Innovation: this is the focus of our current blog series on reimagining theological education. Walk with me, if you will, for a few moments into the real life of three of our current students.
Jim had a 25 year career in the medical field. Jim knew early in life he was called to serve God’s people but he never believed that he could be worthy of a calling in ministry. Over the past several years Jim had taken on increasing roles of leadership in his local church, he met several times with his pastor and other church leaders who affirmed his calling many times over and after much discernment Jim decided it was time for him to consider seminary education. He was uncertain, Jim held a Bachelor degree but it was in Healthcare Management, he had no experience with formal religious education of any sort. Jim also knew he was not in a position to resign from his career and enter into seminary full-time. After a long period of discernment and convinced he was not qualified, Jim reached out to Winebrenner. To his surprise he discovered that Winebrenner had long since removed the requirement that those entering seminary must have a related degree. Thanks to a seminary willing to remove an obstacle that may have prevented him from attending in the past; Jim is now preparing to graduate this year with a Master of Arts in Practical Theology, and he is serving as a solo pastor at small church in his area.
Jasmine had always wanted to attend seminary. She received her Bachelor in Christian Worship at a local college and has served for years as the Worship leader at her local church. Jasmine had a lot of pastor friends who encouraged her to attend seminary and shared their own experiences of seminary. Their experience at seminary was in a time where seminary education was fully on-campus and individuals seeking this education were required to live close to the seminary and participate in the seminary community. Jasmine had no desire to move away from her family and her beloved church. She wanted a seminary where she could continue serving her church, and remain in her community. Through an online search Jasmine located Winebrenner Theological Seminary. She is currently in her third term at Winebrenner, her convenient online classes have allowed her to continue serving her church and community. Jasmine is excited what the future holds and is considering the possibility of a Doctoral degree upon completion of her Master of Divinity.
Jeremiah has been serving in his local small church as a youth director for seven years. Jeremiah was never a good student in high school and that followed him to his years at a local community college where he earned credits but never a degree. Jeremiah had a lot of life experience and changes in his time since community college. It had become apparent to him and his mentors that he was being called into full-time ministry. Uncertain of a path forward, Jeremiah reached out to Winebrenner Seminary to ask what it might take for him to be considered for admission. He thought he would be told to go back to school and finish his degree, then apply for seminary. Instead, to his surprise he found that Winebrenner offered a pathway to seminary education that was created just for his situation. Jeremiah spent two terms in the Life Exploration program at Winebrenner. During this time he took classes at a non-degree level right alongside his peers in a Master’s program. Over the course of two terms Jeremiah was able to show his professors that he had the ability to be successful in Master level classes and this term Jeremiah is now a fully accepted student in the Master of Arts in Practical Theology program and plans to graduate in 2024.
Jim, Jasmine, and Jeremiah are real-life examples of what it means when an organization is willing to challenge the norm, consider change, and offer innovation in ways that develop leaders who will serve in God’s kingdom.
– Amy Kinney, Director of Enrollment Management
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