Online MDiv and Ministry Training

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zsmcd

Puritan Board Freshman
I'm sure that I am probably beating a dead horse with this thread... :deadhorse:

...not entirely sure what the opinion is concerning online divinity schooling. But wouldn't it be a huge benefit for those who 1. do not have access to a traditional seminary education in their hometown and would have to move their families. 2. wish to stay under the care/mentorship of their elders/church and 3. might sense a call to stay in their hometown to be a minister of the Gospel?

I understand the benefit of being in a classroom (interaction w/ student and professors). However, wouldn't the local church be a great place to interact with what you are learning in your studies? And shouldn't pastors be able to provide the same sort of teaching/mentorship that a professor provides?
 

Bill The Baptist

Puritan Board Graduate
I'm not sure whether this is important to you or not, but ATS will not accredit a fully online MDiv program, and so any such programs that you may find will at best be accredited by a lesser agency such as TRACS.
 

Edward

Puritanboard Commissioner
Good to know, do you have a source with that info?

See Standard A.3.1.3 here: http://www.ats.edu/uploads/accrediting/documents/degree-program-standards.pdf

Because MDiv education expects regular and substantive student-faculty
interaction to achieve the stipulated learning outcomes, this interaction requires that
at least one year of full-time academic study or its equivalent shall be completed at
the main campus of the school awarding the degree or at an extension site of the
institution that has been approved for MDiv degree-granting status. An exception
may be granted if a school can demonstrate how its educational design and delivery
system accomplishes the learning outcomes associated with residential theological
study

And A.3.1.5 :

Courses should be provided on the institution’s main campus, on an approved
branch campus or approved extension site, or in an approved distance education
program that provides access to appropriate resources of faculty, library, and a com-
munity of learners pursuing a similar program of study
 

Bill The Baptist

Puritan Board Graduate
http://www.ats.edu/uploads/accrediting/documents/degree-program-standards.pdf

Section A.3.1.3. stipulates as follows:

"Because MDiv education expects regular and substantive student-faculty interaction to achieve the stipulated learning outcomes, this interaction requires that at least one year of full-time academic study or its equivalent shall be completed at the main campus of the school awarding the degree or at an extension site of the institution that has been approved for MDiv degree-granting status."
 

Edward

Puritanboard Commissioner
Section A.3.1.3. stipulates as follows:

"Because MDiv education expects regular and substantive student-faculty interaction to achieve the stipulated learning outcomes, this interaction requires that at least one year of full-time academic study or its equivalent shall be completed at the main campus of the school awarding the degree or at an extension site of the institution that has been approved for MDiv degree-granting status."

You left off the exception. It's technically possible to get accreditation, but probably not in practice. Looks like there is room for some lawyers to get involved. But this also may be a recognition that the old educational model is broken, and 'the times they are a'changin'.
 

Bill The Baptist

Puritan Board Graduate
Section A.3.1.3. stipulates as follows:

"Because MDiv education expects regular and substantive student-faculty interaction to achieve the stipulated learning outcomes, this interaction requires that at least one year of full-time academic study or its equivalent shall be completed at the main campus of the school awarding the degree or at an extension site of the institution that has been approved for MDiv degree-granting status."

You left off the exception. It's technically possible to get accreditation, but probably not in practice. Looks like there is room for some lawyers to get involved. But this also may be a recognition that the old educational model is broken, and 'the times they are a'changin'.

Indeed it will likely change in the future, and the language will allow for that, but for now they have yet to make such an exception. That is not to say that just because an institution is not accredited by ATS that it will not provide a quality education. It is just something to consider, especially if one plans to pursue academic work beyond the MDiv.
 

Bill The Baptist

Puritan Board Graduate
ABHE is seeking to become an alternative to ATS. While the academic standards of ATS are top notch, their theological standards are practically non-existent, and frankly there are schools who are accredited by ATS that I wouldn't send my dog to. https://www.abhe.org/
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Zach,

Let me encourage you that, if you can attend class in person, it is much richer than studying mostly self-directed. New Geneva has a satellite campus in Fredericksburg, VA (noticed you're in my "neighborhood"). Classes are taught by Pastors but they're seminary-level. Though I've been a student of theology for 20 years I have to say that being in Seminary classes for the past 6 years has impacted my understanding in ways I never thought it would. It really helps that the men are engaged in active ministry.
 

zsmcd

Puritan Board Freshman
Thanks all, I am on active duty and currently stationed in the metro DC area. But my "hometown" would be Charleston SC since that is where my wife is from and where we will be returning Lord willing.
 

