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Ministry Formation

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Student PreachingAs the Master of Divinity (MDiv) program is a professional degree program designed to prepare persons for church-related ministries requiring ordination, Ministry Formation serves to integrate experience and academics.  Among the vocations in which MDiv students explore through Ministry Formation are congregational ministry, theological education, chaplaincy, social service, and a variety of denominational and ecumenical staff positions.


Centrality of Ministry Formation

The MDiv curriculum presupposes the centrality of ministry formation, to which the rest of the curricular program contributes in various ways. The ministry formation process provides opportunities for students to bring together ministry experience in multiple contexts, supervised reflection designed to enhance that experience, and academic course work which informs this reflection.

Ministry formation is rooted in the praxis of ministry, a process of learning ministry by doing ministry. To that end, students participate in two required ministry experiences in two different ministry contexts. The reflective process related to these experiences involves faculty, supervisor, and peers, and is designed to lead students to an integration of personal and professional identity, and academic and practical proficiency. The process also enhances the student's ability to articulate faith within concrete life experiences and the changing dynamics of today's world.


Curricular Components of Ministry Formation:


Exegeting the Call and Culture of Ministry (F110 or F110H)

This course, taken during the Junior year, explores both the call and identity of the minister and the cultural context in which specific ministries take shape. Students are required to participate in a spiritual formation group that meets weekly in conjunction with this course (F110H students meet on-line.) Students explore the various aspects of Christian Ministry with particular attention to pastoral/congregational ministry. Course texts, focused on spiritual development, the missional leader, and pastoral ministry, encourage students to explore social situations of congregational ministries as well as the social and spiritual shaping of students’ identities as ministers. Students engage in theological reflection through practicing traditional spiritual disciplines. Class presentations and discussions, specific readings, small group work, ministry site visits and an in-depth interview with a person practicing a specific ministry press students to engage specific examples of ministry and their own understanding of ministry with theological reflection. F-110 is a three hour course offered in a year-long format on the Richmond Campus (1 ½ credit hours per semester.) F110H format is a one semester as weekend intensives and significant on-line work for the Connections program (3 credit hours in one semester.)


Ministry Formation (F301H)

Each student participates in an eight to nine month, part-time ministry placement,  in an approved congregation or other ministry setting, concurrent with two semesters of classwork, often during the Middler year. This supervised experience provides the basis for reflection in a Ministry Formation group. The class component consists of on-line and weekend intensives in both semesters. F-301H is a six hour course offered in a year-long format (3 credit hours per semester.)


M Div Review (F302)

This course, often taken during the Senior year, is designed to synthesize and reflect upon each student's cumulative course work and field education experience. In preparation for this course, each student assembles a portfolio of representative papers and reports from prior courses and ministry placements. The course culminates in an interview with each student by a faculty committee to assess the student’s fulfillment of the objectives of the M. Div. Program. F-302 is a three hour course offered each fall semester on campus and alternate years as a weekend intensive (F302W.)


Ministry Formation Elective (F200, F201, or F202)

In addition to the three ministry formation courses described above, three hours of credit are granted for the second required Field Education experience and related reflection process. As noted, the second experience takes place in a different ministry context than that of the Middler year placement. It may take place at
various times during the program including:

  • Intern Year. Nine to twelve months of full-time ministry, following the guidelines of the Intern Syllabus.
  • Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE). A basic unit of CPE offered by an agency accredited by the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE).
  • Summer Ministry. Ten weeks of full-time ministry and reflection as outlined in the Summer Ministry Syllabus.
  • Extended Ministry. The equivalent of ten weeks of full-time ministry and reflection, spread over a longer period of time.
  • Prior Ministry Experience. Credit may be granted for ministry experience within the three years preceding admission to Bethany, when the nature of the experience warrants such credit. Requirements for receiving credit for prior ministry experience are outlined in the Bethany Student Handbook.


For more information about a Ministry Formation at Bethany, refer to the Bethany Catalog, or contact:

Tara HornbackerTara Hornbacker, Professor of Ministry Formation     765-983-1817


Dan PooleDan Poole, Coordinator for Ministry Formation      765-983-1812


Matt Boersma
Master of Arts

MattMy thesis began its journey while learning Hebrew at the University of Notre Dame, back when I was an employee in the Information Technology department. Among the many Hebrew texts read, it was the Song of Songs in particular that caught my attention. I knew that historically it had been interpreted as an allegorical text exploring God's love of Israel (or the church), but I had not encountered the deeply sensual nature of the images and the erotic tone of the text. Reading through the book, the unabashed sexuality of the words struck me as completely different than how the rest of the Bible treats sex. During the previous semester we had read selections of Ezekiel, where sex and female desire is cast as idolatrous and evil. In the Song, it is unashamed and extolled.