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A Different Kind of Seminary

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Is the Flourish Institute of Theology really different?

The Flourish Institute has been designed from the very start to offer not just an outstanding theological education—many good seminaries do this—but specifically shape this theological education for service in ministry. Our School of Ministry is committed to training pastors and ministry leaders who are deeply seeped in biblical and theological insights, trained to be theological thinkers, and released to creatively, winsomely, and powerfully proclaim the message of the Gospel within our twenty-first century culture.

What are some specific differences with traditional seminaries?

Because of our approach, many differences exist between traditional seminary programs and those offered at the Flourish Institute of Theology. First, our professors work to integrate academic knowledge and tangible ministry experience. Second, a portion of required credits are earned through mentored training in actual ministry settings. Third, we seek to work with you in your current ministry setting, linking what you learn in class to the work of ministry you are doing. Fourth, we are able to do all this at roughly a third of the cost of traditional seminary programs.

 

Is the quality as good as a traditional seminary?

No. We believe it is significantly better. On the one hand, traditional seminaries seek to draw full-time academicians who have a remarkable track record of study. While we appreciate the amazing contribution of these individuals, our goal is to draw those who have both academic distinction and a track record of being skilled practitioners in ministry.  Our professors are not only able to teach the deepest truths of Scripture and theology, they are also able to integrate these truths with everyday practical ministry. Based on these factors, including our mentoring/coachign elements, we are confident you will not find better training for ministry anywhere.

Will spiritual formation be a part of the curriculum?

Yes! The spiritual life and health of ministry leaders is a vital and necessary part of all ministry. Thus, we are committed to help you grow not only academically and in ministry skills, but spiritually.  We seek to provide graduates with excellent theological and biblical knowledge as well as a combination of spiritual maturity and depth. Graduates will successfully minister out of a place of wholeness in the Lord. 

 

Is Flourish Institute of Theology accredited?
Not yet. We have begun the process of preparing for accreditation with American Theological Schools (ATS). This is a multi-year procedure that is not expected to be completed before 2026. One of the reasons for this is that we are required to graduate a class as part of the accreditation process. Once FIT is accredited, MA and MDiv graduate degrees earned prior to accreditation will be retroactively accredited.

(The LLP is a certificate program which does not fall under accreditation.)

How does it work?

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How do classes work?

Almost all of our classes are online. Each week will include assignments centered around a video lecture. This lecture will be supplemented with reading assignments, papers or projects, small group sessions, and class discussions via Zoom spread through the semester. All these (except the Zoom sessions) may be completed each week on the student’s own schedule allowing great flexibility. Each class has approximately twelve hours of video lectures, 1,500 pages of reading, several papers and/or projects, 3-5 small group Zoom sessions, and 3-5 all class Zoom sessions in a semester. These details will vary a bit through different classes, subject areas, and mentored ministry settings.

 

Is this entirely virtual?

Almost entirely. The vast majority of our classes are available only online and the Flourish Institute of Theology should be considered an online school. But there are some exceptions to this. First, a portion of required credits will take place in actual ministry settings under the guidance of a mentor/coach. Second, we will offer Gathering events at different locations each semester where students can hear lectures, study together, and enjoy times of worship, fellowship, and meals together over a weekend. Third, we are hoping to offer occasional Intensive courses that will meet physically over three weekends across the semester. Intensive courses will rotate each semester through different cities and areas of the country, making them more easily accessible.

Is there a physical location?

The short answer is no, not in the way most people think about brick-and-mortar seminaries. The majority of education will be done in a virtual format while providing occasional opportunities for people to be physically present with one another. In this format of development, one physical location is not as helpful as utilizing space in various locations for those occasions when students are gathered. We are working with several churches to develop regional hubs where cohorts of students can have greater physical interaction. This model of seminary allows forthe training of leaders that can be implemented uniquely in different contexts.

What degree programs are offered?

The Flourish Institute will initially offer one certificate (Lay Leader Program) and two different degree programs (Master of Arts in Theology and Master of Divinity). It is our hope and plan to expand this one day to include a Master of Theology and a Doctor of Ministry degrees.

• The Lay Leader Program (LLP) is designed to provide a year of seminary level classes for lay leaders in ministry. This may be a person serving a small church that is unable to have a full time or fully ordained pastor. This training would also be for a lay person leading a variety of ministries in or through a local church. 

(For those in ECO seeking to be Commissioned Lay Pastors, our LLP training provides the foundational education required for these positions.)

• The Master of Arts in Theology (MA) track is designed primarily for those seeking ordination in ECO. It builds upon the courses required of those seeking an LLP Certificate while adding the depth and breadth required for ordination.

