Ministry is not something students do later after graduation. Ministry is something students practice now while learning in graduate school. Contextual Education represents our understanding that learning occurs through practice in specific contexts. The full Contextual Education sequence includes five courses, yet the holistic learning experience involves more opportunities like: weekly mentoring group, case studies, and pathways projects. A student’s path through Contextual Education courses depends upon their chosen degree program and their use of electives.
Here are four opportunities that are part of a student’s Contextual Education experience:
Mentoring Groups are gathered groups of students that meet weekly for prayer and conversation in an informal setting with a faculty mentor. These groups provide students with a community of student peers and a faculty mentor for their spiritual journey. This face-to-face time with faculty is a mark of distinction compared to other similar schools. Students may participate every year (the minimum graduation expectation is 3 years of mentoring for MDiv students and 2 years for MA degrees).
A Case Study is one method used in the GST to pose a real ministry scenario that demands the student-minister develop a specific response to a complex problem. Through the program, students develop a case brief response that offers an analysis of the situation, a theological proposal, and a prescription of a concrete response to the issue.
Pathways Projects - While studying for full-time ministry, some wonder how classes like Systematic Theology or History of Christianity relate to ministry. These theoretical or historical classes help students learn how to think deeply through contemporary church problems or relevant issues theologically. Pathways Projects are class assignments that allow a student to connect what they are most excited about in the class with their ministry context. The result is a uniquely integrative ministry practice. (MDiv students complete three pathways projects)
Portfolio Reviews (April) - A student’s formation for ministry is something the faculty observe beyond the classroom, assignments, grades, and mentoring groups. Students are given opportunity to represent their best work by creating a personalized online Portfolio. The portfolio will include documents (artifacts) like Student Ministry Identity Paper, Case Brief Response, Student Theology of Ministry, Pathways Projects and other outstanding work. The student adds to and improves these documents to represent their formative progress. Then, each April students refine and upload documents to their portfolio before the oral annual review of progress with a faculty panel. Completing the Junior Review moves the student to full Candidacy and completing the Senior Review moves them toward Graduation. This is a helpful time of affirmation, stretching, exploration of vocation, and prayer of blessing for the student.