by Allison Schmitt, M.A. Student, and Sheri Booms Holm
Without the theologians of the church, where would the exciting, thought-provoking, groundbreaking ideas that shape our Christian mission come from?
Without the teachers of the church, who would train our future leaders?
And without the leaders of the church, who would shepherd our congregations for ministry in the world?
Luther Seminary prepares students for their callings as professors, scholars, ministers and leaders in the church through its Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), Master of Theology (M.Th.) and Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) degree programs. Luther's 2000-2005 strategic plan, "Serving the Promise of Our Mission," made it a priority to foster confessional scholars who are able to address the needs of the church in a new era of mission. As part of the plan, and of the seminary's recent re-accreditation process with the Association of Theological Schools (ATS), faculty affirmed and retooled its graduate programs for a "re-energized vision of God's mission in a changing world in the 21st century," according to Paul Lokken, associate dean -- graduate theological education.
This vision focuses on two areas that Luther is shaping into centers of excellence for all its degree and continuing education programs: biblical preaching and congregational mission and leadership.
Luther implemented a new Ph.D. concentration in congregational mission and leadership, and two new D.Min. programs in biblical preaching and congregational mission and leadership.
The D.Min. programs were created for parish pastors who wish to stay in their congregations but desire advanced professional study that will re-vitalize their ministries. Pastors go through the program with a small group of their peers. This The cohort assembles on campus for seminars and residencies, and stays in touch via an online community during the rest of the year. The pastors encourage and support each other throughout the process. They also work with and in their own congregations, working on projects for their particular context (see page 11 to learn about some of these projects).
"We're taking leaders already in congregations and giving them new tools and new ideas to re-energize their ministries," Lokken said. "These programs are prime examples of how Luther's strategic initiatives are finding concrete expression."
Luther also has paid attention to the caliber of scholars it trains. "This institution cares about the type of leaders it provides," Lokken said. "We're improving the pool of students in order to produce the scholars and preachers our church needs."
The doctoral program curriculum in general received an overhaul in the spring of 2003. Faculty created a more flexible core curriculum and revised courses to improve student learning and allow faculty to teach according to their gifts and interests. The changes also reflect the growing role technology plays in graduate programming.Web-based components facilitate teaching and contact while students are off campus.
One pressing concern, however, is the lack of increase in endowed scholarship funds for students in the Ph.D. and M.Th. programs. "Without additional support of this type it may be difficult to sustain the effort and advances ... that have so far been made in realizing the goals of the strategic plan," Lokken explained.
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