Saturday, May 31, 2008

Creative Seminary Restructuring

This is another article in the creative things happening in theological education series.

It is interesting to see how many seminaries have restructured into ‘streams’ and ‘centres’ that offer courses, provide resources and special study emphases.

Creating Streams and Tracks
For many years this approach has been popular, the creation of streams or tracks—for Pastors, Youth Pastors, Chaplains, Social Workers, Overseas workers—selected by students according to what they perceive they will become when their formal theological education is over.

This can be useful for those who know clearly what they will do following their course but a high percentage of students commencing seminary do not know what lies ahead of their graduation and another mass of students change tracks throughout their seminary years. This is not a problem as these people usually represent the norm. In many ways not knowing where you are going is a good approach to theological education as it can make students more open to learning and exploration, rather than choosing subjects and eliminating others which do not appear to serve their ultimate career goals.


As Abraham and Sarah discovered, God often only reveals one step at a time and the most that we are called to do is to take one step forward.




Creating Seminary Centres (or ‘Centers’)
An increasingly popular trend is for seminaries to create ‘centres’. These have value for an institution in attracting funds for specific purposes, assigning staff, creating rallying points for students and building a clientele.

For students, ‘centres’ offer ‘meeting places’ for the like-minded, and in addition to courses there is a range of resources including such things as conferences, opportunities for ongoing education (‘scholars in residence), designated scholarships, focused web pages, internship and mentoring services and the production of online resources.

Check out Morling College in Sydney, Australia, as it 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. Many of its centres have streams or tracks.

Restructuring Purposes
Creating new structures will not automatically stimulate growth, attract more students or sharpen the vision of the institution. As Petronius Arbiter discovered and proclaimed back in 210 B.C.:

“We trained hard . . . but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams we would be reorganized. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganizing; and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency, and demoralization.”

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: Streams; A sign I saw recently in the Men’s Room at the Shanghai airport; Center organization at Wheaton College.