Ministry preparation within Anderson University’s Department of Religious Studies is rooted in some important values. First of all, we value scripture. Faculty take the Bible seriously and encourage students to read it, to take seriously its claims, to become familiar with its stories, and to work with critical questions about how it came to be and how it is used.
We value good theology. Theology is as much a practice as a system of belief, and good ministry involves sound thinking about important issues. It doesn’t mean doing so alone, however, nor does it mean carrying around a set of stale answers. Good theology is a living, breathing activity done with others in light of particular challenges.
We value people and the many places where they can be found. We don’t assume that reviewing someone’s status updates, knowing whether they are a “Boomer” or “Gen X,” or classifying them as “red” or “blue” is the same as knowing that person. There is more to every human being created in God’s image than the labels that person might be given, and we encourage students to become familiar not only with categories but with people in particular ministry contexts.
We value the church. We affirm that ministry is a characteristic of authentic Christian community. We see ministry as being open so that God’s good news works through each person’s giftedness to affect individuals for good at the point of their real needs. It is no one’s private property. We affirm the ministry of congregations and encourage students to have a meaningful connection with a particular setting for ministry — to observe, to offer their contribution, to learn, to critique when necessary, and to grow.
We value ministry. We recognize that callings differ. At the same time, we do not encourage the kind of specialization that would keep us apart or make us competitors. There should be a connection and a coherence about Christian ministry, which is why we don’t have a separate major for every one of its forms. In the same way, we work on building character more than crafting charisma, and we value the cultivation of wisdom more than the collection of techniques.
We value education. We help students draw on deep wells that will sustain their work rather than encouraging the strategy of scrambling for resources to “plug in” to their program. We embrace and explore critical questions, and we encourage students to question certainties that are reached prematurely.
We value you. At graduation, we would much rather shake the hands of people who have been changed by important questions from various fields of knowledge rather than to wave goodbye to tourists who had a nice time and are leaving with a few items they picked up along the way. We consider a student’s whole academic career — and their other educational experiences — to be part of their preparation for ministry. We encourage them to view life itself as a learning opportunity.