Thursday, August 18, 2011

Integration Capstone

And so we reach the end of the line.  I've gone through the entire required curriculum: 4 foundations courses, 6 praxis courses, 6 spiritual formation courses, and now finishing the book ends.  It began with "Pastor, Church, and World."  It ends with the Integration Capstone (not including the 15 hours of electives).

1. Pastor, Church, and World
2. Cultural Contexts of Ministry
3. Bible as Scripture
4. Introduction to Theology
5. Global Christian History
6. Missional Church
7. Congregational Leadership
8. Christian Worship
9. Christian Proclamation
10. Congregational Spiritual Formation
11. Congregational Relationships
12. Spiritual formation sequence

The Integration Capstone is meant to bring it all together.  In the first course the students made a personal plan.  In each of the praxis courses students have written both an Application Paper and an Integration Paper.  The Application Paper for each course looks ahead several years in itself.  So at the end of the Missional Church course, they take the individual strategies they have created throughout the course (service strategy, evangelism strategy, etc) and synthesize them to form a doable missional strategy.

In the capstone, they will dig out the application papers from each of their six praxis classes (missional strategy, leadership strategy, worship strategy, proclamation strategy, congregational formation strategy, congregational relationships strategy).  They will look back and see how they've done so far.  Then they will synthesize all of them, along with their personal strategy from the first course and a spiritual strategy from the last spiritual formation course.  They will create an uber-ministry strategy plan.

They will also take their integration papers from the first and last praxis course and see whether they have improved at bringing the Bible, theology, and church history to bear on pastoral issues.  Now starting the third year of the MDIV program, I think any of our students would laugh at the old suggestion that we don't have Bible, theology, or church history in our curriculum.  About a third of each praxis course involves engagement with Bible, theology, or church history.

For the first two years, we actually arranged for up to 5 professors for each praxis class.  A Bible person facilitated the Bible assignments.  A theology person the theology, etc.  This has proved to be administratively taxing, to say the least.  This year we are going to a team of two for each class.  One professor will teach the praxis part of the course (two-thirds).  Another will do the "foundations" part (Bible, theology, church history, and integration paper).  This latter person should be someone with expertise in Bible, theology, or church history.

The IP, as we call it, is a thread that runs throughout every praxis course from Week 3 to Week 14.  In fact, in Week 7, all they do is exegetical work on passages related to a pastoral issue.  In Week 14 all they do is right a position paper based on the biblical, theological, and church historical work they have been doing.  In the Integration Capstone, they will take out some of their previous work to see how they have improved in turning to Christian foundations to address pastoral issues.

So there you have it, the Wesley Seminary at IWU curriculum.  15 more hours and you have an MDIV, a 75 hour program.  Certainly we've had our nay-sayers.  But I am thankful that God has brought things together in a marvelous way.  I believe our students are finding their ministries super-charged and, yes, you have to be engaged in ministry to be in this program, so it is like on the job training.  I believe they are learning to integrate Scripture and theology into their ministries with integrity better than most students at most seminaries.

There is much to refine.  The purist will say it is not enough hours or that a person can't be formed online or maybe that it does not require the students to go deep enough.  But there is more depth here than meets the eye.  When you have a J. Cameron Carter coming in to teach Bonhoeffer or are going to do field research at a church of several thousand, you can't say that they aren't getting depth in their electives and I hope there is depth brought to them by individual professors.  In our infancy, we are only beginning to develop the panoply of electives that make for depth.

As for online, more formation can go on here than many imagine and it is bolstered by yearly face-to-face visits to campus for one or two weeks.  The field of online teaching is only getting better as the bandwidth issue goes away.  All of our professors can now do video lecturing/discussion via Adobe Connect.

And as for the purist, the writing is on the wall.  I don't see how an all residential, 90 hour MDIV is going to survive long term.  We can complain about it but reality doesn't care.  Maybe a few high end academic MDIVs can do it for a while.  But then again, the denominations with which those institutions are affiliated are dying.  The life of the American church is in the thriving charismatic and warm hearted evangelical church.

So, yes, I would love to have more hours in this MDIV.  It's been painful making decisions about what to include and what to cut out of these courses, a process that I have very carefully orchestrated these last two years.  But it has turned out well and now as the writing reaches its close, I sadly begin to cut the umbilical cord and let Wesley's competent professors--in conjunction with our curriculum committee--take what we have and make it even better...


Rick Dykema said...

Thanks for your hard work to put together this program. God is being glorified through your efforts!

π² said...

I know the seminary leaders have discussed the likelyhood that students may not be in the same ministries or churches 3+ years after beginning seminary. As an assistant pastor, not only is there is possibility that I may be at a different church by the time I reach the capstone, I have already changed responsibilies at my current church during the last two years. In addition, some of the plans I developed were for areas outside of my responsibility. Lead and solo pastors have an advantage over us assistants in this area because they have broad oversight. Also, regardless of one's position, because of the pace we are going, I can only try and begin to implement just one or two of the 8-16 plans developed during a semester, before the next semester begins. If we are being graded on how well our plans were implemented, this course will ruin my GPA.