Practical Theology Pathways
Author: Dr. Jerry Scripture
In a world where theological information is at our fingertips, what separates higher education programs and their practical application from each other? Let’s explore the different approaches to gaining a practical theology education and what makes Maritime Christian College certification courses and Master’s Degree in Disciple Making and Ministry Leadership uniquely distinct from other educational methodologies and online theology courses.
One approach to theological education is taking courses on campus at a college or university. This requires the student to leave the comfort of their home, take time out of their busy schedule to drive to and from campus and be willing to sit to hear in-person lectures from the professors. Generally, there is very little interaction between students and the instructor.
A second approach is taking courses through self-paced modules that have minimal instructor interaction. A person can work through the modules whenever and wherever they want, but independent learning is just that, learning by oneself. There is nobody to share ideas or discuss the course material with.
Another approach is called blended learning. This is a combination of online learning with weekly live class sessions. Usually there is a specific time the students need to log into the online course room and the instructor presents a lecture on the material. Usually, the classes range from 2-4 hours in duration. The remainder of the course work is completed online in the form of assignments turned in to the instructor. The challenge is when the specific live course time is not compatible with the student’s busy life schedule or there are time zone challenges. With this approach, there remains minimal interaction between the instructor and peers because the live sessions are usually lectures from the instructors with no class discussions.
Maritime Christian College (MCC) has a unique approach to providing a practical theology learning environment that supports someone in gaining a robust theological foundation and disciple making/ministry leadership practical real-world application. Students can take MCC’s online theology courses from anywhere in the world as long as they have internet access. MCC has a distinctive online education approach that is embedded throughout each course and program we offer. We embed a strong theological understanding with practical application to disciple making and ministry leadership in each of our courses.
It starts with the selection of course developers. MCC selects course developers who are not only experts on the theological information but are living out what they are developing in their personal and professional lives. In other words, they have practical theology where they “walk the talk”. Each course developer follows our interactive and engaging course development process led by our team of curriculum design and theological experts. A template is followed throughout course development to ensure consistency in design and structure. It generally takes several months and numerous iterations before the curriculum meets MCC high standards for quality in each of our online theology courses. Before a course is complete, several theological experts and disciple making practitioners review the curriculum to ensure the material and course design is interactive and exceeds the course outcomes. They also confirm that the course is engaging, interactive, educational and practical to disciple making and ministry leadership. Knowledge and information are important, but applying what students learn to the real-world challenges is essential. Each course encourages the students to apply disciple making and ministry leadership concepts in their home community.
MCC is selective about who teaches courses. Each potential instructor is screened to ensure they meet the formal education requirements, but also the practical theology of disciple making and ministry leadership qualifications. Once an instructor is selected, they go through an instructor training program which provides up-to-date online instruction techniques, learning management system navigation, strategies to actively engage students in the class discussions, grading policies, etc.
In our master’s degree program, a Zoom online session is scheduled for the class around the mid-way point. This one-time optional real-time session allows the students and instructor to get to know each other more personally and ask any questions they may have. At MCC we have found that the students and instructors enjoy this opportunity to meet each other in person and get to know one another on a deeper level.
Feedback from the students is important for us at MCC to consistently improve our course quality to meet the learners needs. Before the completion of each course, an optional Zoom online session is scheduled with all the students in order to receive feedback on course quality, workload, what they enjoy about the course, as well as what the challenges of the course are. This information is used to improve and adjust the course accordingly. MCC also allows the students to provide written feedback after the course is complete as well.
When MCC combines all these learning strategies to their courses, the result includes exceptionally well designed and instructed courses that exceed the students expectations leading to proactive disciple makers and ministry leaders throughout the world.