The Deploy program, Grace Theological Seminary’s competency-based theological education program, is featured in the Spring 2020 issue of In Trust magazine, the publication of the In Trust Center for Theological Schools. A portion of the article appears below. Click here to read the complete story.
Competency-based theological education:
TWO SCHOOLS, LEARNING LESSONS ALONG THE WAY
Competency-based theological education (CBTE) applies the principles of CBE to a ministry setting, where character traits and qualities and other personality-related “soft” competencies are just as important to a seminarian’s success in a vocation or ministry role as academic knowledge, skills, and abilities. CBTE has dramatically changed how some seminaries are educating students and presents radical challenges to conventional ways of thinking about ministry preparation and methods of education delivery.Competency-based education (CBE) — an approach to education that allows students to advance based on their ability to master skills or competencies regardless of time, place, or pace of learning — has been gaining popularity across a variety of educational settings and is one of the fastest-growing educational trends in North America.
Some schools have gone “full CBTE,” while others are experimenting with just one program (typically the M.Div.), and of course, some schools are not employing CBTE at all. Wherever schools are in their CBTE journey, the impact of this philosophy of teaching and learning is being felt throughout institutions of higher education. It is also making an impact on conventional educational programs, sometimes by encouraging teachers to give more creative assignments that emphasize content mastery, or by tweaking how they teach and think about fieldwork for their students. And as more and more theological institutions pay attention, the impact grows even broader.
In this issue of In Trust, and in the upcoming summer issue, we will be presenting profiles of some of the schools that have been pioneers of CBTE. In this issue, we focus on Grace College and Seminary in Indiana and Horizon College and Seminary in Saskatchewan. These two schools, like the others that have or are in the process of implementing CBTE practices, should be considered cousins, not identical twins. “There are commonalities, but significant distinctions,” among different CBTE programs, says Kent Anderson, president of Northwest Baptist Seminary in British Columbia, also a pioneer of CBTE. The commonalities are easier to define than the differences because they are the components that form the core of the CBE movement. …
GRACE COLLEGE AND SEMINARY
Winona Lake, Indiana
“We are building the airplane as we are flying it,” explains John Lillis, provost of Grace College and Seminary, of his school’s CBTE program which is called “Deploy,” a program that delivers a seminary education online and within a ministry context at each student’s local church.
In 2018, after four years of planning a CBTE model for the M.Div. and M.A. programs, the seminary welcomed its first CBTE student into the program.
During the planning process, three diverse groups of pastors identified the 18 competencies they considered essential for Deploy students to master, and then faculty members designed the learning resources and evaluation processes for these competencies. “We locked the faculty into a room for two weeks, and they developed those competencies. The faculty are all in because they designed it,” says Lillis.
Faculty members also play a pivotal role in the mentoring program. At Grace, each student has a team of three mentors, headed by a faculty member. “The faculty person functions as a coach, as a mentor,” explains Gabe Tribbett, associate director of Deploy, and the other two are a ministry mentor and a formation mentor.
“The model is not unlike the European model of graduate study, where the instructor coaches … rather than being in class so many hours a week. There is one-on-one coaching through different mediums — phone calls, emails, video conferences.” Faculty mentors may switch during the program depending on the particular competency the student is working on. The other two mentors do not change, remaining with the same student throughout the program.