How does one change the world? Many young people choose to contribute by doing a year of service after graduating from college. They join AmeriCorps, the Peace Corps or Teach for America before heading to graduate school. Often, they go on to law school, business school or get higher-level degrees in education or public health.
But here's a quick quiz:
What grad schools offer some of the best financial aid packages and have graduates with the lowest debt levels? Where do you find professors who immerse themselves in issues like food security, human rights, immigration and prison reform and teach classes about them? What graduate schools attract a diverse group of students who are preparing for courageous roles in society and are committed to systemic social change?
Answer: seminaries and divinity schools.
Surprised? Shocked? What people don't realize is that theological education prepares and fortifies socially minded leaders for our communities.
Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn., consistently prepares students to lead model faith communities that are vibrant and life-giving. Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C., takes a courageous stand by inserting faith convictions into local and global political conversations and calls for faithful engagement based on service and justice.
Take a course at McAfee School of Theology with David Gushee, a leading activist against torture and Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics. At Princeton Theological Seminary, Stacy Johnson teaches a diverse range of courses drawing from his training in theology and law, including environmental theology, leadership theory and the reshaping of Reformed theology in a postmodern age. As food security becomes a defining issue for a generation, take a class with Fred Bahnson, director of Wake Forest School of Divinity's Food, Faith and Religious Leadership Initiative and author of "Soil and Sacrament: A Spiritual Memoir of Food and Faith." Or take Anna Carter Florence's class at Columbia Theological Seminary, "The Preacher and The Poet," and prepare to proclaim prophetic witness in the public square.
Increasingly, seminaries and divinity schools are connecting the dots between faith and service, and encouraging students to grow as faith leaders who will take on important issues in local and global communities after they graduate.
This summer, a group of students are setting off on a cross-country trip to share the exciting news of seminary and to challenge negative stories about ministry and what is possible through theological education.
Led by Betsy Lyles, a second-year student at Columbia Theological Seminary, the New Faces of Ministry Summer Tour 2013 will launch this week as a grassroots movement to affirm the church's engagement in the world and shine a light on what is possible through powerful church leadership.
Betsy will spend her summer field education placement at the wheel and leading the charge. These students will cram into a 2008 Toyota minivan stocked with brochures from seminaries and divinity schools and posters that display the images of many of the students who are committed to the concept.
Why would they spend their summer redefining, reclaiming and rebuilding a new understanding of ministry?
"I want to offer the thought of theological education to unsuspecting students who are already committed to service, just as it was offered to me," Betsy said. "I won't include any supernatural signs, or conversion stories ... just a seminarian asking people to consider what a life of ministry would look like based on their commitment to faith and service to their communities."
The tour will stop at campuses, youth corps and congregations across the country to share energies, ideas and passion for ministry.
For an up-to-date schedule of where the tours will stop, please go to www.faith3.org. Please contact us if you'd like us to visit your organization!The New Faces of Ministry Tour will look to:
- Redefine the public understanding of ministry by lifting up its many roles and broad expression throughout society.
- Reclaim a commitment on the part of the church to young adults and the causes they care about.
- Rebuild relationships with a generation that is searching for spiritual meaning and strength in the midst of their service to the world.