As Christians living in the 21st Century, many of us have started to become accustomed to hearing about the changing nature of our faith traditions. Numbers are declining across Christendom. Local churches are closing at alarming numbers. Technology has changed the way we think about worship, fellowship, and study of Scripture. Church of the 1950′s stands as the model for many churches across the country, and few leaders seem to be able to keep up with changes in our society while not selling out to the world.
But there’s another change afloat in Christianity that rarely gets press: theological education as expressed in our seminaries.
As a seminary trustee, this is something near and dear to my heart. Changes in online technology have rocked the world in recent years, and we are now starting to see its impact on theological education. Continue reading after the jump to see what I mean, and look for a special savings from Logos Bible Software!
One of the biggest trends in higher education right now is the transition to online media. Whether it be through Facebook integration in class or broadcasting entire lectures over the Internet, the web is shaping how we learn. Our seminaries are certainly no different. While most professors I’ve talked to resist the idea of online classes, administrators understand that, to stay relevant, at least some of their courses will need to make a technological transition in the coming years.
Recently the paths toward that transition got a little wider. In the world of higher education, accreditation is everything. If you lose it, degrees become less valuable and enrollment can drop to dangerously low (even fatal) numbers. The Association of Theological Schools (ATS) is the accrediting body for seminaries, and in June they made a historic change in their guidelines.
Previously, no seminary could offer a Master of Divinity degree that was entirely online. At least 1 year (approx. 30 credit hours) of coursework had to take place on-campus. In June, however, that was changed to now allow 100% online M.Div degrees. Some denominations, of course, might have stricter standards on their seminaries and pastors, but the change should not be understated. It shows that the trend toward online courses which has been speculated amongst faculty is very much a real one, and is now encouraged by the accrediting body itself.
The Other Side
The other side of the technological transition is in the use of technology within coursework. Most professors I know engage with their students through technology in one way or another. For some it is as simple maintaining a Facebook profile, whereas others integrate technology into their classroom learning in very tangible ways.
Two examples: The seminary for which I serve, Saint Paul School of Theology, is located in Kansas City, MO. Recognizing a need to reach further into the Southern states, they opened a satellite campus at Oklahoma City University where students can participate in classes via video transmission from K.C.. Although it began with many questions and doubts, it has taken off and nobody now questions the decision.
Other technologies are likewise transforming seminary education. Recently Logos Bible Software splashed headlines when they announced a new partnership with Knox Seminary for a new Doctor of Ministry degree being offered. What makes this D.Min different from the one offered at other seminaries, though, is that all textbooks will be available through the Logos 4 software. For $20,000, a student will not only pay the tuition and fees requirements for the program (approx $15,000), but they will get the premiere “Portfolio” package at Logos (a $4,290 retail package that has a print-book value of $30,000!), plus a $1,000 credit toward Logos books – all of which come with the Logos academic discount. No longer will students worry about lugging stacks of books between classes. When they graduate, their new personal library will be completely digital with the searching power of Logos.
The partnership is a symbiotic one. Logos benefits by selling its software to more students, and Knox benefits by having exposure as a technologically-leading school. To further sweeten the pot, Logos ran a scholarship contest for the new program. From the more than 25,000 entries submitted, Stephen Kolk from Madison, WI won the scholarship of $20,000 – completely covering the cost of the program. A teaching pastor, Kolk will be getting his D.Min in preaching and teaching from Knox – free of charge.
Recently I had a chance to speak with Michael Haverluck, the director of Media Relations at Logos Bible Software. His hands are full with things to promote, as Logos is consistently pushing the envelope when it comes to computer technology and Biblical study. But I was able to secure a deal where any reader of ChurchMag can get a 15% discount off one of the base packages Logos offers. Simply use the code “ChurchMag” when checking out.
It will be interesting to see what changes in theological education the next decade bring. Many people have a stake, and I for one am thankful to be part of the process!