Friday, February 13, 2015

5. Innovation requires some trial and error. (2)

Previously on Seminary take-aways:
1. There are key moments of opportunity.
2. You need the right people.
3. Good leaders collaborate and navigate.
4. Innovation requires some trial and error. (1)

1. Yesterday I talked about both the joy and the struggles of putting an innovative dream into concrete curricular form, a dream for a different kind of seminary into its first course, the Missional Church course.

The first class of MDIV students began on Monday, August 3, 2009. I might mention that I consider the MA students that graduated that August 8th to be the first graduates of Wesley Seminary. Technically, the seminary did not have its name until the board meeting in October 2009. There was some concern about confusion with other seminaries that have "Wesley" in their name, which led to a little delay. Just to make sure everyone knows, the official name ended up, "Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University." :-)

I might add that since my contract as Dean began July 1, 2009 (the day that Chip's contract began and Bob's was renewed), I personally consider that the day the Seminary was technically founded. :-)

I mentioned the first convocation service, Sunday, August 9, 2009. The first cohorts of MDIV students, one online and one onsite, came to take two one week intensives before the Fall Missional Church course began. The first class was Pastor, Church, and World, and it was taught by Russ Gunsalus, who for that first semester was the Chief Operating Officer of the seminary.

The second week was a one week course called Cultural Contexts of Ministry, which Norm Wilson taught. BTW, in keeping with the trial and error theme, we no longer have new students take two courses when they begin the program. We just made this change last year. Now students just begin with one week on campus. Contexts is now scheduled in the third year, alongside church history. More on that later.

2. I should mention that Nate Lamb was our first admissions person. He and Julie also led the music in the first convocations. He was such an inviting personality to prospective students, and the team had a great synergy with him. It was hard when he left to go plant a church in Colorado. We wondered how we would ever replace him. But Aaron Wilkinson is just as much a force to reckon with. Aaron's unstoppable.

It embodies a principle that I feel keenly as I leave the Seminary. I hope people will miss me as Dean. But I'm also quite aware that whoever becomes the new Dean will have gifts I don't. It relates to Monday's installment: "New leaders bring new gifts."

3. Another piece of the puzzle I should mention is the Spiritual Formation sequence. These are six one hour courses taken alongside the six praxis courses (missional, leadership, worship, proclamation, congregational formation, and congregational relationships). Keith spun these out in less than 60 seconds at one of the MDIV curriculum committee meetings in the summer of 2007. I remember that three of us were sitting downstairs in Noggle at desks in the northwest classroom (Dave Smith I think was the third person).

Some of the Christian Ministry faculty at that time felt like spiritual formation in many contexts was often "too heavenly minded to be any earthly good," as if all there was to being formed spiritually was going into some room to pray and read your Bible. Like it or not, human psychology plays a role--a HUGE one. God is not a Gnostic. (Some of us also had a similar sense of spiritual gifts tests, which are often based on shallow readings of certain biblical texts, taking informal lists and making them into fixed roles God has designed for all time.)

Keith whipped off the top of his head what I considered a much more profound series of courses, one that is meant to lead a person through the actual process of change (not dissimilar to AA). The first course asks about how change happens (Change and Transformation). The second assesses where you are (Self-Awareness and Appraisal). Next you need to know where you are going (Goal Setting and Accountability). The fourth course is Mentoring and Spiritual Direction, because you won't get there alone. The fifth course is then what for some programs is the ONLY sense of spiritual formation (Personal and Corporate Spiritual Disciplines). Finally, the sixth course was intended to cross a finish line (Recovery and Deliverance), to reach at least some goals.

Other key features unfolded. The ideal would be a single professor to go with a cohort through the entire sequence together. Every other week they would do some act of worship, so that these courses were not merely cognitive but affective and spiritual.

Keith Drury wrote the first course. Someone else tried to write the second. I ended up doing a lot of gap filling when the material generated didn't match the new thing we were trying to do. Halee Scott wrote the third and fourth spiritual formation courses. Jeremy Summers the fifth, and Dave Ward wrote the final one.

Of course when Colleen Derr became the point person for the spiritual formation sequence at the end of our third year, she took it to the next level. She eventually added spiritual classics to the courses (I think in the fifth year), then after our ATS visit added a mentor component to all the spiritual formation classes...

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