The Openseminary™ model, a blended online degree program that enables students from across the country and around the world to earn a Master of Theological Studies degree in just three years without relocating, requires 2 week-long residencies per year at Palmer. This program has operated successfully for several years in the countries of South Africa and Australia. The creator of the Openseminary™ model, Dr. Wynand de Kock, is the professor of record for Palmer’s Openseminary™ program. Professors from Palmer Seminary and its parent institution, Eastern University, a Christian University outside of Philadelphia, PA, also serve as Openseminary™ faculty.
This blended online degree program consists of six modules, each of which focuses on an important area of church ministry. The modules are 21 weeks long. Students move through each module as part of a cohort study group--typically three to five students who share information and resources and collaborate on various assignments. All six modules are geared toward an MTS concentration in Ministry and Culture.
Each module consists of three phases: (1) Reading, (2) Residential, and (3) Research.
Reading Phase—The Reading Phase covers the first 12 weeks. Guided by the lead professor, student-learners download weekly reading assignments from the Eastern University website. By the end of the 12 weeks, students have accumulated a complete reader for the module. This reader provides a conceptual model for remaining 9 weeks of the module. In addition to reading, during this phase student-learners embark on a guided inquiry that will lead to a research project (the focus of the third and final phase).
Residential Phase—The Residential Phase consists of one week (40 hours) of full-time residential study. All cohort groups within a given module convene at Palmer to study the theology that underpins a particular ministry. During this week, a Palmer faculty member teams with a pastor or other ministry leader (a thoughtful practitioner) who is an authority on the topic that is the focus of the module. In this way, student-learners can experience from up close the interaction between theory and practice, between theological reflection and hands-on ministry.
Research Phase—The final, 8-week Research Phase brings student-learners to a place of assertion and action. As part of this phase, each learner is required to research, write, and present to his or her cohort study group a personal theology of ministry focusing on the church practice that has been the focus of the module. In addition, during this phase, each cohort selects an actual pastoral concern/issue/challenge from one cohort member’s context. Group members then collaborate to develop, based on all they have learned, a detailed plan for addressing this concern.
Each of the program’s six modules operates based on this same, three-phase design. Thus, as part of the program, all student-learners will have the opportunity not only to expand their theological horizons, but to make a positive difference in the ministries of several churches along the way.