A Theological Primer for Youth Ministry

That’s the subject of my article in Immerse: A Journal of Faith, Life, and Youth Ministry.  Below is a taste.  You can preview the article at the Immerse website or, if you’re smart, subscribe!

In standard Protestant seminaries and divinity schools, departments are regimented along the fourfold “theological encyclopedia” model of the 18th century: biblical studies, church history, systematic theology and practical theology.

And in most seminaries, the hierarchy of power follows the same pattern. The biblical studies professors usually have the most power and the practical theology faculty the least. In fact, some seminaries get away with hiring retired pastors to act as adjunct professors in the practical theology department and teach classes on preaching, pastoral care and other hands-on ministry courses.

If you sense a bit of a chip on my shoulder regarding the place of practical theology in the academy—and in the church at large—you’re right. And I’m not the only one. A lot of us in practical theology feel like the unwanted stepchildren of the “real” theologians in the systematic department.

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  • I know just what you’re talking about. I feel lucky to be at a seminary that places a huge emphasis on practical theology in the M.Div. program. What’s funny is that the emphasis is so great that many students who come from more fundamentalist backgrounds dislike it because they “just want the Bible” or whatever and don’t want to wrestle with questions of how to engage society and intersect the gospel with contemporary issues.

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  • BDavis

    I don’t disagree w/ the sentiments regarding the emphasis on systematic theology vs practical theology. I trust that your journal handles the issues more circumspectly than framing the discussion around who has the power and feeling like “unwanted stepchildren.”
    Thank you for your passionate work for Him. May you be invigorated and full of His wisdom as you seek to walk humbly before God and lead others down that same path.