From Classroom Learning to Change in the Church
Don Payne, associate professor of theology and Christian formation, Denver Seminary
David Buschart, professor of theology and historical studies, Denver Seminary
During the spring semester of 2015, Denver Seminary offered the third installment of its “Theology of Work” course. In this most recent iteration of the course, mini-grants were offered to seven students from the class. These students, selected through an application process, extended the impact of the course by carrying out faith and work ministry projects in local church and para-church contexts.
Supported by the mini-grants, students designed, created and delivered their own short-term curricula or other creative projects related to faith and work. Mini-grant projects included teaching series in local congregations, a one-time event followed by a panel discussion and vocation-based discussion groups, a four-week Bible study on work, a weekend retreat for women, a five-week session for upperclassmen at a local at-risk high school, and a TED-style presentation on a Christian perspective on work at a local public forum.
The extended effects of these projects included the creation of follow-up small groups, the reshaping of sermon emphases and the creation of additional teaching series. Overall, students expressed that they gained a more nuanced grasp of the challenges people face in connecting faith and work, and were encouraged at how hungry and responsive people were to finally have the subject addressed as a vital aspect of their discipleship.
Justin Irving, professor of ministry leadership, Bethel Seminary
Effectively equipping seminary students with a robust theology of faith, work and economics is not just the work of faculty. Although faculty play a critical role, the entire seminary community is part of this vital work. The faculty, staff and administration must all understand and be committed to shaping and guiding students on this journey.
Over the past two years, the Work with Purpose team at Bethel Seminary has helped both faculty and staff grow in their understanding of work and the economy through mid-year retreats. These retreats have shifted participants from initial awareness to personal involvement and commitment.
For our retreat in 2015, Scott Rae was our speaker and facilitator. Scott provided a robust theology of work, helping attendees to fully embrace their own callings and engage seminary students to help them live out their callings. At our 2016 retreat, which just took place at the end of January, Gary Black was our speaker and facilitator. Pressing further into the economic edge of the faith-work conversation, the theme was “A Divine Conspiracy Continued & Work with Purpose.” In our time together we engaged topics related to The Divine Conspiracy, including, “Matters of Eternal Consequence,” “What is a Divine Economy?” and “What is a Divine Seminary?”
As at many seminaries, conversations around work and vocation come more naturally for us than conversations around economics. Yet Black provided an opportunity to expand the economic wisdom of the seminary community, building our capacity to better serve students as they seek to support their congregations in whole-life discipleship in service to Christ.