The College Ministerial Curriculum Its Structure and Contents

The author of this article presents his personal views in a way that will provoke thought in all of us as we see the development of graduate ministerial training within the framework of our denominational system of education.—EDITORS

LEIF KR. TOBIASSEN, Chairman, Department of Religion, Union College

It is natural that the rise of graduate ministerial train­ing within the framework of the Adventist system of edu­cation should influence the undergraduate ministerial curriculum. Especially will the requirement of at least one year's graduate study before a min­isterial candidate is admitted to conference internship, lead to a more critical scrutiny of the college theology program.

The writer has corresponded with thirty-five North American administrators and others (names given, if requested) in re­gard to their thinking concerning the cur­rent college ministerial curriculum. On the basis of this correspondence and the writ­er's own observations, the following sug­gestions are offered:

  1. Practical experience in soul-winning endeavors in class and out of class should be a part of the undergraduate ministerial training program; this should include 68 semester hours of applied theology and a well-organized system of practical work in the local Sabbath school, MV bands, In-gathering effort, as well as certain types of evangelistic field work, personal and public.
  2. Practical experience in organizational and administrative techniques should be included as co-curricular requirements, particularly in budget-making, agenda-making, minute-taking, conducting and participation in committee sessions, distri­bution of executive responsibility, delega­tion of authority, differentiation between policy-making and decision-making, de­nominational polity on the local, confer­ence, and general levels, et cetera. A stu­dent who has no personal initiative and who cannot master organizational and administrative techniques in orderly fashion, and who does not understand group dy­namics, should not be recommended for the Adventist ministry.
  3. The requirements, within the minis­terial college curriculum, in English, writ­ten and spoken and read, should either be increased or elevated; that is, a higher grade than D should be required of min­isterial students in the basic college English course.
  4. The requirements in the social sci­ences should be increased to include a course in sociology, one in international relations, and a third in government (par­ticularly constitutional interpretation rel­ative to human rights, church-state rela­tionships, et cetera.) either in the upper biennium of the college or on the graduate level. The need for making the Adventist ministerial training program more global-oriented and more related to today's and tomorrow's society cannot be overem­phasized.
  5. The requirements in natural sciences and mathematics should include one lab­oratory course in some natural science and one in another field; if that field be one of the natural sciences, that course also should be a laboratory course. The need for pre­paring our future ministers for service in a technologically progressing world is now universally recognized.
  6. A general survey course in church history should be included in the college curriculum in order to help the student understand the past and the present from the Christian and the Adventist points of view. This point of view he should have before leaving college.

Needs Just Now

From the point of view of preparing recruits for the Adventist ministry the cur­rent need seems to be threefold:

  1. Stronger personal devotion to spirit­ual Christian living and to eager soul-winning efforts. This cannot be achieved by curricular structure or by better organized requirements; its achievement remains the religion teacher's and the college (univer­sity) administrator's major duty in their relationship to the students generally and individually. Yet, the experience alluded to in paragraph three is a definite aid and a partly reliable measure.
  2. Stronger personal leadership quali­ties. Neither can this be taught in a formal way, although three attempts can be made: (a) organizational theory and denomina­tional polity can be taught more intelli­gently and realistically, particularly by ex­ample in the local church; (b) experience can be gained by participating in church organizations, student associations and clubs, and in high-level and thoroughly organized student "conference" organiza­tions and ministerial associations; (c) en­couragement can be given in class and out of class, as well as when recommending for jobs or scholarships.
  3. Wider global vision. If it was ever permissible to educate Adventist ministers in terms of merely local or national think­ing, that time has now gone. The North American Adventist colleges have in this respect a particular task in regard to min­isterial global-minded personnel; the pro­portion of missionaries and leaders from home bases is changing more and more. On the college and on the graduate levels a wider international vision must be intro­duced into all Adventist classrooms in the specific courses and in social sciences, et cetera, as well as in the courses in theology and its cognates. Our new university par­ticularly must help in training teachers of this type both in religion and in the other areas.

Complex Program of Ministerial Training

The Adventist ministerial training pro­gram is the product of seven different fac­tors: (I) the department of religion, its instructors and its departmental student organizations; (2) the other departments that provide required and elective courses, particularly the departments of English, history, et cetera; (3) the administration that provides the general Adventist spirit and the professional atmosphere of the institution reflected in the educational pol­icies and the standards of student work and conduct; (4) the local church, including the Sabbath school, the MV Society, et cetera, that molds the pastoral and mis­sionary habits of the ministerial student; (5) the board that appoints the adminis­trators and the instructors and thus creates the climate under which the administra­tion and the faculty and students can live and work; (6) the General Conference, which coordinates the program on its var­ious levels; (7) the significant factor of the conference officers and committees that em­ploy ministerial graduates.

The ministerial training program is, of course, not primarily a structure of credits and course requirements but rather the climate the board and the other six factors create for the instruction and the exper­iences that the ministerial student is led into. Among these factors the individual Bible teacher is but a part of one. Never­theless, the religion professor is charged with the particular responsibility of taking the initiative in always analyzing and eval­uating the program and in subjecting it to fearless scrutiny. The world to which it is our mission to convey the Advent gospel is rapidly changing. The structure and de­tails of our curricular requirements must not remain static; it is a part of our task to help in the changes.

Ministry reserves the right to approve, disapprove, and delete comments at our discretion and will not be able to respond to inquiries about these comments. Please ensure that your words are respectful, courteous, and relevant.

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LEIF KR. TOBIASSEN, Chairman, Department of Religion, Union College

November 1959

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