Technology has created exciting new possibilities for theological education and the training of pastors. On-line programs provide students with the opportunity to pursue theological education without relocating to a residential seminary, relocating to a internship/vicarage and then relocating back to a seminary. This drastically reduces the cost of seminary education while making it possible for students to continue in current professions or work part-time. It allows the student to actively participate in congregational activities during their course of study.
While on-line programs fill an important need in theological education and will be an increasingly common option for students, there will also continue to be a need and desire for a more traditional, residential approach to theological education. Unfortunately, the costs of bricks and mortar are a heavy burden on existing institutions and are prohibitive for new ventures.
But the fact is that the church already has plenty of bricks and mortar, plenty of classrooms, plenty of places to gather students and faculty. These places exist within congregations all across the country, and many of these places go largely unused five or six days a week. Faithful and effective stewardship in changing times calls for a second look at the facilities and personnel already potentially available to the church for theological education.
Our Residential Option is that second look. By utilizing the facilities and personnel (mentor/coach) already available in congregations this program avoids excessive overhead costs while providing a simultaneously residential and contextual educational experience.
All students, whether studying from the context of their home or moving to one of our residentail option locations are working with a mentor/coach throughout their MDiv or Ministry Certificate program. For online only students, this may be a local church pastor, a volunteer pastor from a St. Paul Lutheran Seminary (SPLS) partner congregation or a staff member of SPLS. For students studying from a residential option location, the mentor will likely be the local senior pastor.
Churches serve as hosts to seminary students and faculty or staff for part or all of their theological education. If there is already a faculty member on their pastoral staff or among their membership, the contextual program is developed around this person. He or she serves as the onsite connection between SPLS, the students in residence, and the host congregation. The congregation and surrounding community serve as the “campus” for students desiring a residential seminary experience.
Benefits of Participation in the Residential Option…
The Residential Option offers a number of benefits to both students and congregations.
Students benefit from the relationship building that comes with living in community. The opportunity to have ongoing, direct conversation with other students, pastors or professors is a real benefit to some in the context of residential education. Technology can replicate most of this, but life together in community for some portion of theological education is a great gift for many students, faculty and the host congregation. With Residential Option, congregations are part of this community and have direct involvement in the preparation of pastors.
Having seminary students, faculty and staff participating in the life of the congregation creates a number of exciting opportunities for churches. Congregations receive many of the benefits of having a multi-person pastoral staff without the added costs and commitments. Students are available to lead service projects and mission trips, serve as mentors for youth and young adults, lead Bible studies and other educational events, visit homebound or ill members, develop community outreach programs, and even connect with local colleges and community groups. Seminary students are excited and brimming with ideas. Participation in the Residential Option program gives churches the opportunity to reap the rewards of that enthusiasm.
Most of the Residential Option participating churches have housing ideas and even lower cost rental possibilities available for our students. Options vary and space may be limited. Generally the residential option church will have suggestions for housing in close proximity to the church location.
Although there may be opportunity for remuneration for activities within the local church communtiy, again this will vary and certainly be limited. The residential option church will provide suggestions and information for local employment potential.
Contact Rev. Jon Jensen for specific information at firstname.lastname@example.org