Vocational Ministry in Action: Students Reflect on Contextual Learning

Date Published

November 19, 2022

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Published by Calvin Seminary

MDiv student Kelsey Bruinwood entered seminary with a specific vocational outcome in mind. But today, her sense of calling is full of possibilities.

“I came into seminary thinking that I would do non-profit work after seminary, but have since opened myself up to the possibility of doing more focused church ministry,” she says. “I feel both called towards doing work in the church, as well as doing work with those outside of the church.

“I know that I’m currently being called to learn more about God and his world at Calvin Seminary, and I know that I’m called to serve God in whatever space I end up.”

For the Portage, Michigan, native, her contextual learning experience has played a role in how she views her calling. Currently at Calvin Christian Reformed Church for her in-context placement, Bruinwood has the opportunity to be mentored by church leadership and assist in leading the community she first joined as an undergraduate at Calvin University.

“I’m enjoying being able to participate as a weekly liturgist in their worship services,” she says. “Having the opportunity to take the things that I’m learning in class and apply them to the work that I’m doing at Calvin CRC has been so helpful in continuing to form my education.”

In addition to her contextual learning experience, Bruinwood has found the CTS classroom experience to be extremely helpful in informing real ministry situations—namely because, she notes, it is designed to be.

“My professors have all shown that they value our vocational formation in the way that they relate classroom material to the work that we do in the field,” she says. “Each of my professors have made efforts to connect our learning with our practice as they relate their class material to current events, and use examples in class that show how we can take our knowledge into our calling in ministry.”


Makalah Hartgerink, of Byron Center, Michigan, is graduating this spring with a master of arts degree in ministry leadership, with a focus in education, youth, and family. She also works part-time as a nurse at a pediatric office downtown, living out a passion she has had for years.

“What I have realized is that God is calling me to serve him with all that I am, to use each of the unique gifts he has given me to care for others and bring him glory,” Hartgerink says. “That includes using both my passion for ministry and for nursing.”

When Hartgerink started seminary, her choice to decrease her nursing hours was “a surprising and also difficult decision.”

“But I felt God clearly leading me toward ministry,” she reflects.

With that conviction, Hartgerink moved forward with seminary courses online and in-person, while still working with patients a few days a week.

During the course of Hartgerink’s study, the vocational formation office partnered with her to offer a ministry-based elective at City on a Hill Ministries.

“This internship gave me the freedom and opportunity to explore ministry in a parachurch setting for a semester, while getting credit for it,” Hartgerink reflects. “I really enjoyed my time and it helped me more clearly understand my calling and passion for ministry.”

Hartgerink says she has seen firsthand the value Calvin Seminary places on her vocational formation through her contextual learning experiences, formation groups, and relationships with the vocational formation office team members.

“I have benefited from meetings with vocational office staff, such as Rev. Samantha DeJong McCarron and Professor Vandermolen,” she says. “Meeting with them and talking through how the Holy Spirit has been working in my life has been incredibly impactful.”

“Understanding my calling has been an ongoing process,” says Hartgerink, noting that the vocational formation office has nurtured this process in meaningful ways. “The specifics are not yet clear, but I know that God is calling me to continue trusting him and to stand with my hands and heart open to where he is leading me.”


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