Teaching Practical Theology

“Preaching, teaching, and pastoral care are complex in their own right, and courses in these areas must help students acquire the language and skills involved in these ministries.” – Richard Osmer, Practical Theology

Theological education as it stands does not primarily help students acquire these skills. The Master of Divinity program in general, it seems, is and has been focused on acquiring academic knowledge instead of practical ministerial knowledge and skills. Curriculum tends to focus on knowledge of the Bible, Christian History, and theological concepts. Granted, these things are important – but how important is knowing theology if you can’t teach or preach it? How useful is knowing the Bible when you don’t know how to do even basic evangelism? You end up doing what most pastors in mainline denominations are doing: teaching the same old stories using the lectionary and Feasting on the Word to the same old people who aren’t asking theological questions anymore because the repetition in their spiritual diet has convinced them that they’ve experienced everything when the true problem is that the menu is limited. More than that, not teaching practical skills in seminary convinces students that their chosen profession is less worthwhile than professions like counseling, medicine, law, or engineering, all of which require practical components.

What good is a specialized degree if you don’t know how to use it!