Seminaries are generally introverted by temperament. Churches send their students to their denominational seminaries to be “formed” for ministry, and at the end of three years the students graduate, duly prepared (to some extent, at least) for the rigours of congregational leadership. But most of the formation happens behind closed doors—in classrooms, chapel, refectory, and informal groups. For many people and many churches over the years, this has been a relatively successful system, not likely to change to any radical degree any time soon.
But is there such a thing as an extraverted seminary? Could there be? What if those resources presently turned inwards, to the in-house formation of students, were also turned outwards to the churches? What might that look like? And what might be the effects?
Of course, most seminaries have some extraverted activities already: continuing education conferences, faculty members going out to preach and speak at conferences, student missions, and so on. But what if this were a major ministry of a seminary? What then?
A result of strategic planning
These are thoughts that went through the minds of the Wycliffe College board during the past year, as they went through a Strategic Planning process. And one thing that emerged at the end of the process was a new centre at the college called Wycliffe Serves! This is a hub from which will radiate all the ministries by which the college serves the church outside the walls.
Some of these ministries exist already: the Institute of Evangelism, of course, has been doing this kind of thing for over twenty years. But Wycliffe already offers other events which serve the church, such as “preaching days,” and the annual high school program during March Break called Arise! To these we plan to add more: seminars on clergy wellness led by our professor of Pastoral Psychology, Wanda Malcolm; help for inner city pastors from experts such as our adjunct professor Steve Shaw; and courses and seminars on children’s catechesis (based on the booklet Reimagining Children in the Church). And we are presently in the midst of negotiations with Messy Church in the UK in hopes that it too may come under the umbrella of Wycliffe Serves! Our expectation is that eventually there will be a Wycliffe Serves! event almost every month.
How will this be organised?
A couple of months ago, I wrote in good idea! that the Rev Dr Judy Paulsen would be taking over the teaching half of my job, and that has already begun. I will continue to direct the Institute of Evangelism half-time, but now the other half of my work will be taken up with directing Wycliffe Serves!
By the grace of God, we look forward to a future where we combine the “introverted” work of forming students for ministry with a more robust “extraverted” ministry of serving churches to equip them for mission and ministry in these challenging times. Stay tuned for more information!