In its report to the 37th General Assembly, the Interim Committee on Ministerial Education (ICME) presented details of the Mentored Apprenticeship Program (MAP). The program involves the eight ministry based courses now required for ordination in the EPC, and is designed to provide future EPC pastors with practical, applied ministry education that is not only denominationally aligned but also less expensive than traditional seminary classes.
Kent Mathews, Pastor of the EPC’s Grace Community Fellowship in Ottawa, Kan., is a member of ICME and serves as the Director of MAP. He noted how common it is for pastors to feel that their seminary training did not adequately prepare them for ministry.
“We’re trying to better prepare people for ministry by providing better vehicles for training and by reducing the cost,” he said, emphasizing that most of the innovation in seminary education over the past 30 years has involved only format changes, such as online classes or reduced hours for a degree. By contrast, the eight MAP courses involve practical application of the subject being studied. In addition, they involve the oversight or “mentorship” of a local pastor or other EPC ministry leader.
“Why is it that only preaching requires a student to practice what he is studying?” Mathews asked the Assembly. “Shouldn’t a student taking evangelism or discipleship be required to actually practice those skills as well?”
The Mentored Apprenticeship Program was created to help meet the EPC’s new educational requirements for ordination to the office of Teaching Elder, approved by the 36th General Assembly. These requirements—approved in response to changing trends in theological education nationwide—stipulate 66 credit-hours of required seminary coursework, including 42 hours of Bible, theology, and church history. The remaining 24 hours include the ministry- and skill-based disciplines of discipleship, ethics, leadership, pastoral care/counseling, ministry as mission, apologetics, preaching, and evangelism.
In partnership with Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary (GCTS), the eight MAP courses have been developed to address these areas and are available online at half the normal tuition cost. Five courses will be available during GCTC’s fall semester, with the remaining three scheduled to be available in 2018.
Mathews noted that in addition to course readings, videos, and assignments that students might expect in a traditional seminary course, students also undertake an in-the-field ministry project for each course, helping them gain valuable ministry experience in their local context.
He also emphasized that any student at a seminary accredited by the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) may take one or more of the MAP courses, and according to ATS rules, expect that his or her seminary will receive them in transfer credit. In addition, a student completing six or more of the eight courses will earn a Certificate of Completion from GCTS.
Mathews emphasized that an individual does not be a pursuing a master’s degree—or even have a bachelor’s degree—to participate in the Certificate Program, making it an ideal training vehicle for any non-ordained church or parachurch staff member who want to improve their skills and knowledge.
“Everybody benefits from this program,” Mathews told the Assembly, highlighting five specific groups:
- Current EPC seminary students. He explained that the average cost of a three-hour seminary course is approximately $1500 per course, but the eight MAP courses cost half that—saving up to $6,000 off the cost of an average seminary education. “Do you think students would be interested in that? You bet they would!” He added that a student who takes the six elective field education credits associated with MAP courses could save an additional $1500.
- Future EPC Pastors. “They are not just reading about things in a book and writing papers about it; they are being mentored by somebody who cares about them and implementing what they are learning as they are learning it.”
- EPC churches. A congregation will be able to call a pastor “who has actually practiced these eight subjects in the field while they have studied them.”
- The EPC as a whole. “We will increasingly become a denomination whose ethos and passion is discipling the next generation of pastors.”
- Pastor-Mentors. Mathews reported that the program’s beta tester mentors “have loved” being able to talk about subjects they studied 20 to 30 years ago—but haven’t formally studied since—with an intelligent, articulate student. “It gave them a chance to reflect and process again, and wasn’t just a book on a shelf.”
Click here to watch Mathews’ presentation to the Assembly.
Click here for a printable flier about MAP in pdf format. The flier explains the new EPC educational requirements; highlights the Project and Pastor-Mentor aspects of the program; lists the benefits of the MAP for students, churches, the EPC, and more; and provides information for Certificate, Doctor of Ministry, and post-Master of Divinity students.
Click here for more information or to register through Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary.