A Message from the Director of Mentored Ministries

In an age of constant change, in a seminary of constant change, some things don’t change. Back in the Middle Ages when I was a student at Calvin Seminary, in the day of typewriters and mimeograph machines and rotary dial telephones, the “Field Education” office was located in the same place as it is today. I think it’s safe to say this is the only office that can say this. Back then I visited this office to see about preaching opportunities and to learn about my summer field assignments (as internships were called back then). We still make available preaching opportunities and we still arrange internships. So some things haven’t really changed since I started CTS as a student back in 1966!
I’ve changed a lot over those years. My student picture then showed black hair, not silver. I was still unmarried, not the “husband of one wife” and grandfather of eight that I am now. Forty-two years as a pastor of Christian Reformed churches from New Mexico to New York provided me with very diverse ministry challenges and lots of learning. Now I’m drawing on these experiences as Director of Mentored Ministries, starting my second year in this position.
While the office location hasn’t moved, the work done out of this office certainly has changed. For one thing, the name has changed a few times—from “Field Education” to “Formation for Ministry” to “Mentored Ministries.” The current name says a lot. At the heart of Mentored Ministries is the integration of head, heart, and hand. Yes, we still give students opportunity to apply their learning in a cross-cultural setting and a pastoral ministry setting (internships). But there’s so much more, and relationships (mentoring) are at the core.
Every M.Div. and M.A. student (MTS as well) is in a mentoring group. There are wise leaders (professors or pastors) who build a relationship with a group of students that grows over the two or three years of a student’s program here. Equally important is the development of a peer group where “iron sharpens iron.” No one can go through seminary or through a ministry career as a “lone ranger.” It never works well and churches end up paying the price if a pastor thinks she doesn’t need others.
Mentored Ministries also provides a place for theological reflection. Scripture, class learning, internship experiences, peer interactions all come together in writing and discussing theological reflection papers in mentoring groups. CTS is not just a place to pack your brain full of theological facts. It really is a place where students are formed for ministry. Those papers you submit in your Canvas courses for mentored ministries, along with the evaluations by your mentoring group leader, your vocational mentor, your internship supervisor, are all part of helping you to become a well-equipped servant of Christ.
There are a lot of pieces in the ever-changing world of “field education/mentored ministries.” Some are new, many have a long history. None are just “hoops” to jump through. As CTS has more students working at a distance, the ways in which integration and reflection happen will change. But Chris and I are committed to helping each student who interacts with us in Mentored Ministries to be as ready as possible to be a whole person serving our Lord and his body, the Church.
Al Gelder