The Charlotte program are designed to address the needs of students who are actively engaged in ministry. They may be full-time pastors, bi-vocational pastors, or non-ordained staff with limited theological training or they may be serving as interns as part of their theological studies at the seminary.
Students will have access to quality contextualized theological education and hands-on training for parish ministry, without leaving their employment or ministry for the duration of their studies. Therefore, mentored ministry and qualified mentors are crucial to the success of the Charlotte program.
A unique aspect of the Master of Divinity degree (M.Div.) at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary—Charlotte (also the Leadership concentration in the M.A. degree) is the emphasis placed on mentored ministry. Since this program is built upon a parish based, in-service model of theological education, a significant amount of integrative learning should take place in the context of ministry. The process is guided by mentors, faithful persons already engaged in ministry. It is in-service rather than pre-service in its orientation. Intentional covenants for growth and accountability are developed between students and mentors which move Master of Divinity students through three phases of mentored ministry:
Students in the leadership track (MA-CL) will only participate in the Supervised Ministry phase.
The primary focus in all phases of mentored ministry is:
to experience ministry in a continuous series of rotations or internships and then to build the ecclesial bridge to full-time ministry in the final phase under the tutelage of a mentor.
The mentored ministry model brings each student into a triadic learning relationship between himself or herself, the Director of Ministry Formation, and a mentor.
Mentors are mature Christian ministers who are adequately trained, effective in ministry, yet comfortable with the reality of human limitations. They have expertise gained through advanced education and ministry experience. The mentor, assigned by the Director of Ministry Formation upon nomination by the student, contributes to the formation of the student in at least four significant ways in addition to the time, energy, prayer and guidance which naturally attends a mentoring relationship.
The key to the effectiveness of the mentored ministry program is the selection and training of mentors, as well as the matching of mentors with apprentices, where required. The Director of Ministry Formation is responsible to develop a network of mentors, train the mentors in supervisory skills, coordinate their activities, and support their continuing development.
All matriculated ministry students are responsible to participate in the Mentored Ministry Program for certain degrees. Master of Divinity students will participate in all three phases of Mentored Ministry: MM 610, MM 620-639, and MM 640. Students in the Master of Arts in Christian Leadership are only required to complete three rotations in the sequence CL 620 – 622.
Mentors and students are required to meet on the average of one hour a week or approximately forty (40) hours during the year in supervisory sessions. These sessions may be extended to more than one hour at a time. For instance, this could be twice a month for two hours.
There are three phases of mentored ministry for the Master of Divinity student: The mentor program is characterized by and progresses through these three phases.
The first phase is a non-credit orientation to the mentoring program. Students in this phase will be under the supervision of the Director of Ministry Formation. The goal is to help each student begin the process of developing a sense of ministerial calling and identity. It includes psychological testing, examination of the call to ministry, the nature of ministry and the person of the minister, among other issues. Spiritual formation activities are also included in the phase to provide a foundation for spiritual development and vitality. At the end of this phase the student will nominate a mentor who will work with the student in the supervised ministry phase. The mentor will be approved and trained by the Director of Ministry Formation.
Pastoral ministry in the contemporary world requires a broad set of skills and knowledge specific to various practices. Eleven areas of knowledge and practice have been selected as crucial to the current practice of pastoral ministry in a congregational setting. Students are required to have academic courses and mentoring rotations before graduation from the Master of Divinity program.
Students will be able to fulfill the requirements through a combination of specialized mentored ministry rotations (all M.DIV. students must complete at least six one-hour rotations) and specific ministry classes. Students who can demonstrate significant experience in a prescribed ministry area can develop either a more specialized rotation for that area or else opt to address another area of ministry development in their mentoring rotations. Also, if a student can make a case based upon vocational trajectory, substitute rotations can be used. For instance, a student preparing for hospital ministry or military chaplaincy may not need experience in leadership or evangelism as much as more work in counseling. The final decision will rest with the Director of Ministry Formation.
The second phase of the Mentored Ministry program provides the student opportunities to participate and reflect upon actual ministry experiences. The student in collaboration with an approved mentor and the Director of Ministry Formation will complete for-credit ministry projects called rotations.
A learning covenant will be developed for each rotation or internship which is signed by the student and approved by the mentor and the Director of Ministry Formation. MA-CL rotations or internships are designed by the student in cooperation with the mentor and the Director of the Master of Christian Leadership program which should contribute to the student’s concentration and vocational trajectory as a Christian leader.
Each rotation will consist of:
(1) a learning covenant prepared by the student and the mentor
(2) approximately forty hours of student experience including preparation related to the rotation, and
(3) one hour of supervision each week with the mentor or the person coordinating the rotation.
Students and mentors may choose to concentrate the activities or the supervision in larger blocks of time, e.g., four hours of supervision once a month rather than one hour per week or an eight hour block of time in one week for the rotation. Six hours of credit are given at the conclusion of six approved rotations — one credit for each approved rotation (See page 23 in the Mentored Ministry Manual for a list of the rotations and course numberings).
Since the Mentored Ministry programs on the Charlotte campus is credit-bearing parts of the degree programs, they should be treated with the same earnest application and study as any other class. Students with previous ministry experience can not use previous ministry experiences for credit, only advance standing in terms of the choice of rotations developed! The only exceptions are students who have engaged in a nationally recognized structured training program such as Clinical Pastoral Education (C.P.E.) or military chaplaincy training.
The final phase of the program provides an opportunity for the ministry student to integrate academic learning and ministry while making the transition to full-time ministry. Each student will enroll in the three-hour course, Readiness for Ministry Exit Seminar (MC850). This will occur during the student‘s last year in seminary. As a central part of this phase the student will conduct a three-hour presentation during which the student will evaluate the academic and professional experiences before church members, other students, mentors, and professors. This phase includes an integration of theological concepts and personal ethics with ministry (See the section on Readiness for Ministry in the Mentored Ministry Manual).
A record of student activities in mentored ministry is kept by the Director of Ministry Formation. All three phases of mentored ministry will be recorded on the check sheet/transcript after the activities have been certified and approved by the mentor and the Director of Ministry Formation. Mentors will report on student progress twice a year.