My blogging on this subject has been much more sporadic than I’d like this semester. Such is the life of a Master of Divinity student in their final year of seminary who is also in the process of becoming a candidate for Minister of the Word in the CRCNA.
Nonetheless, here is my (belated) third installment on the road to the call. When I last left off I told you about some of the non-academic qualifications that are involved in becoming qualified as a candidate. There are more and I will talk about those, but this entry will focus on the academics.
As I mentioned previously, all candidates for Minister of the Word (with a few exceptions) must spend at least some time at Calvin Theological Seminary. The seminary itself works closely with the denomination but essentially sets is own requirements for the M.Div. Program.
The requirements for entry into and graduation from the program are extensive by most standards. As an undergraduate I have to have had taken certain courses in science, philosophy, history, public speaking, history to can unqualified acceptance into the program. Once enrolled, the M.Div. program consists of 109 credit hours that includes both academic and field (internship) credits. Ordinarily, in order to be considered for candidacy, a student must graduate from the program with a cumulative GPA not lower than 2.85.
The seminary and the CRCNA require training in Biblical Greek and Hebrew, OT & NT Exegesis, Preaching, Systematic Theology, Apologetics, Worship, Biblical Knowledge, Pastoral Care & Leadership, Church History, and CRC History & Polity, among other things.
In addition, there are two required internships. One 5-week cross-cultural internship during which the student spends at least 200 hours in a ministry context that is starkly different from what they were raised in or are familiar with. For someone like me, who grew up in a rural setting that involved serving in an inner-city ministry to the poor and homeless in downtown Grand Rapids. For someone else who grew up in the city it may mean serving in a rural setting. Either way, the idea is that you get a sense of ministry being bigger than ‘what I’ve always been used to’.
The second internship is a 10-week congregational internship in which the student serves an established congregation in order to get a ‘feel for’ the day-to-day routine of being a pastor. For some students, like myself, this may mean serving a long-established congregation while for others it may mean working with a church plant or some other type of ministry. The internships can often be tailored to the ministry goals and plans of the student. This is a 400 hour summer internship and is supervised by both the seminary and the leadership of the church in the which the student is interning.
We are also to get practical experience in preaching by preaching at least 6 times in as many different churches as possible. During those times, we are to hand out evaluations to congregants who evaluate our preaching and delivery style. These evaluations are then sent to the seminary and reviewed by a mentoring group leader and become a part of our file at the seminary.
Finally, along with the academic and internship requirements all students must complete 100 hours of ‘service learning’. Students are required to volunteer (a contradiction in terms?) with a ministry that shows justice and mercy to a marginalized population. This could be mentoring a child, tutoring in an after school program, working with the elderly, or serving with a Christian environmental group. I have been volunteering with Friendship Ministries (a ministry to people with cognitive impairments) here in Grand Rapids working with a young autistic man on Tuesday nights.
All of this (and more) makes up the three or four year program that is the Master of Divinity degree at Calvin Theological Seminary. Once all of those requirements are met (or in the process of being met) we begin the final steps toward receiving a call for ordination, which I will talk about next time. Hopefully sooner than this time…