Formation for Ministry

Discerning God's call can be challenging, to say the least! Formation for Ministry at Western recognizes that you might appreciate some guidance along the way. Here formation for ministry means. . .

    • A place to practice ministry
    • Space for ministerial reflection
    • Feedback and support from mentors and peers
    • Opportunities to repeat the process to confirm your learning

Beginning early in your seminary journey, you will engage and explore your call in a supervised ministry setting with a mentor and peers. Western is committed to providing you with just the right place and space to nurture your call to ministry.

  • Formation for Ministry Objectives

    1. To deepen self-awareness

    2. To refine social awareness

    3. To engage in theological reflection on ministerial experiences

    4. To practice ministerial skills and increase ministerial competence

  • Components of Formation in Ministry
    • India5-lr.jpgSupervised ministry settings, mentors, and site teams
    • A facilitated peer group of WTS students
    • Complementary coursework and integrative seminars
    • In-residence students will experience a first year Christian formation retreat and second year intercultural immersion experience
    • Distance learning students will experience a yearly Christian formation retreat during the May intensive. The intercultural immersion experience occurs during the fifth year of the program.

    In-residence Formation for Ministry curriculum

  • Internships

    web-Hospital-10.jpg

    Internships are part of the formation for ministry process at Western Theological Seminary and provide a breadth of experience while going deep through the use of learning covenants and case studies of actual ministry experience.

    In-residence M.Div. students will participate in four 100-hour part-time units and one 400-hour full time unit of a supervised in-ministry experience within an approved ministry setting.

    Distance learning students will participate in six 130-hour units of a supervised in-ministry experience during the five years of the program.

    Ministry settings may include:

    • Congregations
    • Hospitals
    • Faith-based agencies
    • Parachurch Ministries
    • Campus Ministry
    • Care Facilities and nursing homes
  • Peer Groups

    peergroupmeeting.PNGPeer groups meet for personal support, reflection on ministry practice, and prayer. Care is given to maintain the same groups when possible through the first two years.

    In-residence peer groups of about 6 students meet weekly and are guided by a mentor with ministry experience. Senior Master of Divinity students serve as facilitators for junior peer groups. Ministry professionals from the area are utilized for middler peer groups.

    Distance learning peer groups are also guided by a mentor in ministry and meet during the on-campus intensives and on-line during the semester.

  • Student Testimonial

    Jared Ayers
    Jared Ayers & fam Liberti Church-lr.jpg
         My story begins in Eastern Europe behind what was once the “iron curtain.” During college I spent my summers with churches and church leaders in the Czech Republic and Poland, interacting with young adults who were extremely intelligent yet skeptical about the Christian faith.
         I loved it. I felt the Lord tugging on me to work someday in a church that catered specifically to thoughtful, skeptical people.
         After a few years in other ministry posts, Central Wesleyan Church in Holland, MI hired me as their youth pastor. In the summers I took teams of people to North Philadelphia to help house churches in impoverished neighborhoods. My friends there told me they were praying for someone to start a church in “the belly of the beast”—downtown Philadelphia.
    As my wife and I prayed and researched where the Lord might want us, I found that the least likely person to be a Christian in North America is an urban professional in the northeast metro corridor from Boston to D.C.  
         In 2008, my wife Monica and I moved with our baby, Brennan, into a two-bedroom apartment in the city of Philadelphia. We found it challenging at first because neither of us really considered ourselves “city people.” My wife’s parents were farmers, and her closest neighbors growing up were barely within eyesight.
         Another challenge was adjusting to being a Christian in a very post-Christian place. I had to learn how to talk about Christian faith all over again.  We began getting to know as many of our neighbors as we could, as well as contacts our friends had given us while we were moving.
         This is how Liberti Church started. For seven or eight months we met every other week with a small launch team of believers and non-believers to discuss what a church would look like that made sense for this place. On the off weeks, we basicaLiberti-Church-lr.jpglly hung out and got to know each other better.
         In the spring of 2009 we began worship services. We were seeing some of our friends become believers, and that helped form the DNA of Liberti—we didn’t use insider language that often happens in churches, but instead we learned not to make assumptions about where people were in their journey.       
         If you were to visit Liberti church today, you would find it much the same as when we first began. We have grown from 30-40 people to about 700-800 people in two campuses, yet it’s still normal to bring friends who aren’t Christians. In fact, we go to great lengths to guard that environment of hospitality.
         We don’t water down the Gospel message, but we do address things that are confusing or objectionable. We always want to remember what it’s like to not believe, and we also want to help people understand how the Christian faith can make very deep sense of their lives.  
         Soon I will complete my M.Div. through Western Theological Seminary’s distance learning program in partnership with the Newbigin House of Studies in San Francisco. It wouldn’t have made sense for me to relocate my family of five to a new city, so the distance learning option has been ideal. The marriage of first-rate classic theological reflection with the wisdom of expert ministry practitioners in an urban environment was just what I wanted in an M.Div. program.
         My studies have been very formative for me and for Liberti Church. Our whole approach to ministry—to seeing our own city as a mission field—was the vision and theological legacy of Lesslie Newbigin.
         Jesus came for the sick. Our church exists for broken/fractured/messy people who need grace. Liberti is like a teaching hospital that not only helps the sick, but sends people out with what they have learned, whether that’s through counseling, gospel ministries, residencies, internships, etc.  
         Continuing in the strong missional tradition of the RCA, I hope Liberti can be a place that both blesses our own community and encourages the wider church to pursue its mission in the world.       —JA

John Brogan

John Brogan

Dean of Formation for Ministry
616.392.8555 x192
Stephanie Croom

Stephanie Croom

Associate Director of Formation for Ministry
616.392.8555 x154
Glenn Swier

Glenn Swier

Associate Director of Formation for Ministry, Director of the Dual Track MDiv-MSW Program and the Graduate Certificate in Urban Pastoral Ministry Program
616.392.8555 x165
Beth Smith

Beth Smith

Administrative Assistant for Student Services
616.392.8555 x131

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