La Sierra Divinity School Mentors Students Into Frontline Ministry to Congregations
In order to strengthen its practical ministerial education, La Sierra University’s HMS Richards Divinity School is forming a Panel of Teaching Pastors. John Brunt joined the Divinity School faculty in July 2013 as senior fellow of pastoral ministry. Brunt will chair the panel, along with teaching several divinity school courses each year. An experienced theologian and academic administrator, Brunt has served as senior pastor at the Azure Hills church in Grand Terrace, Calif., for 11 years. He will continue to hold that position while taking on this additional part-time role.
“Too often, pastors have seen fieldwork students as a means of getting free labor to help with their tasks,” Brunt said. “This panel is designed to team pastors with Divinity School faculty in a way that makes them co-educators. We plan to enlist experienced pastors who have a passion to help equip students for ministry.”
This enhanced field program will help support the increasing enrollment in the school. Fall 2013 enrollment showed a 29 percent increase in the number of undergraduate majors, while graduate student enrollment increased 13 percent.
Divinity School faculty members plan for the fieldwork program to develop in two areas — supervising pastors and mentoring pastors. Supervising pastors will directly oversee the activities of a student assigned to their congregation. The Divinity School will provide a manual to guide supervising pastors in creating appropriate experiences for students so they can receive practical exposure to the pastor’s role.
Mentoring pastors will guide students who are already in full-time ministry and who cannot leave their current ministerial assignment to do field work in a different church. Mentoring pastors will be experienced professionals in nearby churches. Students and mentors will regularly meet to reflect on the student’s ministry. Mentor pastors will assess preaching videos, attend boards and committees with the student, and evaluate church member feedback about the student.
Brunt has received nominations for potential panel members from the Southern California and Southeastern California conferences' ministerial directors. Nominated pastors have been invited to submit a résumé and statement of why they would like to be involved in the program. Panel membership was finalized in October 2013, and members were selected based on their statements and experience.
“This program is not about students simply assisting the churches and pastors with their work,” Brunt said. “Instead, we want to enlist pastors and churches who truly want to assist in the education of the students by sharing with them first-hand, practical experience, combined with evaluation and reflection.”