“The church needs Christ-like leaders with godly character, skillful competence and convictional knowledge,” says Northview Community Church pastor Kyle Meeker.
Toward this goal, in September, this B.C. MB church launched Immerse, a context-based Master of Divinity degree program in which learning takes place within the setting of the church, and is granted conjointly by MB Seminary and Northwest Baptist Seminary. (Both schools are also partners in ACTS Seminaries located at Trinity Western University.)
“The strength of Immerse rests in training leaders for the church from within the church,” says Meeker, who coordinates the Northview program.
The acronym LEAD describes the way students integrate and demonstrate knowledge: Learn about, Embrace with the heart, Apply in life, Disciple others.
“The focus is on student mastery of ministry-required outcomes,” says Meeker. The demonstration of character traits, biblical convictions and ministry skills, rather than grades, determines course completion.
“The program requires a good ministry context and a significant degree of initiative and self-discipline on the part of a student,” says Bruce Guenther, associate dean and professor of church history and Mennonite studies for MB Seminary in Langley.
Each church or school offering the Immerse program tailors the requisite 27 Ministry Leadership Outcomes (MLOs) to their values. Northview’s version of Immerse emphasizes communicating God’s Word. Students will become proficient in biblical languages as a necessary tool for understanding Scripture. Most MLOs include “micro-course” instruction: 1.5-hour sessions once a week for seven weeks each.
Tuition for Immerse students is comparable with other MDiv programs at ACTS Seminaries. Those in the student-internship track serve as interns for three years at Northview. For this, interns receive a stipend and have their tuition costs covered.
Each Immerse student is accountable to a mentoring team of three people that includes a pastoral mentor from Northview, a network mentor from either Northview or the denomination and an academic mentor from MB Seminary.
“The involvement of MB Seminary’s faculty adds additional expertise, and the credibility of being connected to an educational institution,” says Guenther. In addition to mentoring, MB Seminary and Northwest Baptist faculty are involved in reviewing the curriculum, and are part of the committee overseeing Northview’s Immerse program.
“Each student shadows their ministry mentor: watching, learning and then doing as their mentor looks on,” says Meeker. Hands-on ministry experiences include preaching, writing curriculum and teaching Bible studies, coordinating small groups, counselling, discipling and leading ministry teams.
With three congregational campuses in Abbotsford, Mission and Port Coquitlam, and programs ranging from after-school clubs to prayer groups and podcasts, Northview can provide its Immerse students with a myriad of ministry contexts in which to grow.
“They learn by doing, and the doing is directed to serve best both the student and the people we serve together,” says Meeker. “Such is discipleship. A lot of this is borrowed from Jesus.”