinds of capable people and not having to pay their salaries. They can be faith workers, retired people and people supported by a sending body.”
Torch Seminary has a ministry known as “angel professors”—those who teach in other seminaries and Bible Schools where there is a shortage of faculty. Torch teachers serve during seminary breaks or while they are on sabbatical. The seminary pays for the travel costs and the lecturers pay for other expenses. Some use this opportunity to visit Torch’s international alumnae and support their ministries.
This is a great expression of Theologians Without Borders and a strategic commitment by the seminary to make this international ‘angel’ ministry fly.
CREATIVITY WITH BOOKS
You may not be able to serve across the borders in a teaching capacity at this stage but you can help by sending books across borders to enrich somebody’s theological education.
Roving pastor and chairman of the Malaysian Baptist Theological Seminary (MBTS), Isaac Yim, says in his travels, “I am experimenting with some simple approaches at the grass root level in remote places. [These include]:
* Providing 10 basic books for pastors in the language they can read and at the level of their understanding.
* Setting up theological libraries in remote areas, like the Baptist Bible College in Kathmandu, Nepal or some places in China. I have a project to raise funds to buy books for them in these two places—English books and Chinese books. I have friends who donate good used books to theological schools. English books are more readily available than any other languages.
* He has many good books suited to undergraduate/graduate seminary studies and some funds to pay freight costs in sending them overseas. Most books donated to ‘Living Libraries’ come from retiring pastors or pastors moving from house to a retirement village.
* ‘Living Libraries’ is a vital ministry. Many students in Bible and Theological Colleges around the world have little or no access to even basic textbooks.
* The idea of ‘Living Libraries’ is simple: collect suitable books (new and used) from people, churches and other agencies and send them to people who need them.
* Where possible, they also seek to provide other assistance to colleges, such as subscriptions to periodicals.
* So far ‘Living Libraries’ has sent over 8,000 books to 14 locations in nine countries! More information is available from this link.
As indicated earlier, this paper is a work in progress and new creative ideas continue to be added to the site, Theologians Without Borders.
Dr Geoff Pound
(Chair, Coordinating Committee of Theologians Without Borders)