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New Orleans Seminary’s new M.Div. track allows students to learn by experience

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–Recognizing that some students learn best by experience, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary has developed a new approach to its master of divinity education: a church ministry track with hands-on training in the local church as a large part of its curriculum, to be inaugurated this fall.

This program is designed for students interested in combining classical educational approaches with experiential learning through church-based skill development and mentoring relationships, said Perry Hancock, program director and associate dean of the graduate faculty.

Upon completion of the basic master of divinity ministerial competency component, which is based on seven core competencies identified in an earlier study at NOBTS, the student will finish the degree requirements through a local church ministry experience under the supervision of a field mentor, Hancock said.

“The church ministry track of our new master of divinity degree is the product of a creative NOBTS faculty task force which spent hundreds of hours to invent and design this innovative program,” said NOBTS Provost Steve Lemke, explaining how the new delivery system for theological education offers students the option to complete the master of divinity degree while practicing Christian ministry.

“While this is a new way of earning the M.Div. degree, it builds on old principles,” Lemke explained. “One early motto at NOBTS was ‘Learn to Do, Do to Learn.’ The Christian ministry track affords students the opportunity to study ministry not just in the classroom setting, but to learn by doing.”

Students interested in pursuing this educational method are required to complete 67 classroom hours based on seven competencies: biblical exposition, Christian theological heritage, disciple making, interpersonal skills, servant leadership, spiritual and character formation and worship leadership. The balance of the education, 19 hours, includes short-term workshops, and Internet and reading courses intermixed with actual ministry experiences under the supervision of experienced Christian mentors. The only on-campus requirements for this last year of study include three workshops, for a total of 18 days. The rest of the year is spent in professional development involving the following areas of concentrated study:

— worship/preaching, in which students lead public worship, design and deliver sermons and evaluate worship experiences.

— pastoral care, in which students participate in visitation at hospitals, nursing care facilities and congregational members’ homes.

— counseling, in which students support the congregation and the community through appropriate counseling ministries.

— teaching, in which students plan and conduct studies with a variety of age groups utilizing various teaching/learning styles.

— mission service, in which students participate in the congregation’s outreach ministries and network with community resources to meet needs.

— evangelism, in which students join the congregation in exploring a variety of ways to share the gospel and evaluate effort effectiveness.

— assimilation, in which students participate in the development, evaluation and/or implementation of efforts to assimilate and disciple new members.

— administration/leadership, in which students participate in the development and maintenance of the administrative tasks of the church.

— mobilization, in which students participate in the mobilization of God’s people for ministry including the identification and enlistment of leaders.

— networking, in which students experience the various support systems available from the association, state convention and denomination.

Students interested in applying for the church ministry track must complete an application for admission to the ministry praxis component of the degree, complete an interview with the program director, secure a cooperating church or approved internship, identify and enlist a qualified/approved mentor and develop initial learning/serving covenants.

Qualifying churches must agree to permit the student to be involved in a variety of ministries throughout the year, viewing the internship as an educational experience with ministry benefits. The church also must agree to enter into a learning/serving covenant with the student, mentor and NOBTS as well as establishing a field ministry team of volunteers who meet regularly with the student to assess the progress of the experience. For greatest success, the qualifying church must provide an emotionally and spiritually healthy environment for the practice of ministry.

Qualifying mentors must have earned a master of divinity (or equivalent) degree from an accredited institution and have sufficient experience in the ministry area pursued by the student.

In addition to being committed to personal growth and continuing education, the mentor must view himself or herself as an equipper, facilitator and supporter and be secure in his or her own identity and ministry. As an effective and mature Christian leader, the mentor must serve in the student’s current denomination and be willing to meet with the student weekly via e-mail and phone and face to face monthly, as well as being willing to tailor ministry activities to achieve the covenant goals.

Students, churches or those interested in serving as mentors who desire more information may contact Perry Hancock at 1-800-662-8701, ext. 3327, via e-mail at [email protected] or by visiting the seminary’s Internet site at www.nobts.edu/churchmin.

    About the Author

  • Shannon Baker

    Shannon Baker is director of communications for the Baptist Resource Network of Pennsylvania/South Jersey and editor of the Network’s weekly newsletter, BRN United.

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