Edward

Puritanboard Commissioner
Erskine (ARP) offers some classes in Charleston. You might be able to patch together that and their online offerings to minimize what would need to be taken in Due West or Columbia. You might want to PM some of the ARP pastors here as to what current issues might be with Erskine.

http://seminary.erskine.edu/erskine/locations/
 

DMcFadden

Puritanboard Commissioner
Models are changing by necessity. With the cost of on campus education at brick and mortar schools, it is becoming economically unsustainable to pile up a six figure debt for education when you plan to pastor a small congregation. There simply are not enough years to pay down some of these debts, unless a pastor is bi-vocational or has a highly compensated spouse. Since most denominations are woefully lacking in their support, it becomes a real question how long the present model can be continued.

However, FACE to FACE ministerial education is not a luxury, it is a NECESSITY! You simply cannot become a pastor by mastering a body of content. The work of ministry requires the kind of interaction you receive from seasoned senior laborers.

IF a person finds it necessary to do online education, it MUST be supplemented by some kind of an apprenticeship. Perhaps teaching pastors will emerge who will form cohorts of pastoral candidates to supervise, augmented by online delivery systems.

But, while the cost of in-person education can be high, the "cost" of an online only education will prove more "oostly" in terms of an inadequate preparation for actual ministry, in my opinion.
 

Toasty

Puritan Board Sophomore
Models are changing by necessity. With the cost of on campus education at brick and mortar schools, it is becoming economically unsustainable to pile up a six figure debt for education when you plan to pastor a small congregation. There simply are not enough years to pay down some of these debts, unless a pastor is bi-vocational or has a highly compensated spouse. Since most denominations are woefully lacking in their support, it becomes a real question how long the present model can be continued.

However, FACE to FACE ministerial education is not a luxury, it is a NECESSITY! You simply cannot become a pastor by mastering a body of content. The work of ministry requires the kind of interaction you receive from seasoned senior laborers.

IF a person finds it necessary to do online education, it MUST be supplemented by some kind of an apprenticeship. Perhaps teaching pastors will emerge who will form cohorts of pastoral candidates to supervise, augmented by online delivery systems.

But, while the cost of in-person education can be high, the "cost" of an online only education will prove more "oostly" in terms of an inadequate preparation for actual ministry, in my opinion.

I think a pastoral candidate should get practice preaching in front of a live audience, leading a Bible study, discipling people, counseling people, and so on.

Joining Toastmasters and being an active participant would be a good idea.
 

Edward

Puritanboard Commissioner
Joining Toastmasters and being an active participant would be a good idea.

I have run across several preachers over the years that would be greatly helped by Toastmasters. It is not, however, a substitute for a good course in preparing and delivering a sermon.
 

nicnap

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Let me encourage you that, if you can attend class in person, it is much richer than studying mostly self-directed. New Geneva has a satellite campus in Fredericksburg, VA (noticed you're in my "neighborhood"). Classes are taught by Pastors but they're seminary-level. Though I've been a student of theology for 20 years I have to say that being in Seminary classes for the past 6 years has impacted my understanding in ways I never thought it would. It really helps that the men are engaged in active ministry.

:ditto: :ditto: :ditto:
 

Grimmson

Puritan Board Sophomore
Both of your questions are good questions:
wouldn't the local church be a great place to interact with what you are learning in your studies?
Yep
And shouldn't pastors be able to provide the same sort of teaching/mentorship that a professor provides?
In theory, yes, but I find it interesting that many pastors cannot. And I would make the case that a local church, session, or denomination refusing to provide the education needed to be a pastor (and outsourcing to seminaries) is violating the Great Commission found in Matthew 28 (along with depending on sending missionaries through para-church organizations). I do not have issue with the existence of a Christian Academy, but I do not believe it should be over the church. And I do think such is the case today as represented by the requirement of the MDIV and the influence of professors towards potential ministers today. And this in turn brings me back to the quote from Tertullian in De praescriptione haereticorum (chapter 7):
“Quid ergo Athenis et Hierosolymis? quid academiae et ecclesiae? quid haereticis et christianis? Nostra institutio de porticu Solomonis est qui et ipse tradiderat Dominum in simplicitate cordis esse quaerendum. ”
The Rev. Peter Holmes translated this passage as the following:
What indeed has Athens to do with Jerusalem? What concord is there between the Academy and the Church? what between heretics and Christians? Our instruction comes from "the porch of Solomon," who had himself taught that "the Lord should be sought in simplicity of heart."

