Set to Start in Fall of 2014
In mid-February I had the privilege of presiding over a faculty meeting that set Trinity on a new course. After nearly two years of careful work, much debate, and many meetings, our faculty unanimously voted to adopt a new and highly innovative curriculum for our M.Div. program. We are referring to it as "2+2": two years of residential learning followed by two years of serving and learning in a congregation. Students who enter the M.Div. program in the fall of 2014 will enter into this new way of forming leaders for Christ's church at work in the world. Why are we daring to let our curricular crayons start coloring outside the lines? And what do we want the eventual picture to look like?Everything we do at Trinity grows from a deep conviction that the world needs leaders who can further God's mission to heal and redeem all creation. But specifically, why this 2+2 model?
- Because we're convinced that the things Trinity has always done well - formation that integrates head and heart along with contextual learning that highly values the roles of congregations and practitioners - can be done even better.
- Because the potential ministries of excellent students are threatened by the rising costs of seminary education and we believe this model can lower those costs. (An ELCA M.Div. currently costs about $45,000 for just tuition and fees. Moving/living expenses are on top of this and that's where 2+2 can make a real difference.)
- Because things that can be taught in a classroom are not always best learned in a classroom. (Would we rather a student discuss reaching the unchurched and dechurched in a classroom, or learn how to take on these challenges in a context that's already meeting them?)
- Because we want to enculturate future leaders into healthy habits of life-long learning.
The first two years of the M.Div. program will look rather similar to what students experience now: core courses in Bible, church history, theology and the pastoral arts - the best of the basics. There will be increased opportunities to learn online, but much of the learning in the first two years will happen in the seminary community. And some new required areas of study are now in play: Spanish for ministry, church music, world religions and interreligious dialogue, and the global church. Our field education program, formerly called "Ministry in Context," is now being re-conceived and renamed "Leadership in Context."
It's the second two years that will be distinctly different. The course work previously delivered when students returned to campus after a one-year internship will now be delivered over two years (while students serve a congregation) in several ways: bringing intern cohorts back to campus for intensive coursework, via first-class online teaching (faculty will receive special training to do this), and by deploying some faculty to teach in congregational settings when internship cohorts gather there.
Because the 2+2 model will not add hours to the overall curriculum, because students will receive a stipend and housing for two years, and because the model will eliminate one complete move from the current pattern, we will actually reduce the cost of an M.Div. education!
A recent editorial in The Christian Century asserted that institutions have a hard time letting go of the old to invest time and energy in visionary thinking. It lamented that integration is often left for students to figure out on their own. It insisted that seminary education be revised with a greater emphasis on praxis and the twenty-first century needs of congregations. In response I can only say, "They haven't yet heard about what TLS is doing." Come to Columbus where 2+2 = formation.
More details to follow soon. Many prayers already answered!
Trinity Lutheran Seminary