Calvin Seminary Receives $1 Million Grant to Launch Next Steps Initiative
Published by Aaron Einfeld
Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, major social and cultural shifts were already re-shaping congregational life in North America. Quickly changing ministry contexts meant that ministry leadership needs were also changing. Before the pandemic, Calvin Seminary had been hard at work to adapt and keep in step with a changing world. Then came the profoundly disruptive and prolonged global pandemic. Almost overnight, the pace of social change accelerated as we experienced disruption in every area of our personal and collective lives.
For many of us, the pandemic prompted intense personal soul searching. As an organization, Calvin Seminary did some soul searching, too. Amidst all of the pivoting, flexing, building, and adapting of our educational models for the short term, we engaged in a process of strategic imagination and design for the long term. The result was a project called The Next Steps Initiative. While we remain committed to providing robust graduate degrees, The Next Steps Initiative is intended to deepen our mission by expanding our impact. This new effort is aimed at equipping the broader priesthood of all believers through innovative educational models that are more collaborative, flexible, adaptable, and accessible.
For over 145 years, the primary mission of Calvin Seminary has been to equip pastors and leaders for the flourishing of the church. The Next Steps Initiative will help us continue that mission while adapting to the evolving needs of the church.
As we have listened to what experts are saying about the future of theological education, we have been particularly struck by the call to change issued by Justo González, an advisor and teacher in our Latino Ministry Program. In the past, Calvin Theological Seminary has prepared pastors mainly through traditional degree programs, an approach that González refers to as the “theological education pipeline.” He argues that the pipeline approach is no longer suited to today’s educational and cultural landscape. Instead, González exhorts seminaries to transition from a pipeline model to an “irrigation hose” model, developing flexible educational programs that support the growth and flourishing of a wider range of Christian leaders. The Next Steps Initiative aims to do exactly that.
The purpose of the Next Steps Initiative is to equip a wider spectrum of ministry leaders who need innovative educational support in order to take the next steps in their ministry leadership development. Specifically, the Next Steps Initiative will:
- Prepare and equip adult learners who might not desire to complete a full seminary degree, such as commissioned pastors, and seasoned ministry leaders seeking continuing education.
- Make ministry training more accessible to adult learners with diverse family situations, schedules, languages, and income levels.
- Develop a network of “teaching congregations” with whom we will collaborate to facilitate innovative and customizable learning opportunities for those congregations’ adult learners and ministry leaders.
By working toward these goals, we will be fulfilling our primary mission of equipping pastors and lay leaders for the flourishing of the church.
Starting in 2022, we will begin collaboratively developing modules, cohorts, regional events, certificate programs, and other learning experiences that equip and support the work of the Priesthood of all Believers.
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