Asbury Seminary Creates Culture of Formation
Asbury Seminary seeks to address pastoral burnout in ministry and other vocational areas by incorporating sustaining formational practices into the curriculum. As part of their course work, students are invited to engage self-selected goals in areas, such as prayer, journaling, Scripture reading, service, and even exercise.
“If you come to Asbury Seminary and you just acquire new knowledge, you really have not had the ‘Asbury experience,’” Dr. Steve Stratton, Professor of Counseling and Pastoral Care, said. “Romans 12:2 challenges us not to let culture press us into its mold. As a formational community, we want students to see their seminary years as a time to do counter-cultural, “whole person” training. We want graduates, no matter what their program of study, to be persons who model a Spirit-empowered life and can invite others into the same kind of experience.”
Upon matriculating to Asbury Seminary, students write a rule of life, built around their physical, spiritual, emotional/relational, intellectual/academic, and vocational lives. A rule of life is an ancient practice and refers to an intentional plan for growth in holiness and health. Each student’s rule is refined throughout the Seminary journey and specifically re-evaluated in classes around the mid-point and graduation.
Students also take the Spiritual Transformation Inventory (STI) at the beginning of their study and at graduation. The STI assesses a student’s connection to God, to self and others, to a spiritual community, to spiritual practices and to outreach. The STI allows students a chance to gain an objective look at different qualities in their spiritual formation and provides information that they can use in the construction of their rule of life .
The Formation and Student Committee (FSC) is a standing interdisciplinary committee that has been tasked by the Provost with promoting and assessing student formation, especially in those areas where faculty and students interact. The classroom is the primary space for this interaction.
In May of 2018, Asbury Seminary faculty and administrators attended a three-day “Teaching for Change” workshop, supported by a grant from the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning. As part of this workshop, faculty and administrators shared current pedagogical practices and learned specific methods for integrating formational practices into coursework. Almost half of full-time faculty participated in this workshop, seeking to grow in their own formation as a teacher and model for students.
“When students come here, we want there to be a formative expectation,” Stratton said. “We want students to see models of transformed, whole persons. We want faculty and staff to model that Spirit-empowered experience in curricular and co-curricular settings. We want students to feel invited into that experience and by God’s grace move toward becoming whole persons in service to the whole world.”
The Wabash Center supports teachers of religion and theology in higher education through meetings and workshops, grants, consultants, a journal and other resources to make accessible the scholarship of teaching and learning. All Wabash Center programs are funded by Lilly Endowment Inc.