There were a number of questions I used in my journey to accepting a place at Regents Theological College. Once I had decided the time was right to study, I had to find where that would be.
Home or Away?
Cost, distance, people.
When I first starting discussing studying with my mentors they encouraged me to look at courses in the US. In their opinion UK courses tended to emphasis the achademic study of people’s opinion of scripture. Whereas in the states they felt the education was less achademic, but more rounded in forming you as a minister of the gospel. Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know (let me know your thoughts in the comments!) My brother is currently studying with Westminister Theological College and he’s mentioned not being able to reference prominent christian leaders becuse they aren’t ‘Theologians’.
So I started looking at places like Moody, ORU, Fuller, Dallas, Westminister and Regents (which is technically Canada). Each is top-class in terms of the education they offer; they have a number of notable alumni, as well as a number of recognisable faculty.
Google have a really great feature in their search results that show you known alumni for universities and seminaries.
All of these locations offered some type of distanced learning program allowing you to study remotely. The courses looked great, they covered a broad range of content and I liked the idea of following in the footsteps of some of my favorite preachers, teachers and theologians. There was one issue with the courses in the US. The cost.
Method of delivery
Part time vs. full time. Online vs. in person
Part-time was always the route. My calling is primiary to serve God through Business, so it didn’t make sense to put that on hold. So how do you get the benefits of studying full-time, without studying full-time? For me, studying theology is a bit like studying an MBA. Alot of the benefit comes from the people you do the course with. For an MBA is the network you develop, and the experiences you learn from. In theology it’s often the conversations you have with other students, and the lecturers, where the learning really takes place. As much as distance learning courses try to compensate for that through online forums and peer-review based assessments it’s not the same. I’ve worked with remote teams before at work and as much as technology trys to fill the gap it can never replace co-location.
So for me the best course involved what many universities and seminaries refer to as ‘intensives’. Part-time students attend campus for a few days a year to study modules in intensive periods. Full-time students will have several units they study during a term with a few hours a week. For intensive courses, all those weekly sessions are delivered over a short period of time. Intensive bursts of focused study delivered by experts in their fields. The benefit of face-to-face contact time and discussion with peers, without the time commitment. Perfect.
Content of the course
Being from a non-theological background (engineering). I needed something broad, that would give me a good grounding in a new subject, and was aimed at people from mutiple disciples. I wanted to unpack both Old and New Testament, understanding how to do proper exegesis and hermeneutics; but also to bring it out of the achedemic world and into the real world. With my primary calling being in the world of business I wanted to study the intersect between the sacred and secular. I wanted to study languages (Hebrew and Greek) and some of the works of the early church fathers (Luther, Calvin, Augustine). But no one course can covered everything, that’s the main thing I’ve learned.
When thinking about any studying (not just theology), it’s important to find the right way of studying that is going to work for you, in a place or at a time that suits your scheduel. Once you have worked that out, it’s really the content that should drive the decisions – and maybe the people who might be going on the journey with you.