Tuesday, March 02, 2010

masters of ministry and the revolution that is practical, not applied, theology

Yesterday included the beginning of the 2010 teaching program here in Adelaide with regard to the Master of Ministry (of which I am the Co-ordinator). It’s a quite unique post-graduate program that I am beginning to really admire.

Most post-grad qualifications are shaped around a variety of taught papers plus a larger body of work in the form of a thesis. The Master of Ministry here offers a number of innovations.

First, it is totally ministry focused, given that it can only be taken part-time, and after 4 years in ministry, making it only available to people who are actually in ministry. This brings a wonderful groundedness into discussion and interaction and into research.

Second, is the Program Seminar. Every student has to complete 21 Program Seminars over the duration of their study. Each seminar involves a student sharing some of their work and in response each participant must write a 1,000 word reflection piece. Thus it builds a collegiality, is constantly developing ability to reflect theologically on current ministry practice and potentially provides a rich source of written material on ministry today.

Third, is a paper titled Theology of Ministry Practice. This must be done early in the student’s study and simply expects them to write a 6,000 word thought piece describing their theology of ministry. This is such a valuable exercise, emerging not in theory, but out of their life experience that they bring to the table.

In recent years what was applied theology has sought to rename itself as practical theology. The change of name is about a revolution. Rather than a two-stage process, that of getting one’s intellectual ducks in a row (Biblical studies and theology) and then making application to ministry (applied), practical theology argues for a three stage process. First, to listen to lived experience that is the practice of ministry. Second, to reflect on that in light of Biblical studies and theology. Third, to bring that learning back to the practice of ministry (applied).

This is a revolution because it tips traditional study on it’s head. Rather than move from theory to practice, it suggests a move from practice to theory and back to practice again. That requires a new set of skills, practises and disciplines. It seems to me that the innovations implemented in the Masters of Ministry programme are a significant step in this direction and one I’m excited to be part of.

Posted by steve at 08:51 AM