10 Ways and Counting: How Can United Better Serve the Church?
Wendy J. Deichmann
By now you may have heard about the recent Domino’s Pizza comeback. The pizza chain was brazen enough to ask customers what it could do to improve its product and do a better job serving its customers. The company took feedback from customers to heart and made changes. Domino’s is now enjoying a new lease on life with the support of many new and returning customers!
United is asking the Church a similar question. This school has been serving the Church for 139 years, and is now at a state-of-the-art new campus experiencing remarkable new growth. However, we want to be sure we are meeting the needs of the Church in 2010. How can we do a better job for the sake of the mission of Jesus Christ in the world? I invite your input and your continuing support in this great purpose that we share.
Here is what we’ve been hearing from the Church recently, and how we are responding so far.
1 | We’ve heard a lot of concern about church and seminary decline. We’ve responded with a commitment to pray and work for Church and seminary renewal! We’ve revised the curriculum, including the addition of a required course in Foundations for Church Renewal, and we are also offering a Master of Divinity Concentration in Church Renewal. In the meantime, we are experiencing the renewal we are praying for and teaching. The annual number of incoming students to United has increased over 300% (from 60 to 190) in the past three years!
2 | We’ve heard that many new candidates for ministry do not preach well and that they often lack ability to speak cogently about their own Christian beliefs, historic doctrines and theological concepts. We’ve responded with a renewed emphasis on spiritual and faith formation for leadership, and added requirements in Bible, theology and preaching to the MDiv program.
3 | We’ve heard it takes too long, often four years or more, to earn an M.Div. degree. We’ve responded by reducing the number of credit hours needed for the degree from 90 to 78. We are encouraging graduates to pursue elective credits as part of life-long learning following graduation.
4 | We’ve heard that a heavy burden of debt often discourages young persons from enrolling in seminary, and it increases family and professional stress levels leading to burnout and ministry attrition. We’ve responded by creating an aggressive matching scholarship program, by keeping tuition and fees competitive and by reducing commuter costs.
5 | We’ve heard that the Church needs more young persons in ministry. We’ve responded by actively recruiting gifted and graced young persons to ministry and to United. In the past three years the number of masters students below age 35 has nearly doubled at United, from 23 to 40 and the average age of masters level students at United has decreased from 45 to 42.
6 | We’ve heard that, in an electronic age, more online delivery of theological education is needed. We’ve responded with far more online and hybrid courses. In the fall of 2010 we will begin to offer a fully online/hybrid MDiv degree in addition to our traditional offerings.
7 | We’ve heard an increasing call for international theological education. Our initial response is a partnership with the West Ohio Conference to educate pastors professors and to help plant a new seminary in Vietnam. We are currently exploring opportunities in other countries along with offerings in Spanish language. You will be hearing much more about international theological education at United!
8 | We’ve heard numerous requests for theological education for laity and we’re responding with new offerings through United’s Institute for Applied Theology, often by request and tailor made to the context.
9 | We’ve heard that the Church is deeply divided ideologically, theologically and culturally, and that there is much fear in the Church over this dividedness. We’ve responded by welcoming to United a broad spectrum of denominational and theological diversity ranging from mainline liberal to traditional, holiness and evangelical. This diversity is evident in our student body, faculty and staff, where we intentionally practice our deep seated value of respect for persons with differing theological, social, cultural and political viewpoints.
10 | We’ve heard that the Church has little or no money to fund new initiatives, including needs for theological education. We’ve responded by intensifying and expanding our own development work to strengthen the funding for our mission. United’s gift income and pledges have more than doubled in the past year.
We have a long way to go in order to provide for our rapidly growing number of students who will serve the mission of Jesus Christ in the world. Please continue to pray and work and give generously and help us identify additional persons who may have resources to help fund student scholarships. Every dollar makes a difference for a United student and those they will be called to serve!
Please call, write or visit as you are able. With the staff and faculty of United, I am here to listen and work with you in this dynamic, Spirit led ministry of theological education!
Looking forward with faith in Christ,
Wendy J. Deichmann
email@example.com | 937.529.2201