April 27, 2017

Revamping the TEDS M.Div.

Strengthening the foundations for gospel ministry.

Beginning fall 2017, students at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School will experience a significantly improved master of divinity program. The changes are the result of a two-year process involving faculty, alumni, students and EFCA leaders.

The revision process began with a concerted effort to listen to our alumni: How well does the TEDS M.Div. serve the church in preparing men and women for ministry? How might it be improved?

A team of faculty and administrators traveled to three metropolitan areas around the country to meet with alumni pastors and ministry leaders. We asked for feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of the program, as well as suggestions. We also sought and received valuable input from: alumni surveys, current students, board members, former presidents of Trinity International University and senior leadership of the EFCA.

Over the two-year period, the M.Div. Revision Committee, comprising faculty representatives from all TEDS departments, the Student Government Association and the EFCA, prayerfully considered all feedback before crafting a revision, which was approved on May 4, 2016.

Overall, we heard appreciation for Trinity’s high view of Scripture and the importance of biblical and theological studies as a critical foundation for gospel ministry. And we also received helpful comments about areas that need strengthening:

"Don’t make it 'M.Div.-light.'"

We were humbled to hear how our alumni value their M.Div. from TEDS and grateful to see the fruit in their ministry. But we also quickly heard concern over possible changes: “Do not weaken the degree or turn it into an ‘M.Div.-light.’” “Don’t reduce academic excellence or eliminate biblical languages.” “Keep an emphasis on exegetical preaching.”

"Better equip us for ministry beyond preaching and teaching."

As a result of specific feedback, the revised degree now includes renewed emphasis on equipping students to engage in pastoral practices such as worship planning and leading funerals, weddings and baptisms. It also includes increased attention to understanding and developing pastoral leadership, as well as personal and spiritual formation. New courses in these areas include: Spiritual Formation for Ministry, Christian Worship and Pastoral Practices, Leadership and Educational Ministry, and Money and Ministry.

All photos taken by TEDS student Seth McCumber

"Strengthen cultural exegesis and Christian worldview."

Given both changing demographics and the gospel mission to all people, this change was especially necessary. Students need to be equipped to think carefully about the Christian faith and engage effectively with others who may be hostile to the gospel. They also must charitably understand and engage with the increasingly complex cultures in which they minister. As a result, two courses have been added in these areas: Understanding Social and Cultural Contexts for Ministry, and Christian Faith and Contemporary Challenges.

"Help us better use exegesis and the original languages to interpret Scripture."

Our graduates value their exegetical and language training but said we could better prepare them to use that training in interpreting Scripture. So the revised M.Div. introduces a series of “interpreting courses” that help students develop these skills: Interpreting the Pentateuch and the Former Prophets, Interpreting the Latter Prophets, Interpreting the Writings, Interpreting the Synoptics and Acts, Interpreting Paul and General Epistles, and Interpreting Johannine Literature.

"Help us dig deeper."

In many places the new M.Div. includes advanced courses that move beyond introduction. For example, courses in systematic theology have been revised into two courses: Theology I: The God of the Gospel, and Theology II: The Gospel of God. This provides the opportunity for students to dig deeper into theology through an advanced theology course of their choosing.

"Help us put it into practice."

In keeping with the best practices of professional degree programs such as medicine and engineering, the revised M.Div. introduces more substantive field-based education that helps students gain essential experience in a real-life ministry setting. The program now includes six hours of internship in the Church and Parachurch Ministry Track (up from two hours) and three hours in the Academic Ministry Track.

The internship has been completely revised to give students significant ministry experience and mentoring, while also engaging in theological reflection with a TEDS faculty member. We’re also excited that students will now be able to do their internships at a distance—choosing from locations around the world.

"Increase the distance education options and reduce the total hours."

While this revision does not embrace a completely online M.Div.—because we believe that face-to-face interaction is essential—we responded to requests for more access to the program from a distance. Students will now be able to complete 24 hours of the M.Div. online.

Many seminaries are dramatically decreasing the length of their M.Div. by eliminating or reducing biblical languages and Scripture courses. The objective of this revision was never simply to cut hours, but rather to make the program as effective and efficient as possible. We’re grateful that with the many improvements, the total hours have been reduced from 94 to 87 hours, and these hours now include more time for the internship experience.

Those of us involved in the M.Div. revision considered it both a great privilege and a solemn responsibility. TEDS exists to serve the Church, and it is our hope and prayer that these changes will better equip men and women for gospel ministry, all to the glory of God.

Visit TEDS online for more information on the revised M.Div.

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