See http://www.tertullian.org/anf/anf03/anf03-24.htm#P3208_1148660

I will not go to the philosophies and heretics he is dealing with here, but I do think it can be applied today.

A seminary is not a church, it is an academic institution, period. And since it is an academic institution, it does not mean that it is obligated to prepare one for the work of the church. One of the professors at WSC even admitted this regarding academic institutions. He told me that the professors at WSC as an academic institution are not obligated to provide academic assistance to students who need help. If a representative of WSC wants to ask me who said that then I will tell him in a email. The point is that even though one may be going to a brick and mortar school, it does not mean that the student is getting the face to face time that the student needs. I do think the face to face time is needed for ministerial education. And the primary source and responsibility falls on the church.
 
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TheInquirer

Puritan Board Freshman
I would personally love to see seminaries become integrated into local churches. Until then, I really like the distance learning plus active ministry and being mentored in a local church model.

People are different. Some love classroom settings. Others like myself can't stand them and love the flexibility of distance education and staying in my local church.

An MDIV may not be offered but you can still get a great academic foundation with an M.A.R. and its variants. RTS has 3 fully accredited M.A. variants that are offered 100% online, no travel required - http://rts.edu/site/Academics/Degree_programs/MAR/globalc.aspx

The value of local church involvement and pastoral mentoring is going to depend on your local church and pastor. Some may do it well, others maybe not so well. In theory, I love the idea and it has worked well in my context but I am a bit different and not looking to be a paid minister. However, our pastors do try to make it a priority to invest time in the guys that are considering full time ministry.
 

Edward

Puritanboard Commissioner
I find it interesting that many pastors cannot

Unless a pastor is one of a fairly large staff of a large church (or at a microchurch), he's not going to have that much time for providing a seminary level education to a candidate. And given the scope that needs to be covered, the pastor is not likely to be equally skilled in all areas. It would be better stewardship (particularly if there are several candidates in the area) for the church to use its resources to subsidize an extension site or remote campus.
 

Edward

Puritanboard Commissioner
I would personally love to see seminaries become integrated into local churches.
Depends on what you mean by 'integrated'.
Knox Seminary is largely a product of Coral Ridge
Birmingham Seminary is a product of Briarwood
New Geneva Seminary is (is to the best of my recollection) a product of Village Seven
And Redeemer is a product of Park Cities.
 

TheInquirer

Puritan Board Freshman
Depends on what you mean by 'integrated'.
Knox Seminary is largely a product of Coral Ridge
Birmingham Seminary is a product of Briarwood
New Geneva Seminary is (is to the best of my recollection) a product of Village Seven
And Redeemer is a product of Park Cities.

I don't know the nature of the relationship of those seminaries to the respective churches but I mean going beyond located on the same campus. I would love to see seminaries as an outgrowth of local church ministries and under the authority of church officers. Yes there will be pluses and minuses compared with the current system, but I believe we need to train the heart and mind at the same time and break down the walls of division between church and seminary.
 

Worddoer

Puritan Board Freshman
So here is my comment and question.

First, the pastoral training model seems broken to me. Pastors should be trained by men who are elders and pastors. Second, the model is ridiculously expensive and unjustifiable in my view. Finally, I just saw a pew research survey that says that 49% of PCA members believe that homosexuality ought to be accepted in the culture. I would love to hear from some PCA men on what in the world is going on in that denomination. Collapse seems inevitable at this point. Hopefully my inference is obvious.
 

Toasty

Puritan Board Sophomore
The point is that even though one may be going to a brick and mortar school, it does not mean that the student is getting the face to face time that the student needs.

I agree. Some students do not talk that much in class. Some do not participate very much in class discussions. Some students don't spend a lot of time with their peers and professors outside of class.
 
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