From a personal perspective, I like change. Change is part of my wiring, so when I became president of Northwest Baptist Seminary, I was looking for what I could bring to the school.
I soon saw that from an institutional perspective, we weren’t getting the job done. We were not achieving our mission in a way that our supporting churches were enthusiastic about. They were looking right past us.
So our goal was simply to do a better job achieving our mission — preparing ministers for our supporting denomination’s churches. This is a theological commitment for us. To fulfill it, we needed to talk to those churches. And that’s when some themes and opportunities began to emerge.
I like to say that we reverse-engineered the seminary process. Our board was all in right from the start because we were finding a new way to achieve our mission.
We didn’t intend to, but we created the first M.Div. program in what is now called competency- based theological education. We called it “Immerse,” and one way to describe it is contextual learning, offered through mentoring relationships, in the direction of mastery of a set of outcomes that have been mutually recognized by the school and by the “mission-holding agency” we’re serving (in this case, a group of churches), as representing what they and we want to see in our graduates.
We now serve more than 20 mission-holding agencies who have a particular vision for what they’re called to do. As a seminary, we come along and empower that. And the product is graduates who are well prepared to join those agencies in pursuit of their missions.
- Kent Anderson, P.h.D., is president of Northwest Baptist Seminary in Langley, British Columbia.