Recently I was asked by a writer for Outreach Magazine to talk about the future of seminary education. Since, I’ve written on this since the 1990s, I’m often asked my thoughts. Here are my (unedited) replies about what I think the future seminary will look like:
Outreach Magazine: What shifts or trends are you seeing in culture, in the Church, or in your students that challenge you to change the seminary experience for today’s students?
Whitesel: Christian leaders today want accessibility, practicality and economy. That is why we designed our seminary from the ground up. We are like a church plant, we started with a clean slate. And that is why we’ve been able to be so innovative. All of our courses our team taught by a theologian and an application (praxis) professor. That is probably why we’ve grown in a little over four years to over 400 students.
Outreach Magazine: How are seminaries meeting the needs and challenges of emerging leadership?
Whitesel: Many seminaries are experimenting with online education. But often there’s a great deal of pushback from the professors and even the administration. Seminaries have not historically been organizations that embrace innovation.
However our seminary, because it is a new and growing young seminary, has established innovation as one of our founding principles. And, we are part of Indiana Wesleyan University with over 10,000 students that has utilized online education for over 15 years. So we have an experienced with online education that most seminaries just don’t have. That’s allowed us to led the innovation of tomorrow’s education of seminarians.
Outreach Magazine: Anything else you could say about this?
Whitesel: You didn’t ask this, but here is a good question: “what will the seminary of the next 20 years look like?” I believe it will use virtual reality to bring to life some of the great historical seminary minds, either through holograms or video. You will be able to have George Ladd appear in your class on New Testament theology, and then have Geoffrey Bromley appear in your course on church history. Those were two of the famous professors from Fuller Seminary in the 1970s. And so the seminary professor of tomorrow will be more of a curator. I’ve already begun to do this by curating http://www.ChurchHealthWiki.com with almost 500 articles on church leadership and growth, curated for tomorrow seminarians. So the future the seminary will be much more virtual and relevant with videos of historical and contemporary theologians – but curated for their practical insights by practitioner professors.