Janette Platter l NTS Class of 2014
Master of Arts in Christian Formation and Discipleship Degree Program
As I approach graduation in May I have begun to reflect on my time here at seminary and the ways in which it has equipped me for the task ahead.
There’s no doubt I’ve received an experience that will forever shape my ministry. Contrary to popular belief about one’s seminary experience, my time at NTS has not only been full of books and papers and forum posts and research; it has also been rich with community, conversation, experience and practical preparation. NTS has not only prepared me to be a good researcher, NTS has also given me countless opportunities to engage in the practices of the church so that I graduate with the experience I need to feel confident in my call and ability to minister more fully to those with whom I find myself in community. Nazarene Theological Seminary recognizes the importance of practice and the way it shapes our learning experience.
I hear of many who graduate from seminary, take a position serving a local congregation, and find themselves wondering how all of their research and reading prepared them for hard conversations, long nights in the hospital with members of their church, and opposing world views and opinions. All the books in the world may have answers to hard questions, but being in the thick of those experiences is a different ball game entirely. I do a lot of reading. I do a lot of research. I listen to lectures. I write papers. But that has not been the whole of my experience. Through class assignments, supervised ministry, and mentor-like relationships with my professors, I’ve also had the opportunity to share in community, to have hard conversations, and to engage in practical preparation for the road ahead. I have not only taken a preaching class; I’ve preached in my local church. I haven’t only studied about writing curriculum; I’ve written lessons for our children’s church program. I haven’t simply read about conflict resolution; I’ve practiced it through interactions with members of my community. I don’t only have a textbook understanding of the work of the Triune God; I have witnessed it come alive in the lives of students and parents who have “aha moments” as they pursue a relationship with Jesus.
When I was a junior in college, representatives from NTS were visiting my school to make connections with future graduates who were considering graduate level education. I was dead set against grad school, but of course I listened nicely when they spoke in my first class that day. When they gave the same talk about their programs and opportunities in my second class, I found it humorous. By the time they had been present in my third and fourth class of the day, I said, “Okay God, I’ll think about it.” After a campus visit a few months later, I applied and was accepted as a future student. On my visit I sat in on a class where Dr. Wesley and his students were engaging in deep theological conversation about missions, but they did not leave it there. Their conversations, in addition to discussing what and why questions of theology and missions, addressed the how questions of ministry and life outside of school.
I knew then that I would one day be a student here, too. I anticipated a meaningful experience, and I can say now that it most certainly has been.
I am grateful to NTS for equipping me to answer the question, “So what does theological education look like within the walls of the church?” Even though I am on a journey of lifelong discovery and learning, I’m approaching graduation with confidence, knowing that I am prepared to serve wherever God leads, thanks to the work of my professors and peers who have helped me navigate theology and practice as we set out to do this work to which we have been called.