Like many organizations, Winebrenner Seminary is slowly emerging from some of the challenges and restrictions that were present over the past year. Others have written about how COVID-19 impacted their lives and/or ministries. As we reflect upon the past year, it’s worth examining how COVID-19 changed things.
One of the most helpful ways that I’ve encountered to think about the effects of COVID-19 on Winebrenner Seminary is to think about it as an accelerator. Trent Grable, Director of Strategy & Leadership Development for the Churches of God, General Conference, also serves as Assistant Professor of Business & Director of the Center for Creative Collaboration at Indiana Tech shares that “Accelerators, like chemical accelerators, help things move along more quickly…These can be intentionally added, but sometimes they are just there and happen naturally.” At Winebrenner, COVID-19 has served as an accelerator in which many ideas advanced more rapidly than they would have without COVID-19 (many of these have been described in previous posts on InDepth).
Winebrenner’s 12-week trimesters are another way to think about accelerators within an academic community (you can read more about our academic structures by clicking here). The 12-week term provides a structured learning environment in which a student is introduced to content with a high level of accountability from the instructor.
It may be helpful to distinguish an accelerator from an incubator. An incubator allows a student to travel at her or his own pace (this fits more within the Competency-Based Theological Education model) while an accelerator moves students through an intentionally designed learning experience according to a fixed schedule. There is room for both accelerators and incubators within theological education. Accelerators are often for a fixed amount of time while incubators are frequently go at the learner’s own pace. Accelerators are structured to explore a specific amount of content in a given time while incubators often emphasize mastery of specific outcomes. Accelerators often lead to exposure to a variety of content in different areas in a short amount of time while incubators provide a forum for going deeper on a given topic.
There is much more to distinguish between accelerators and incubators but this provides a broad introduction. The unique needs of the student and ministry context can help the discernment process to see which is best. As we continue to better understand the future of theological education we will continue to be challenged with new ways to explain our educational journey.