|In June 2015, commencement exercises were held at Rowland Heights Community Church in Rowland Heights, California. In the front row, the seminary's board and other leaders flank President Katheryn Leung, who stands near the center, vested in black academic gown with purple-edged hood.
As president of the China Evangelical Seminary North America (CESNA), I am blessed to work with a governing board that understands that part of its mission is nurturing the spiritual life of students, faculty, and staff, with a focus on building a Christ-like life. With that in mind, the CESNA board has worked with staff to ensure that the seminary supports spirituality in four ways:
Spiritual enrichment for the whole seminary. The board of CESNA supports a number of efforts to enhance the spiritual life of the entire school, including an annual retreat for students, faculty, and staff; a weekly chapel service for all students, faculty, and staff; prayer groups that meet after chapel; weekly student prayer groups; and faculty and staff prayer meetings during breaks. All members value the time spent together seeking the guidance of God and putting needs into God’s hand to see how He works.
Spiritual formation in the curriculum. CESNA requires all students to take at least two of the six courses offered on spiritual formation. In addition, faculty members are encouraged to integrate spirituality into lectures and are reminded that they model the spiritual life for students.
Staff to provide spiritual guidance. Students are assigned to groups, each with its own advisor, to discuss spiritual growth. The school chaplain provides spiritual mentorship for all students, and a licensed counselor is available for crisis consultation.
Spiritual formation through small groups. Students are encouraged to join small groups for character building and spiritual formation, as well as for building healthy family relationships.
Life is complex and full of challenges; the life of a seminarian is no exception. These challenges include financial issues; time management in the midst of family life, school work, and ministry; personal character struggles; interpersonal relationships; and spiritual life. What’s more, many of our students face thorny issues regarding church and doctrinal differences and social, moral, and legal issues.
In addition to steering the school’s direction and accruing funds for daily operation and special projects, board members pray for all students, faculty, and staff. We are hoping in the future to have scheduled spiritual revival meetings, and to sponsor attendance at workshops on spiritual formation for key leaders, with board support. The CESNA board plans to articulate new spiritual goals annually, and include this topic for discussion in the agenda of the annual board retreat.
Board members come from diverse professional and denominational backgrounds, and we value them for providing insight about the changing needs of society and for supporting the seminary as we face these challenges. Like most boards, ours seeks growth in numbers — in both enrollment and finances. But I urge our board, and all seminary boards, to keep in mind the importance of the life of the spirit, which is critical as we equip students to serve churches. Some boards get caught up in monitoring day-to-day operations but neglect to identify potential spiritual pitfalls and blind spots. Fostering the spiritual life of students and faculty helps a board avoid tension with administrators, and empowers the whole community to grow spiritually under the same vision, mission, and conviction.