Church-Based Academic Partnerships—How the Church and the Academy Can Better Connect to Raise Up and Train

Students receive practical ministry training, in context, when church and academia partner.

Ed Stetzer: Why bring the church and the academy together? Why is that important?

Colin Smith: Study matters, but so does hands-on experience. So bringing what can best be learned in the classroom together with what can best be learned in the church offers the best way to equip leaders for sustainable ministry.

Ed: What’s the advantage of doing theological formation while in ministry apprenticeships?

Colin: Everything we do in life needs to have a purpose and that includes studying theology. When people say, “I want to do a degree in theology,” I ask them, “Why? What is God calling you to do with your life?” The answer I hear most often is, “I want to serve the church.” That’s a great answer, but anyone who wants to serve the church will be best prepared for what they want to do by being immersed in the life of the church. That’s the opportunity we want to offer, and it has huge benefits in making progress towards the goal.

Then when it comes to the complexities of church leadership, the art of pastoral care, and the demands of sustaining a preaching ministry, nothing can beat a total immersion in the life of a healthy local church.

Weeping with those who weep is better learned at a funeral or beside a hospital bed than in a library. Rejoicing with those who rejoice is better cultivated at a wedding or a baptism than in a classroom.

Ed: What do you hope for people who walk through the apprenticeship / academic partnership?

Colin: The partnership is designed to bring people to a place where they are ready to be deployed in ministry. I would like to see people who commit to this program gripped by the gospel, devoted to the church, fired up for service, passionate about godliness, ...

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