Example - Work in Ethics at Western Seminary

Seminary Curriculum / Produced by TOW Project
Theology ethics western

Josh Mathews, Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies, reports on the recent curricular integration workshop at Western Seminary. As part of a joint initiative between the Oikonomia Network, the Theology of Work Project, and three ON schools, Will Messenger and Alistair Mackenzie helpedJosh Mathews integrate modules related to work and the economy into a course on Ministerial Ethics.

Tell us about the class you examined in the curricular workshop.

The class Will, Alistair, and I worked on is called Ministerial Ethics. It is a summer semester course that runs from late April through early August. The class met for a three-day intensive June 20-22. Students do reading and writing assignments leading up to and following after class time.

The goal of the course is to introduce ethical systems and concepts and help students develop an ethical approach that incorporates scripture and can be applied to the complexities of pastoral ministry and other ministry leadership.

What specific changes did you make to this class?

Using Tim Keller’s book Every Good Endeavor and his talk “Four Ways the Gospel Transforms Work” as a jumping-off point, I added a teaching module on the integration of faith and work. This included a point on their own future ministry, impressing upon them that a robust vision of ministry and work will enhance their vocation, whether in church ministry or elsewhere. Another point highlighted the role of the pastor as an equipper of the saints for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12). Students are assigned a final synthesis paper for the course, the topic of which they may choose. Some have indicated that they would like to research and write on topics related work and church ministry, which I encouraged them to do.

I also shared the following list of a few additional resources:

What was your goal in making these changes – what did you want students to gain?

My goal was to expose students to the concepts and impress upon them the importance of this perspective for their ministry preparation. One of the key aims is for students, most of whom are preparing for church ministry, to appreciate the different ways those in their congregations are seeking to live out the Christian life in their workplaces.

What was easier to do, or harder to do, than you had expected?

It is always difficult to find adequate time to develop these thoughts well. There is a lot of material to cover in this class and a limited time in which to cover it.

How did it go with your students – what did they experience and what did they take away from the changed part of the class?

Their engagement in discussion after the teaching module was positive. It seems they understood its importance and were considering ways to implement it into their thinking and ministry. I believe at least one or two students are planning to write papers on related topics.

What new questions were raised, either for you yourself or by your students in class?

Perhaps they are not new questions, but the main things that come to mind had to do with practical application. Things like, “How, as a pastor, can I help individuals in my church see the significance of their work and bridge the gap between Sunday and Monday?”

Will you keep the change if you teach this class again? Modify it? Are there other changes you’re considering?

I will keep the change when I teach this again in the future. I might also try to think of a short writing assignment that gives students a chance to work out some implications and applications of the principles we cover briefly in class.