As churches have moved to online worship, Master of Divinity students at Saint Paul School of Theology have been putting their classroom experience to good use.
The curriculum has long offered extensive online coursework and hands-on training, according to Dr. Jeanne Hoeft, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean. The result is that students are better prepared to make valuable contributions to their own ministry settings during a time of global pandemic.
Dr. Hoeft also serves as Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology and Pastoral Care, and is the Franklin and Louise Cole Associate Professor in Town and Country Ministries. She says virtual learning tools give Saint Paul the flexibility to adapt to present-day realities. She also highlights recent updates to the contextual education component of the MDiv curriculum.
Online Courses & Hybrid Formats Offer Flexibility
“Saint Paul has been offering courses in a variety of formats for over 10 years.” Dr. Hoeft points out.
That includes a FLEX learning experience which lets students take some classes on campus, online or in a hybrid format that combines online and in-person coursework.
In 2018, Saint Paul upgraded technology on both the Leawood and Oklahoma City campuses. The school began offering all courses in different formats, including Zoom links between campuses, and online synchronous and asynchronous learning. Faculty and students are able to engage in meaningful discussions of subjects like history and theology, regardless of location.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Hoeft says, classes would often “meet with students on each campus and students joining from home and the teacher either on campus or at home.”
When it became necessary to close both campuses to in-person activity, Saint Paul was already well-prepared to move all classes online. This academic year, that same nimble approach promotes health and safety, while also providing high quality seminary education.
Dr. Hoeft feels the recent adaptations “have given us a new appreciation for the flexibility, even in one classroom, and a better understanding of the limits of online education. For instance, Saint Paul is currently offering more classes than usual in a synchronous Zoom format and we have learned more about the differences between synchronous on campus and online teaching and learning.”
MDiv Curriculum Emphasizes Contextual Education
The biggest change to the MDiv curriculum this fall is in the contextual education program. Students are now required to take five semesters of contextual education small group classes, while the number of required credit hours remains the same.
Dr. Hoeft says the content for the groups “has been revised to focus more on the vocational formation of ministers in their personal, professional, and spiritual lives.”
Groups also focus on the actual doing of various forms of ministry, such as leading worship or providing pastoral care. During the last semester of contextual education, students will be required to present a portfolio demonstrating their growth through their time in seminary.
The pandemic has not stopped MDiv students from maintaining their contextual education ministry settings. “Many of these settings have moved much of their work to online formats, [for] which Saint Paul students are well-prepared,” according to Dr. Hoeft.
The MDiv program at Saint Paul consists of 79 credit hours and prepares students for religious leadership in a variety of settings. In addition to ministry in local churches, graduates serve in nonprofits or as chaplains in hospitals, prisons and the military. Students may also obtain the requirements needed for ordination.
If you’re interested in joining the Master of Divinity program at Saint Paul, we invite you to fill out our online application. Contact our admissions office at 913-253-5084 or firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions.