TIM SWEETMAN/MBTS communications
Kansas City – Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary announced on Feb. 14 the launch of the Midwestern Training Network (MTN), a ministry training partnership that includes a St. Louis-area church, The Journey, as the first of more than 30 churches that have already agreed to join in this groundbreaking educational format.
The school described the network as a group of individuals and churches that are partnering with Midwestern Seminary to pursue an accredited, accessible, and affordable Master of Arts in Theological Studies degree 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.
Jason K. Allen, president of Midwestern Seminary, pointed out the uniqueness of the program – which is based on the 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.
“Though we have not sought to be innovative, the Midwestern Training Network is indeed an innovation in theological education,” Allen said. “There is nothing else quite like this in the country that so intentionally couples a theological institution with the local church. 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 particularly emphasized how the program was an effort for the seminary to fulfill its central mission to exist “for the church” by bringing together both knowledge and praxis.
“Anyone who has come to know anything about Midwestern Seminary knows we exist unequivocally for the church,” he said. “Therefore, I’m excited about the Midwestern Training Network because it 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.”
“We’re on the cutting edge here,” said Darrin Patrick, pastor of The Journey in St. Louis. “I believe this will change the face of theological education in the local church.”
Steve Dighton, pastor of Lenexa Baptist Church in Lenexa, Kan., also announced that his church would be joining as part of MTN. He was particularly excited about the opportunity to offer his church’s laypeople further theological training.
“To be able to point them to this Master of Arts in Theological Studies I think will be very attractive,” Dighton said. “I think they’ll like the model of theological education but also having the privilege to be able to serve in some capacity as part of the degree program.”
Students will be able to begin the program at most any time 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 will be offered in a variety of formats including fully online, on-campus, and in an innovative hybrid format that combines both online education and on-campus teaching through the semester. Students can complete the remaining ministry practicums in their unique ministry settings.
“I truly believe the Midwestern Training Network will change the lives of people all over the world. 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 Seminary vice president for Institutional Relations. “This combination, coupled with our practicums, innovative delivery models, and flexible programming, makes the Midwestern Training Network unlike anything else in the world.”
Smith explained how churches could use the strategic practicums to customize much of the course content, enabling them to invest their own DNA into the student. Pastors would also lead cohort discussions and lectures over the classes the students take, enabling them to further invest through interactive classroom-style training.
The primary liaison between Midwestern Seminary and interested individuals/churches is Josh Hedger, who also serves as the director of the Midwestern Seminary Center for Church Planting. In his role, Hedger connects churches with MTN, fosters strong relationships with them, and ensures the network is meeting the educational and training needs of those involved. He said, “It is my desire to see the local church take a more active roll in training pastors, planters, and leaders for the church. The Midwestern Training Network is designed to help churches do just that – train leaders. It would be my joy to meet with you to discover how this partnership might better serve your church’s ministry education and training needs.” 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 with classes beginning on March 17. Further information about the network and the Masters of Arts in Theological Studies can be found at mbts.edu/trainingnetwork.