Friday, March 06, 2015

20. Growth means addition. (2)

... continued growth by new venues

1. In our fourth year, 2012-2013, Wayne facilitated the launch of two new venues for the Seminary--a contextualized, urban MDIV cohort in Indianapolis and a contextualized MA cohort based out of 12Stone® Church.

Somehow, Wayne Schmidt has a way of running into the right people at the right time. I don't know how he does this. Russ Gunsalus has this gift too. I don't think I've mentioned the connections Wayne made with the AME and CME churches of Indiana in his first year. Some pastors from Indiana North actually went with Wayne and other Seminary students to a special AME event together in the summer of 2010.

Sometime in 2012, Wayne happened to be sitting next to Bishop Benjamin, of Light of the World Church in Indianapolis, at a dinner in Indianapolis. Reverend Benjamin was about to retire from this large, primarily African American church. While there were seminaries available for individuals in his church who might want ministerial education, there were no seminaries who were willing to contextualize a curriculum with them for an urban, African-American context.

By contrast, this sort of contextualization was the very stuff of Wesley seminary.

2. So it is no surprise that there were soon discussions about starting a contextualized urban cohort in Indianapolis that might serve Bishop Benjamin's ministry network. I consider it providential that the seminary had just added Kwasi Kena and Safiyah Fosua to its faculty. The Benjamin cohort wouldn't have been half as fantastic as it has been for these students if they had not taken on this challenge! In fact, we probably would not have even done it.

There are some strong reflections to have here. Was it too much to ask of them, to take on this extra work in their very first year? How much pressure did they feel to do it, not yet knowing whether IWU would allow a person to say no to such proposals? They have told me the horror stories that some people of diversity can experience when asked to join a diversity challenged institution.

There is a kind of load creep that often happens. The diverse person may gradually be given more and more diversity related tasks with little or no additional support. Whenever anything vaguely related to diversity comes up, this person is called on. The importance of sharing the load of diversity can slip from the mind of the institution as the diverse individual, perhaps increasingly hidden from sight, bears a greater and greater burden.

Certainly IWU is committed not to let such things happen!

3. One of the first questions was where. Hold it at Light of the World church? Quickly the conversation turned to IWU's Indianapolis Education Center North (IECN). The Graduate Ministry program had previously held MA classes there, and people like Bob, me, and Chris Bounds had taught for it. Certainly that would be easier when it came to matters of accreditation.

4. I must bear the blame for one of the biggest burdens on this new cohort. We scheduled their classes on Saturdays. I did not feel that we had enough time in an evening to do the MDIV in an evening class. Our onsite version of the MDIV typically does spiritual formation from 9-10am, then the praxis course from 10am-4pm, with of course time for lunch. Within that five hours, a praxis and foundations professor divide up the time roughly 2/3 to 1/3.

The particular onsite formula has varied a little depending on the schedules of the three professors involved. There were times where the foundations were in the morning or the spiritual formation at lunch or perhaps there was a one hour foundations slot at the end of the day. As more and more have moved to a 10-6 or 6-10 format, the foundations professor only has to drive to Indy 6 times in the semester.

So, since I did not think 4 hours on a weekday evening was enough seat time, we scheduled the first Benjamin MDIV cohort for Saturdays. What a sacrifice, both for professors and students. Three years worth of Saturdays committed! What a burden to put on Drs. Kena and Fosua! They have not taught all the classes, but they have had a hand in most.

Teaching this Saturday cohort was life-changing for me and I count them all dear friends. I know other professors have felt the same. Their sacrifices and real world ministries make me feel like I don't do anything for the kingdom at all. They will truly inherit the earth.

5. We wanted the curriculum for this cohort to be contextualized for an urban, African-American context, a task that largely fell on Kwasi's shoulders. Early on we met with a number of potential professors largely suggested by Bishop Benjamin. That first class, they came and taught segments.

Kwasi picked books and resources appropriate for the group for both the MDIV and then later for an MA group. He modified assignments (Safiyah too). I've hardly ever seen a cohort that was tighter.

6. Necessity is the mother of invention, and Dr. Fosua and Dr. Kena have innovated the format beyond anything that occurred to me. I only wish I had come up at the start with the options they have developed. For one, Dr. Fosua, as their spiritual formation professor for the program, has arranged the schedule so that she only has to go down to Indy four times throughout the semester. The praxis course then could go from 9-4 on the other weeks.

Another innovation is to meet a little less face-to-face and then carry the material of the class forward into one online discussion for the rest of the week. Then they might only need to meet from 9am-1pm each Saturday.

7. We launched a second Benjamin MDIV cohort in November 2014. Dr. Kena and Dr. Fosua have to be given the credit for its innovative format. It meets on Monday nights. This first semester, because the group is just bonding, she meets with the group from 6-7pm. I suspect in later semesters she'll just go down every four weeks for a whole evening of spiritual formation.

Then from 7-10, the praxis course is in session with one of the two team professors in a 10-6 formation. This semester its Kwasi Kena and Luigi Peñaranda for Missional Church. But to finish out the requisite hours, they finish the week with an online discussion. That way they get the seat time while only meeting for 4 hours face-to-face one evening a week.

8. In August 2013, we started a Benjamin MA on Monday nights. For these, the Benjamin team that had met at the beginning went into action. There were some interesting dynamics here and I believe some good lessons learned. With only a couple full-time IWU professors teaching, it has required more effort for this cohort to feel connected to the Seminary. With Saturdays full, Dr. K and Dr. S have not been able to teach for it.

I think we have also seen just how significant the feeling of belonging to the Seminary is. All the other cohorts have either started on campus at the Seminary or have started elsewhere with full-time Seminary faculty launching it. This cohort, initially floating in the generic sea of the IECN campus, has struggled much more to have an identity.

IWU branch campuses also have their own advisors, so that added an extra layer of complication. And of course it's a little weird for a campus chaplain to come to give a devotion to a Seminary cohort, especially when they're meeting for an hour of spiritual formation. :-)

Previously on Seminary take-aways:

1. There are key moments of opportunity.
2. You need the right people.
3. Good leaders collaborate and navigate.

Year 1: Launch Year
4. Innovation requires some trial and error. (1)
5. Innovation requires some trial and error. (2)
6. Innovation requires some trial and error. (3)
7. New leaders bring new strengths. (1)

Year 2: Growing Pains
8. Administration never ends.
9. New leaders bring new strengths. (2)
10. New leaders bring new strengths. (3)

Year 3: The Year of Maturity
11. Complexity works against sustainability.
12. There are advantages to being embedded in a broader university. (1)
13. There are advantages to being embedded in a broader university. (2)
14. Our guinea pigs survived.

Year 4: The Year of the Faculty
15. Faculty share governance with administration. (1)
16. Faculty share governance with administration. (2)
17. Faculty share governance with administration. (3)
18. Faculty share governance with administration. (4)
19. Growth means addition. (1)

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