I’ve written here before about our master’s in missional leadership at Rochester College. It’s our effort to design a degree more in lines with the demands and opportunities for ministry in a new missional era. Simply put, the way we’ve trained ministers for the past 200 years prepares them for ministry in congregations that are fading away. While many of the skills cross over from one ministry era to another, many don’t and different skills are required.
So, one way our degree is different is that you have to have a ministry context in which you have permission to do projects. Our students and their missional communities do not have to imagine how what they’re learning will be used someday in the future. They get missional dirt under their fingernails as they go.
This past week, our graduating students have been doing their portfolio defenses. They provide samples of work they have been producing throughout the program, suggest how these samples are examples of their growth in relation to the five competencies we are tracking, and write a few paragraphs about their growth in each of these five areas. This group has been exceptional.
One of the things that was striking to me about these conversations was that they could not only link concepts together in meaningful ways, but they all had stories to tell about how all of this was at work in their ministry context. Real life ministry stories. Good ones.
One talked about how our focus on God-centered identity allowed him to be a more confident leader of evening prayers in his community, and how the practice of Dwelling in the Word had created a rich dialogical community. Several spoke of the powerful impact the reconciliation project done for John Barton’s class had, not only on them, but on their churches and communities. One student talked about the Appreciative Inquiry project that was done alongside a more typical “demographic” study of the congregation led by the elders, and the results of the AI project were far more revealing and powerful. All of them talked about changed perspectives on leadership that were accompanied by new skills that they had actually put to use.
At several points in these conversations, I found myself being envious of their experience. It was so different than mine. I had to figure out on my own how the things I learned in grad school applied to congregational life.
I am very thankful for my training, and very thankful for the experience I’ve had teaching in more traditional programs. But I will never go back. I wouldn’t trade what we do in this program for any other.
I am so thankful for our grads and the work they have done and are doing in their ministry contexts. Now’s the time to apply for next Fall!