Theological Field Education
Theological Field Education at VST is a mutual experience in which students, mentors, and the school’s faculty establish a teaching and learning network.
What is Field Education?
There are many ways by which the Vancouver School of Theology prepares thoughtful, engaged and generous Christian leaders for church and community in the 21st century. Theological Field Education (TFE) is the opportunity in the Master of Divinity (MDiv) degree and the Master of Arts in Public and Pastoral Leadership (MA-PPL) degree for students to intentionally reflect on the practice of doing ministry.
In TFE students develop ministry leadership skills, practice theological and ministerial reflection, refine the discernment of vocation, experience professional collegiality and personal transformation. It is place where students integrate ministry theory and practice in an intentional way.
There are two fundamental components of TFE:
- The site or the context where one practices ministry. It could be a congregation, an outreach ministry or a community agency.
- The conversation where one theologically reflects on the action of ministry. This includes both an internal dialogue and engagement with others.
Participants bring diverse backgrounds in ministry and life experience, learning sites provide an engaging context and the goal is reflective practice and integrative learning.
VST strives to develop a field education experience in which dialogue fosters a respectful learning environment. Posing questions, offering insights, giving encouragement and direction are the norm.
TFE is grounded in principles of adult learning:
- Students are self-directed, independent learners who take responsibility for their learning. They work with mentors, student peer groups, and instructors to develop Learning Covenants and clear strategies for achieving goals, objectives, action plans and evaluation tools.
- Students are encouraged to discover and celebrate their spiritual gifts, identify their limitations and to discern their potential in ministry in the light of their faith, the Christian tradition, life circumstances, context and vocational journeys.
- Students’ personal, cultural and denominational histories are respected.
- Central to Theological Field Education
- Moves skill development and building competencies to meaning-making
Takes the experience of students in a ministry or leadership and uses it as the primary resource for learning
- Engages the story of self, context, tradition, action, God
Field Education Units
Students in the Master of Divinity (M.Div.) program are required to complete three units of TFE (I, II, III) and students in the Master of Arts in Public and Pastoral Leadership (MA-PPL) program are required to complete two units (TFE I and II). These requirements are not counted in the credit hours of the degree program nor are students charged tuition for any unit of theological field education.
Arrangements for TFE placements are reviewed and approved following discussion with the Director of Field Education.
Exploration and Discernment – TFE I
Following the completion of PT500 “Spiritual and Theological Foundations for Pastoral and Public Leadership” and PT501 “Leadership and Awareness of Self and Others,” students register for PT502, “Leading in Context.” During this course, students will gain skills in preparing for their ministry leadership practicum sites (TFE II). Students will develop learning goals, explore potential TFE sites, interview potential mentors and conduct site or locational analysis. The culmination of this course is a presentation to peers and the instructor of a proposal for TFE II.
The Studio – TFE II
Once the proposal at the end of TFE I is accepted, students enter The Studio (PT651 & PT652) – a learning environment that is more like a messy art studio than a traditional classroom, a place where lectures are not the norm, where students observe each other’s work, exchanging insights and return to the canvas to try again. Adaptive leadership is at the centre of these courses, which run alongside the students’ active leadership in ministry/leadership sites. Studio instructors and site supervisors/mentors assist students as they research, prepare, exercise and evaluate their leadership in context. Time commitments: 100-120 hours in placement;
60 hours in The Studio over two terms.
Practice – TFE III
Normally following The Studio, students in the MDiv engage in the ministry of a congregation or a social agency placement, participating in various ways that are appropriate to their learning goals, the particular site, and the requirements of their denomination.
What is the expectation of a supervisor or mentor?
VST is indebted to leaders in congregations, organizations and social agencies who volunteer their services as mentors/supervisors of students in their field placements.
Field placement mentors and supervisors have developed finely-tuned skills in pastoral ministry, theological reflection, spiritual discernment and adaptive leadership over many years of study, spiritual discipline and experience. The “teacher as learner” is a key principle in our model of TFE.
In TFE I, students visit possible learning sites and talk with potential mentors/supervisors about the opportunity to learn together.
If you are considering being a supervisor/mentor, you would be:
- Curious about the changing ways of church and society and how leadership adapts to
- Willing to learn and grow alongside a student while at the same time assisting them in accountable reflection on ministry and leadership.
- Able to commit some time to be in reflective conversation with the student (about 12 hours a term) and to prepare evaluative reports (end of each term).
Helping to create thoughtful, engaged and generous leaders for church and community could be an exciting opportunity for you, your community of faith, organization or social agency.