April 18, 2022

Work/life balance has always been a challenge for NTS students. I remember the days when I spent my mornings in class, my afternoons at work, and my evenings studying. Between all these competing responsibilities, there simply wasn’t a lot of margin to do much else. I don’t know how I could have done it if I’d had a spouse and children to boot!

Then and now, establishing meaningful connections with other NTS students and the larger NTS community has been an elusive endeavor. Graduate school is a unique experience, and, unfortunately, younger students who transition immediately from college to Seminary often encounter culture shock when community isn’t immediately available to them right outside their dorm room door. The hard truth is that – for the adult learner – a myriad of responsibilities competes for one’s time and each individual student must decide for themselves what level of community involvement they want or need once they embark on their Seminary career. For some, family and ministry commitments will already be in place so just finishing a degree will be their highest priority. Others will come to Seminary looking for robust conversations and meaningful social interactions with their professors and fellow students and will want to take advantage of everything that is offered on campus or online. Finally, there are those who will find themselves somewhere in between, wanting to participate as much as possible in extra-curricular activities but, at the same time, recognizing the need to balance this with other important commitments.

In light of these differing levels of needs, NTS has taken a multi-pronged approach to student life. With our curriculum change, all students (both local and distant) will be placed in a cohort and journey with a specific set of students as they complete their degree. Our one week intensive Convene gatherings each Fall are also an opportunity for all our students to gather for in person class time, to share meals together, and to participate in daily times of worship and prayer with NTS staff and faculty. Lifelong friendships and ministry partners are forged through these intentional in-person intensive weeks.

Outside of Convene, monthly Koinonia Chats offer a time for the whole NTS community to gather online for both serious and fun conversations around ministry and life. Local students are also given the opportunity to gather at least once monthly for a community meal at our Koinonia Café on campus. Our president and other profs and staff often drop by to share in the food and fun. Finally, our new, student focused MyNTS app that was launched last year is a full-service portal which allows students to check everything from their class info, to email, to upcoming campus and virtual events at a glance, as well as communicate directly with each other about prayer needs to class assignments.

Spiritual formation is, of course, a top priority too as we try to approach the Seminary experience in a wholistic way. Book studies, story circles, mentoring, spiritual direction, and more are offered to our students on an as-needed (and as-wanted!) basis both in and outside of class times.  Again, while not every need can or will be met, by offering a variety of in-person and online opportunities for community building and connection throughout the academic year, it is our hope that the our students will feel loved and supported throughout their time at NTS.

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Rev. Dana Preusch, D.Min.

Director of Contextual Education, Student Life and Alumni Relations

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