For many years the leaders of both Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU) and The Wesleyan Church prayed about launching a seminary that would maintain high academic standards while also being inexpensive, accessible and very practical. A seminary was envisioned where courses were team-taught by theologians and practitioners, which could be offered online or onsite to bi-vocational adults and where weekly assignments could be applied directly to the student’s local ministry.
Already IWU was nationally recognized for its multi-site and online adult education programs with more than 12,000 students enrolled. US News & World Report called IWU a “top Masters university” and soon the same accessible, affordable and practical model of education was used to develop an innovative Master of Arts in Ministry degree with an enrollment of over 170 students.
Then in April 2009 the IWU Board of Trustees voted to create a new seminary with a practical and student-centered approach for busy working ministers. 30 new Master of Divinity students joined 170 students enrolled in the existing Master of Arts in Ministry degree. The new seminary was named Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University. There are several factors that have created this remarkably practical, accessible and fast-growing seminary.
First, the parent denomination of IWU owns one college and five universities, but has never had an official seminary. With 85 percent of Wesleyan ministers not possessing a seminary degree, Wesley Seminary provided both accessibility and affordability.
Secondly, IWU has a healthy and time-tested infrastructure that can support this endeavor. Many seminaries struggle financially, but IWU possesses the resources to effectively undergird this initiative.
Thirdly, there is a growing awareness in the seminary world that ministerial education needs to be done in a new and accessible way. It is becoming increasingly difficult for ministers and their families to pick up and move to a seminary for three or four years, followed by another move upon graduation. The new Wesley Seminary model allows ministers to stay in their current ministry setting while attending seminary.
And finally, research suggests that traditional seminaries are struggling to prepare ministers for the realities of practical ministry. By combining team-taught courses of theologians and practitioners with weekly homework that can applied to one’s local ministry, the new Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University has grown to over 400 students.