Soul Care Requires Professionals
Cultural sensitivity, real-life people focus, and contextual sophistication can be brought into the curriculum of most standard seminary courses of study, but they often are not. This, again, is an adjustment that can be made readily, but it has to be deliberate, and worked at.
This forum has invited comment on how we have tried to do these things at Biblical Seminary. Here are some ways we have tried to ensure our seminary education is of practical use for ministry:
- We have subjected the entire curriculum to a "missional audit." This has recast our curriculum into a more practical orientation overall and in general.
- We require a spiritual formation component in every course. Sometimes, admittedly, this can degenerate into an artificial "add on"; we are not satisfied with that, but neither does that stop us from continuing to insist on this crucial component of our education.
- We have increased the diversity on our campus by launching an urban extension campus and by initiatives aimed at increasing our international student representation. Real-life hardships and complex cultural dynamics have thereby been "automatically" brought to bear by the broad diversity of students in the class. It's hard to veer too far into arcane philosophical abstractions when ministerial real-life traumas are witnessed by students and raised in their questions and comments in class. This dynamic has brought a real "reality check" to our seminary education.
Substantive biblical, historical and theological training, taught by studied, scholarly, spiritually mature mentors, in an environment keenly focused on training solid men and women for ground-level ministry will never go out of style. May we make the adjustments needed as seminary educators to make that kind of education not only available somewhere, but regularly the norm.
R. Todd Mangum, PhD, is the Academic Dean and Professor of Theology at Biblical Theological Seminary in Hatfield, Pennsylvania. He is the author of The Dispensational-Covenantal Rift and of several articles seeking to bridge divides among Bible-believing Christians. He is married to Linda, and they have three sons.