How a revamped MDiv resonates with ministry professionals
This article appears in the Stories edition of the Calvin Seminary Forum
It was 1993 and David Rylaarsdam was leaving seminary as an ordained pastor full of knowledge, but lacking confidence. Still facing lingering questions surrounding how to lead a church, he stepped into his first role as interim pastor.
In recent years, Rylaarsdam has made it his mission to keep Calvin Theological Seminary as a standout seminary in preparing graduates to hit the ground running in ministry, particularly in the Master of Divinity (MDiv) program.
As a professor of the history of Christianity and worship, Rylaarsdam served on the committee shaping the curriculum for the newly revamped MDiv. This team of faculty and staff leaders shared a common desire to see the new curriculum grow to embrace leaders from the global church that are attending Calvin.
“This degree is rooted in the Reformation,” says Rylaarsdam, “and thoroughly practical.”
“We spent nearly two years in study with the goal of retaining the center of our Reformed theological perspective and reputation of academic excellence while seeking to serve more effectively various students who have different contexts and vocational callings,” said President Jul Medenblik, in the press release announcing the curriculum.
“This new method of educating for preaching takes into account students’ diverse gifts and their vocational intentions, customizes training according to students’ individual needs, requires more evaluated sermons in ministry settings, and achieves curricular preaching goals with fewer credits,” Dean of Faculty Gary Burge said in the release.
While many seminaries offer courses in the areas of biblical knowledge, theology, and spiritual formation in silos, Rylaarsdam and his colleagues say that the Calvin MDiv connects all three areas together in an integrated structure, alongside practical skills and contextual learning.
“We are inviting students to regularly inhabit the intersection of their in-class learning and their in-context work in real time ministry,” says Geoff Vandermolen, director of vocational formation, who also served on the revision team. “We believe this integration will serve the diverse student body at CTS, preparing them to be well-formed Kingdom leaders.”
“There is cohesion throughout the program,” Rylaarsdam says. “Students will exit the program confident in doing what God has called them to do.”
A community that fosters growth
Beyond an integrated MDiv curriculum, Rylaarsdam notes that the level of mentorship Calvin Seminary is known for is only rising.
“Years ago, a Calvin student said that they wanted to learn Hebrew, but first they wanted to know that the professor had love for their students,” Rylaarsdam says. “With every passing year, I have seen already invested professors increasingly involved in the whole-person formation of their students, mentoring them spiritually and professionally in preparation of their callings.”
Joan Beelen, associate dean of academic services and registrar, is quick to add that it is not just faculty support creating a tight-knit community at seminary. Students of all backgrounds, countries, and hometowns come together at Calvin to learn with and from each other.
“A global community is exactly what Calvin has,” she reflects. “You can meet the world at CTS.”
For anyone considering a rich, rigorous, and relevant MDiv, Beelen says with confidence that they will find a home here at Calvin.
“You will be known here,” she says to prospective students. “This theological training is here to support your calling.”
Learn more about the MDiv program at calvinseminary.edu/newmdiv