We do not think ourselves into new ways of being. Rather, we act ourselves into new ways of thinking and being.Dr. Sharon Welch, Affiliated faculty
In 2009, Meadville Lombard Theological School significantly changed the way we organized and delivered our curriculum. We moved from a residential format to a low-residency, integrated education model rooted in contextual learning—learning by doing.
This approach is followed and informed by many different philosophical, religious, and cultural traditions the world over, including feminist theory, engaged Buddhism, and many Indigenous cultures, which teach that transformational learning is not grounded in thought, but in action.
It is also informed by research from the Alban Institute and Auburn Seminary, whose studies on the effectiveness of theological education have shown that ministers often feel well prepared in theology, scripture, and ethics, but not in hands-on aspects of congregational life such as creating worship and church administration, because these skills can’t be fully learned in a classroom.
So our curriculum integrates theory with practice, providing opportunities to study theology while leading worship, learn best practices in pastoral care while tending to souls, and deepen understandings of human diversity while actively engaging with others across lines of difference. Our students benefit from academically rigorous coursework, immersion learning, and the support of a student cohort, faculty, and teaching pastors and mentors.
All students pursuing a Master of Divinity (MDiv) or a Master of Arts in Leadership Studies spend their first year taking foundational coursework and completing an internship at a nonprofit organization. Each student is matched to a site that stretches them to cross boundaries, to learn to be of service, and to experience different styles of leadership.
Students in the MDiv program also complete a basic unit of clinical pastoral education in their first year, and then serve at a congregation as an intern for two years for 20 hours a week, learning the bedrock of congregational ministry from being immersed in it and doing hands-on work. MDiv students also complete five or six courses a year during Intensives, meet weekly with a teaching pastor, and learn from and with fellow students in a student cohort.