Contexual Ministries


Contextual Ministries at United is designed to help each student assimilate theology, practical ministry skills, personal life and call exploration through hands-on experiences and small group reflection. Students, while actively serving in a ministry context, are placed into facilitated peer groups, which are guided by four questions from Luke 10:27.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”Luke 10:27

1 | What is this “love”?

Each student will explore theological assumptions about the nature and mission of God and humanity’s relationship with a God defined as “love.” What do I believe?

2 | How am I to love God with everything?

There is a strong spiritual formation emphasis in each semester that aids students in the exploration of receiving God’s love and posturing one’s life toward continual spiritual renewal: How do I stay in love with God?

3 | What does it mean to love my neighbor?

We pray that each student would wrestle with his or her own calling while presenting case studies, weekly reflection reports and developing and staying accountable to learning goals. The covenantal community of MINgroup will be just one crucible from which to explore this question: How do I understand my unique calling?

4 | How can I love “as I love myself”?

We align many of the resources and experiences in the course to help you develop and name a rooted sense of self that is ironically forged in messy, authentic community with others: Who am I?


Formation Requirements

All MDiv students are required to take in sequence all Formation courses (Formation 1 through Formation 3).

All students in the M.A. degree programs are required to take in sequence Formation 1a, Formation 1b and Formation 3.

All Formation courses are offered in either Hybrid/Online or On Campus formats.

In all Formation classes, students are placed in a Ministry Group (MINGroup) for the two semesters. On Campus groups meet either on a weekday afternoon or evening for nine weeks each semester. Online groups will begin each semester attending the Formation Retreat and then complete the coursework online the nine weeks following.

Formation 1a/b (PT 510a/PT 510b)
Focus is on identity formation, covenant building and discernment of call. Work includes: a spiritual autobiography, genogram, Rule of Life, calling statement and Ministry Reflection Reports in addition to preparing for and securing the student’s first Field Education commitment. Formation 1a/b students receive 3 credit hours per year for their satisfactory completion of both course requirements.

Formation 2a/b (PT 511a/PT 511b)
Only students in the MDiv degree program are required to complete in sequence PT511a/b. The year’s focus is on the development of theological constructs and learned skills for ministry success. Work includes writing Ministry Reflection Reports, theology of leadership statement and a statement on grace in addition to an ongoing commitment to and active reflection on one’s Field Education placement. Formation 2a/b students receive 3 credit hours per year for their satisfactory completion of both course requirements.

Formation 3 (PT 610)
This final semester for all MA and MDiv students focuses on the completion of a Ministry Capstone project as students conclude their Field Education requirements. Formation 3 students receive 3 credit hours for their satisfactory completion of the course requirements.


Field Education Logistics

MDiv students are required to complete two units of Field Education. MA students must complete one unit of Field Education.

One unit of Field Education is either:

  • Summer internship of 30-40 hours/week for 10 weeks = 300-400 hours
  • Academic Year internship of 10-14 hours/week for 30 weeks = 300-420 hours

The preferred pattern for MDiv students is to serve one unit in a community organization and one year in a church setting.


Field Education Sites
A placement is negotiated between the field education site and the student, with assistance and approval by the Director of Contextual Ministries. It is the student’s responsibility to discern her or his interests and the type of placement in which she or he desires to learn and serve.

A listing of approved organizations/agencies and church sites is available through the Office of Contextual Ministries, and contains both voluntary (nonpaying) and compensated positions, some of which qualify for Federal Work Study funds. Each student works on-site at the Field Education site and meets with a mentor regularly for an average of one hour per week.

These can be either community or church settings. The advantage of a community site placement (prison ministry, community centers, hospital chaplaincy, etc.) is the student’s opportunity to experience in learning/teaching exchanges the diversity of ministry responsibilities within broader community. The advantage of a church site placement is an in-depth contextual introduction to the real workings of the local church. MDiv students are expected to serve one unit in a parish.


I’m already serving as a Pastor in a church…What Now?
Two placement options deserve further specification: student pastor and student associate appointments. These appointments serve as your contextual ministry site. Students in either placement position are paired with a mentor who assists the student with theological reflection, annual learning goals, periodic feedback and evaluation.

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