When you spend time in the trenches of real-life ministry you understand that there are some lessons you can only learn in the field. This has led to a growing movement of ministry leaders who want to move the center of ministry education out of the classroom. Expansive internships, residency programs, and gap year programs, are all emerging as alternatives to the classroom-only model of ministry training. If you have or are considering starting one of these programs in your own ministry, you may have questions about academic accreditation and ministry training curriculum. Here’s what you need to know.
Does Accreditation Matter?
In the education world, accreditation is used to assure the public that an institution is providing quality education. While accreditation is not the only way to assure quality, many candidates for your program will prefer pathways that lead to a degree at an accredited school. This matters especially to those students who plan to pursue a graduate degree or a career in academia. However, it is helpful to understand that a degree-conferring school only has to deliver a percentage of the courses themselves. With the right program and the right partnership, your ministry can actually provide much of the education that a student receives. The student can still receive a fully accredited degree from an accredited institution and you can still provide the kind of customized hands-on training that you know your students need. All this can happen without having to bear the weight of accreditation yourself.
Can My Ministry or Program Get Accreditation?
There is nothing that says a church, camp, mission organization, or another frontline ministry cannot develop an accredited educational program. But accreditation requires a substantial investment in time, money, and energy. Furthermore, you will find yourself recreating many of the elements and curriculum of a traditional school that already exists elsewhere. Maybe this is right for you. But by redirecting resources towards earning and keeping accreditation, you will have less bandwidth available to focus on your current ministry context and goals.
How Do I Know If Accreditation Is Right For Me?
To answer this you need to ask yourself another question: Who am I as a ministry? Do you see yourself as a school? Are you seeking to have education be your primary mission? If so, then seeking accreditation for yourself may be an option for you. However, most ministries see education as a tool that adds value to their mission, but do not see it as the main goal or driver of their mission. If a lot of your current offerings as a ministry aim for things outside of the formal education realm, then you may need to consider other routes for your students to get academic credit.
If I Want My Students to Get Credit, What Options Do I Have for Ministry Training Curriculum?
There are several ways for your students to get credit while serving and learning in your ministry.
Offer Internships for Credit
In the typical internship-for-credit arrangement, you recruit students already enrolled in a school who are looking for an internship to complete their graduation requirements. The school will require some sort of assessment or evaluation from you, but will otherwise be uninvolved with your program. This is the simplest approach of the three options, but the downside is significant. In a typical undergraduate program, an internship will only count for 3-6 credits out of a total of 120. Your influence on this student will be correspondingly small. If you want a deeper or more comprehensive program where students can grow as ministry leaders, this will likely not be the best fit.
Host a Bolt-On Online Partnership
One of the routes that many ministries take is the bolt-on partnership. In this arrangement, your ministry offers the hands-on portion of the training and schools provide online classes. Schools give students a predetermined set of programs and course offerings that are then practiced and applied when students serve out their internships or onsite training at your ministry. This arrangement has its benefits but it is a one-size-fits-all approach with no customization. You do not have any influence on what classes students need to take or whether the curriculum is meeting your specific ministry context or goals.
Build a Customized, Academic-Grade Ministry Training Curriculum
Eleven:6 has spent the last twenty years helping ministries build a third option. We help you create a customized ministry training program that fits your ministry context. This means that the leaders you train are perfectly suited to continue serving in your context. But we also partner you with the right academic institution so your students gain the credit they need to pursue whatever other goals that they have.
You still provide the onsite and in-person training described in the other two options. But you also get to build a ministry training curriculum that meets your specific needs as a ministry. Classes can even be taken through a variety of recognized Bible schools and seminaries. But how your own content fits into the process, what classes students take, and how those classes work together to train a ministry leader more attuned to your context and goals is up to you!
It’s easier, faster, and more affordable than you think to build a customized academic training program that will fuel your ministry forward. Schedule a call today to learn how.