Current cohort programs include Ignite West with the Pacific Southwest Conference and the launch of the Equip cohort in the Midwest Conference with 30 admitted students. The Ignite West program continues to be strong with 87 students between three cohorts. Even before the pandemic, the plan was to take a year off from enrolling a new cohort this fall and launch a new Ignite West cohort in the fall of 2021.
The Midwest Conference “is excited about the partnership with North Park Theological Seminary to offer affordable and accessible seminary education,” says Tammy Swanson-Draheim, Superintendent of the Midwest Conference. “Through this distance cohort model, students can earn the Master of Arts in Christian Formation in four years without having to relocate or incur significant expense.” The Midwest Conference calls its program Equip, drawing on Ephesians 4:12 for its theme verse: … to equip his people for works of service so that the body of Christ may be built up. “This describes our vision—to equip missional leaders who can lead healthy missional churches,” says Swanson-Draheim.
Planning for new opportunities also is underway with the Midsouth, Pacific Northwest, and East Coast Conferences. Conversations with the East Coast Conference continue to move forward, and the Seminary currently anticipates a Fall 2022 launch. The distance learning cohort for the Midsouth conference will be based in Houston, with a possible launch in Spring or Fall 2021. The Seminary also continues to explore opportunities in other regional conferences to establish cohorts.
An Excellent Model
An online cohort program focusing on theological studies is being conducted with the Great Lakes Conference and “can serve as a future model for focused student needs in our ECC conferences,” says Dean Kersten. This summer, students completed the Old Testament I course in a virtual/online hybrid format, studying with the Seminary’s Dr. James K. Bruckner, Paul W. Brandel Professor of Biblical Interpretation.
Students in the Great Lakes cohort are “all in ministry and know why they’re in class,” says Bruckner. The group of 15 is ethnically diverse, and “each student brings something special to our discussion,” he says. Some of the students will work toward their Seminary degree and others are “filling gaps in their education” because they were not able to go to seminary. The Old Testament I course serves as a foundational course both for ECC credentialing and also for Seminary degrees.
Bruckner says the Zoom classroom is an excellent model for both teaching and learning. The Great Lakes cohort had planned to first meet in person, but COVID necessitated the switch to a virtual classroom for the 10-week Old Testament course. Students studied assigned material each week and wrote a short paper, which Bruckner reviewed weekly. The class produced a total of 10 short papers to complete the course.
Bruckner began the course with a 90-minute video call to allow everyone to meet and share something about themselves. “I wasn’t sure how it would work, but that first call was wonderful. I knew then the course would be fun, and it has been. It was a very competent group and an honor to teach them all,” he says.
For more information about the Seminary’s distance-learning programs, contact the Office of Seminary Admissions.