Theological training, networking opportunities widely available

February 11, 2021

My friend Kristen’s advice to upcoming seminary students is:

Don’t choose a seminary on “who will get me where I want to go fastest and cheapest,” but rather on “what kind of person and minister will I become as a result of its professors and seminary ethos?”

“Your teachers will shape you. You will shape your congregation. There’s a ripple effect,” she explains.

“Resist shopping for seminary like an American consumer, for a place that simply gives you information. Instead, prayerfully choose a seminary based on the quality of formation and information.”

Kristen is manager of marketing and communications for Beeson Divinity School at Samford University in Birmingham and director of The Center for Women in Ministry at Beeson.

She’s also a Beeson alumna. Our paths crossed during my own studies at Beeson, and we’ve worked together in various ways ever since.

Kristen admittedly had her marketing hat on while sharing about choosing a seminary, but her words reminded me how important it is for those teaching God’s word to have appropriate training.

Not everyone will have the opportunity to complete a master of divinity or other type of seminary degree and many will never get to attend seminary at all, but that doesn’t mean theological training isn’t available.

If you live near Samford, University of Mobile, Judson College in Marion or another Christian college campus, then talk to the dean of the religion and/or Christian studies department about auditing classes.

You might also explore where extension centers of our six Southern Baptist seminaries are located and see if the drive is manageable for you to take classes from time to time.

Samford also continues its longtime extension center-type classes with the Ministry Training Institute, offering local classes scattered across the state as well as online opportunities.

I’ve taken a few classes through MTI and highly recommend checking them out.

Our friend Kevin Blackwell oversees the effort and works with seminary-trained leaders across the state to teach the classes.

TAB Media staff and board members also have served as teachers through the years, including TAB staff member and ordained minister Richard Maddox teaching classes this spring.

Click here for more information on MTI.

Another friend, Morris Murray Jr. of Jasper, shared recently about the tremendous experience he has had with the Robert Smith Jr. Preaching Institute at Beeson, under the direction of Mike Pasquarello.

“For the past two years, I have been facilitating a group for Walker County,” Murray noted. “It has been a very meaningful project.

“In a nutshell, one facet of its ministry is the formation of preaching peer groups which consist of 5 to 12 preachers who meet once a month to receive encouragement, direction and support organized around three primary areas — learning, devotion and formation — and the practice of preaching.”

Beeson also offers the Thriving Pastor Initiative, which serves to connect congregational leaders with one another and with other sources of support and encouragement to help them thrive, both personally and pastorally.

Beeson Associate Dean Thomas L. Fuller directs this effort, and Stephen M. Johnson serves as associate director.

I share these examples to demonstrate the endless opportunities available to ministers, Bible study leaders and Sunday School teachers no matter where you live or what schedule you keep.

Congregations, encourage your ministers to use some of their church work time to take advantage of these continuing education opportunities and cover the expenses for them.

Pastors and education ministers, challenge those who teach in your church to participate in theological training and provide the resources to make that happen for them.

As my friend Kristen says, “The call to teach and expound on God’s word is a high calling. And one that deserves your very best preparation.”

By Jennifer Davis Rash

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