KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP) -- Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has launched its Midwestern Training Network, a partnership that includes St. Louis-area church The Journey as the first of 30-plus churches that have joined the ministry initiative.
The network is a group of churches and individuals partnering with Midwestern Seminary to establish an accredited, accessible and affordable master of arts in theological studies degree program with emphases in church planting, preaching & pastoral ministry, and leadership.
Throughout their course of study, students will take 11 core classes and four field practicums in their area of emphasis. Midwestern President Jason K. Allen said the program is based on the mentoring-oriented Oxford model, with field practicums that challenge students to apply what they are learning under the guidance of a field supervisor within their local area of ministry.
"There is nothing else quite like this in the country that so intentionally couples a theological institution with the local church," Allen said. "Additionally, the combination of online classes with practicums does the very best to couple the intellectual side of ministry preparation with the practical, hands-on side."
Allen added that the program is part of the seminary's central mission to exist "for the church" by bringing together both knowledge and praxis.
The Midwestern Training Network "helps us to even better fulfill our vision of existing for the church by putting Midwestern Seminary more closely in touch with the local church, partnering with the local church and ministering within the local church," Allen said.
"We're on the cutting edge here," said Darrin Patrick, pastor of The Journey. "I believe this will change the face of theological education in the local church."
Steve Dighton, pastor of Lenexa Baptist Church in Lenexa, Kan., that is joining MTN, said he is excited about the opportunity to offer the church's laypeople further theological training.
"To be able to point them to this master of arts in theological studies will be very attractive," Dighton said. "I think they'll like the model of theological education while also having the privilege to be able to serve in some capacity as part of the degree program."
Students can begin the program anytime they choose, with six entry points accessible throughout the year. A student would never be more than eight weeks away from starting a class or joining the network.
Core classes, which began March 17, will be offered in a variety of formats including fully online, on-campus and in a hybrid format of online education and on-campus teaching. Students can complete the remaining ministry practicums in their unique ministry settings.
"We believe the Midwestern Training Network is a game-changer. Every aspect of the program has been designed by proven, experienced leaders to offer a truly innovative and immersive educational experience," said Charles Smith, Midwestern's vice president for institutional relations. "This combination, coupled with our practicums, innovative delivery models and flexible programming, makes the Midwestern Training Network a really compelling educational model."
Churches can use the strategic practicums to customize much of the course content, enabling them to invest their own DNA into the student, Smith noted. Pastors also would lead cohort discussions and lectures related to the classes the students take, enabling them to further invest through interactive classroom-style training.
The primary liaison between Midwestern and individuals/churches is Josh Hedger, director of the Midwestern Seminary Center for Church Planting. In his role with the network, Hedger connects churches and fosters their relationships with MTN and ensures the network is meeting the educational and training needs of those involved.
The network will help local churches "take a more active role in training pastors, planters and leaders for the church," Hedger said. "The Midwestern Training Network is designed to help churches do just that -- train leaders."
Hedger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (816) 414-3739. The Midwestern Training Network is accepting applications from both churches and individuals. Further information about the network and the Masters of Arts in Theological Studies can be found at mbts.edu/trainingnetwork.
Tim Sweetman is director of communications at Midwestern Baptist Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress
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