Wesley Theological Seminary recently announced a unique partnership with Shenandoah University, located in Winchester, Va. This partnership offers the next generation of church leaders – both lay and clergy – a streamlined academic journey that eases the burden of student loans and advances new leaders into ministry more quickly.
Described as a “3+3 fast-track agreement,” the partnership enables Shenandoah students to begin master’s level work at Wesley in their final year of undergraduate study. Beginning in fall of 2018, students can complete their entire undergraduate and graduate course work in just six years.
“This new program will help students to enter the ministry sooner and help to reduce student debt,” said Wesley President, the Rev. Dr. David McAllister-Wilson.
Both schools emphasize a continuing high standard for academic excellence.
“This agreement is built on the trust and confidence between our two institutions that we can ensure the highest quality academic and practical preparation for ministry,” McAllister-Wilson said.
Wesley recruiters and current Master of Divinity students Samantha Klipsch and Elijah Ferebee wished that such a program existed in their own undergraduate days.
“I knew during my freshmen year that I wanted to go into the ministry,” Klipsch said. “If my school had a program like this it would have been able to gear me toward that.”
Ferebee agreed. “In secular institutions, there’s usually no one who can tell you how to take the next steps when you’re called to ministry. We all like to know what we’re doing next. This program ushers you right through that whole process,” he said.
“I also like it because it saves you money,” Klipsch said. “In an age when you need higher and higher education to get a job, this is a better option than a full four years, and a full three on top of it.”
Both recruiters echoed the McAllister-Wilson’s emphasis on intellectual rigor. “The next steps are clear,” Ferebee said of the transition between schools. “But those next steps depend on having a certain grade point average, and on academic achievement.”
“You also need references from the Shenandoah faculty,” Klipsch said. “It pushes you to put yourself out there, to start making the connections that you’re going to need.”
The relationship between Wesley and Shenandoah already enjoys a healthy track record, including collaborations on “Calling 21,” a summer internship program, and the Shenandoah University Youth Theology Institute, launching this summer.
The streamlining of curriculum also has a healthy precedent at Shenandoah, where fast-track approaches alleviate student loan debt and create the intensive learning options in which many students thrive.
Both schools are deeply committed to supporting the work of the church. “We cherish our relationship with The United Methodist Church, and we care about the students who come to Shenandoah with a vision for service and Christian leadership,” Shenandoah University President Dr. Tracy Fitzsimmons said.
Best of all, the program puts the next generation of church leaders in the field sooner rather than later, rejuvenating the church and its endeavors.
“We believe this 3 + 3 approach will provide an opportunity for our students to finish their educational requirements one year earlier and start leading our churches and faith-based non-profits,” said Fitzsimmons. “This is good for students and our faith-based institutions, and we are proud to assist in making it happen with Wesley Theological Seminary.”
For more information about this partnership, please contact Wesley’s Office of Admissions at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-885-8659.