The challenges for modern theological schools and the needs of seminarians are great and ever-changing. Among these include the rising costs of obtaining seminary degrees and many seminarians’ desire to remain close to their homes and families. In a February article in The Christian Century, Jason Byassee and Ross Lockhart highlight how some schools are meeting these challenges by partnering with flourishing megachurches.
Byassee and Lockhart focus on three schools in particular – Saint Paul School of Theology in Kansas City, Asbury Theological Seminary’s Memphis extension site, and St. Mellitus College in London. Each of these schools has partnered in some way with a larger congregation, local or distant, to develop theological programs through which students are immersed in congregational life while remaining close to their homes.
This mini-trend is a response to the shifting economic realities of the church. Because the energy and the money these days are increasingly in large congregations (rather than in small congregations, educational institutions, or denominational structures), it's the large congregations that can share their resources with theological schools.
Well-resourced theological schools are very much the exception. Most theological schools are on the edge, financially, even with their marvelously committed faculty and their devoted, hard-working administrators. So when these well-resourced, well-led congregations offer partnerships, seminaries are wise to consider the offer seriously.
To read more on these congregational partnerships, you can read the article on The Christian Century website.
Also, check out Byassee and Lockhart’s sidebar article on competency-based education in startup seminaries.
Photo Credit: Holy Trinity Brompton Church in London by David Castor