• The Master of Divinity (MDiv) offers the fullest breadth of training for ministry leadership. It builds upon all that is required in the MA degree track while requiring ten additional courses. These additional courses allow students to not only gain a greater breadth of insight but it provides a diverse range of electives allowing students to shape their education and degree path more around their interests, gifting, and call.

 

Can I get seminary credit for my work in ministry?

We do not simply give credit for ministry work you are doing. However, we will work to structure and combine the work you are doing with academic resources and a mentor coach allowing you to grow in training and experience and through this and receive credit from your training.

For example, a person might be the student ministries director in a church. With her mentor/coach and School of Ministry’s mentored ministry office she might develop a program for training lay leaders for youth ministry. She would then study resources, develop a training program or curriculum, and then teach this to a group in her church. All this would be done alongside the mentor who will be a conversation partner, observer, advisor, and guide in the process. The mentor will then submit a report of progress and a grade recommendation for the mentored course.

 

Can I audit courses?

Yes! All auditors must first submit the FIT Auditor Application. That application can be found at flourishinstitute.online/apply. 

An auditor can enroll in as many courses as they would like to. The fee for each course is $100. That fee includes access to all of the course material and administrative fees. The auditor will have access to their course(s) for two semesters. After that, they will need to re-enroll and pay the course fee if they would like to audit again. 

During the semester that the course is offered, the auditor will have access to the course material only. They will not submit assignments or attend all-class Zoom meetings or small group meetings. 

If an auditor would like to take a course for credit, they will need to apply to be a student at the Flourish Institute of Theology. That application can be found at flourishinstitute.online/apply. Courses previously audited must be taken for credit at normal tuition rates. 

What does it cost?

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How much will it cost?

The cost of a single course is $500 dollars. Thus, an LLP program would cost $6,500, an MA would cost $11,500 and an MDiv would cost $16,500.

Additional costs, i.e., books, flights to intensives and/or Gatherings, and miscellaneous costs should be expected. If these costs are considered at 20% the costs for each degree would be approximately $7,800 (LLP), $15,000 (MA), and $19,800 (MDiv).

Please note that while the cost of a class is currently fixed at five-hundred dollars, additional expenses and costs are uncertain. The numbers above are simply estimates given to help students in their decision making and planning. Your costs may be less or more, depending upon the details of your course of study, length of program, and additional elements you might chose to take on.

 

How many hours per week will this require?

Each class is four units. This means that for every hour of class lecture there will be 4-5 hours of independent study. This would include reading, writing and/or other projects, small group gatherings, and class Zoom gatherings. Students should plan on six to ten hours per week, for each class.

How long will it take?
If taken full time, the LLP certificate requires 12 classes and will take one year to complete, including summer. The MA degree is considered a two-year program if taken full time (includes summers) and requires 23 classes. The MDiv track is a three-year program if taken full time(includes summers), requiring 33 classes.

Most of our students, however, are not full-time students. As each student sets their own pace, the time involved is usually two to three times longer. Most of our students take one or two classes per semester (three to six per year).
Classes are designed and scheduled to allow students to pursue either full or part-time studies.

Miscellaneous Questions

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What about lay leaders?

Historically there has been a significant gap in what we have called “lay leaders” and those who have been “ordained clergy.” We are grateful to see this gap shrinking and desire to see all God’s people involved in trained ministry, in every context and position. The earlier lay leader program has been well received and many students who have started with the CLP1 program have felt called and encouraged by their mentors to pursue a CLP2 certification (through ECO) and even ordination (The CLP 1 & 2 certification trainings are done through ECO and are not part of the Flourish Institute of Theology.). The Flourish Institute of Theology’s LLP program builds upon this history and provides excellent training for lay leaders in ministry. And, because these classes are the same initial classes required for our MA and MDiv programs, it provides the perfect first step for lay leaders who desire to take their education and training deeper.

When will it start?

The official opening will be in the Fall of 2022.  For the last three years we have been offering three to four classes each semester, part of a set of twelve classes developed in partnership with Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. In the Fall of 2022 we will begin offering an increase of 10-12 classes per semester.

Is this only for one church or denomination? Are others welcome?

While designed to meet the requirements of those seeking ordination in ECO Presbyterian churches it has been our hope and plan since the beginning to expand beyond this in a variety of ways. First, there are other denominations and networks that have expressed interest in conversation. Second, there are some of our Reformed denominations and missional partners across the globe who have expressed interest in finding ways to bring this training into their culture. Finally, we have had conversations with those in parachurch ministries who are interested in further training with us. Much of this exists only in conversation but we see the tremendous possibility that Flourish Institute of Theology might serve as a resource for training people for ministry in the twenty-first century far beyond our ECO family.

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