Ministry in the 21st century takes many forms. Leaders of theological institutions are aware of this diversity and many are ready to address this emerging need.
There are 274 member institutions in the Association of Theological Schools. Schools choose to belong in order to challenge themselves to meet the high standards articulated by the Commission on Accrediting including its Degree Program Standards. These standards are not static, however, but evolve to reflect the best practices of member schools, the needs of constituents, and new methodologies.
In a recent report, the ATS Models and Practices in Theological Practices project identified ten emerging themes that have potential implications for the Standards of Accreditation.
One suggestion is the redeveloped standards should encompass a broadened definition of the nature of ministry. Theological schools in North American have traditionally focused on preparing leaders for congregational ministries. Today, however, students are using the skills they learn in seminary for a variety of purposes beyond the local church.
A student with a theological degree today may become a not-for-profit executive, a community development advocate, a teacher in a variety of fields, a para-church ministry leader, or a social entrepreneur.
Central Seminary has recognized this reality in redesigning its Master of Divinity, Master of Arts (Theological Studies), and Doctor of Ministry programs. The new Master of Divinity is a competency based program that equips students for a variety of ministries in the church and in society. The MA(TS) provides a foundation for discernment, thoughtful navigation, and engagement on critical issues with emphases in Biblical Studies and Peacemaking/Reconciliation. The Doctor of Ministry in Creative Leadership equips professionals to take their organizations and vocations to the next level through the application of visionary and innovative skills.
As the meaning of ministry changes, those who equip ministers are changing as well.