As of Today, I am one month from completing my Master’s Program, a Masters of Religious Education in Missional Leadership. I am really amping up excitement to graduate, but I need to say that as much as I will appreciate not having to do the assignments, all that I have learned and grown in has really rocked my world and I will miss the conversations and areas of growth that this masters has afforded me. I was asked by my Program Director to write a short article highlighting my experience with the program and I thought I would share on my blog today. I will get back to weight loss stuff (and a whole slew of other revelations that God has been giving me) next week. But for now, let me brag on the Master’s of Missional Leadership.
Let me also quickly honour the Dean of the Program, Dr. Mark Love (yes, my last cohort affectionately referred to ourselves as ‘disciples of Doctor Love’). Mark has been extremely influential and encouraging for me in my life and thinking. He has really helped me to grow as a pastor, leader, and Christ follower. His blog is a great resource that I would recommend to anyone who wants to think on a deeper level about the Church and the role that Christians are invited into as followers of Christ…
My Experience with the Master’s of Missional Leadership
It was over coffee with a friend of mine, Scott Hagley (one of the professors at Rochester College at the time), when I learned about the Masters of Religious Education in Missional Leadership. He told me about a graduate program with a simple philosophy; that education happens more effectively in the context of the congregation than the context of the classroom. He said this Masters program sought to integrate classroom learning with congregational engagement and that many of the assignments would have an immediate impact in the life and ministry of my congregation. As of today, I am set to graduate in 33 days and I have no regrets about my decision to be a part of the Master’s of Missional Leadership. My experience with this program has transformed both my life and my ministry context.
Solid Theological Foundations
One of the things that sets the MREML apart is how theology is taught. I have observed other master’s programs that present a theology of God that is abstract. It becomes easy to talk ‘about’ God but it becomes difficult to see and understand how God is revealing Himself in the Church and the world. This program proposes a theology that infuses our understanding of God with everyday realities.
Because God is alive and on mission, discerning His activity is vital for pastors and congregational leaders. This understanding of theology has drastically impacted my view of ministry. In light of God’s mission, my role as a pastor is not to ‘do’ missional activity, it is to understand that all I am doing is ‘on mission.’ At my Church, we have started to ask different sorts of questions. Rather than asking ‘what should we do?’ we are asking ‘what is God doing and how is He inviting us to be a part of His mission?’ I will be honest, this transition has not been without it’s struggles, but it’s brought a depth and passion to ministry that was simply not present before.
Another reason my experience of this program has been so positive is because of the cohort that I was a part of. 12 of us went through this learning together and I can honestly say that these ones have become like family. The week-long intensives were four of the best weeks of my life, as we committed to learning not only in the classroom, but in the restaurants and pubs during breaks and in the evenings. These interactions continued through an online forum as we continued to learn from one another as we sought to apply the material. We created a safe community where anyone was able to ask questions and learn in community.
Investment in the Individual Students
During my first intensive, we got the privilege to listen to Dr. Mark Love talk with a friend of his, Dr. Stephen Johnson, about Christian education. One of the things that stood out to me was their insistence on the fact that educational institutions need to be places that facilitate human flourishing. My experience with the MREML has been one where this has proven to be more than an ideal: it is a reality. This program does not want to simply ‘fill our heads’ with some of the ‘right’ ways to think about the Church and mission. Rather, this program wants to form leaders who are in a healthy relationship with God and serious about fostering attentiveness to Him through intentional, shared practices. The Rule of Life is something that all students commit to during their first intensive, this Rule, then, is something that students live into and seek to apply to their learning. For me, this rule has helped me in so many ways! Physically, I committed to proper stewardship of my body and have lost over 60 lbs. Spiritually, I committed to daily interaction with God through His word and in the world. Socially, I am committed to being a good and Godly neighbor. I really do feel that my relationship with God has flourished during my time in this program.
My experience with the MREML has been a positive one. I have learned and grown so much while being challenged spiritually, intellectually, physically, and socially. I have formed relationships that will last for a lifetime and have seen God work in might ways in my congregation as a result of this program. While I am happy that I am graduating in just over a month, I will miss this program and what it has brought to my life.