The Importance of What We do

A New/Old approach to Seminary Education

The longer I am in this position as Executive Director, the more I realize the importance of what our ARTS schools are accomplishing. The following is written by Esaú Bonilla. Esaú, is a Pastor in Costa Rica and student in a Kairos University DMin program in conjunction with ProMETA, a distance learning seminary which serves the Latin American world. The following is part of his Doctorate of Ministry Project. He points out correctly that it is the church which is responsible for theological education. This parallels closely to our ARTS member schools. Grown from the church, they exist to provide contextual education at an affordable price.

His research question is: “How [can organizations such as ProMETA] educate theologically so that the faith on which theology reflects remains associated with life and does not ignore the challenges that the church in Costa Rica faces today?” The introduction to his research (written originally in Spanish) is below:

By: Easú Bonilla.

The church as a community of the Kingdom, is the depository [of] and responsible for “guarding the deposit of faith” (2Ti 2.14), consequently, its mission is to enable, train and empower each Christian with the aim that their lives are transformed according to the image of Christ and are equipped to serve in the extension of the Kingdom of God (Eph 4. 11-12).  Therefore the existence of theological training centers such as seminaries and universities to train suitable leaders can only be justified as “a commission of the church and for the church” (Siemens (2017) and in terms of Mohler (2018) “Seminaries do not call pastors. God does. Seminaries don’t train pastors. Churches do. Maintaining this is important. The seminary serves the church; the church does not serve the seminary.”

For more than 15 centuries the church formed and trained its leaders without the existence of seminaries and in the words of Gonzales (2015, cp. 16) “the church existed without seminaries… and in spite of everything, it always had an educated ministry… especially in the fields of literature, its interpretation and rhetoric” as in the case of Ambrose, Augustine, Basil of Caesarea and Gregory of Nazianzus among others. None of them studied theology formally in an academy, but they became great theologians.

However, beginning in the sixteenth century and in response to the Protestant Reformation, processes of integration and development of theological education were promoted and each institution, denomination and ministry developed a particular approach to the issue of theological education and its purposes, so it is necessary to determine the role of universities and seminaries in compliance with what Paul determines as “equipping” in his letter to Ephesus (Eph 4.12) and its relationship with effective learning.

This without forgetting the influence of secular education models and the impact on the methodology that seminaries, universities, denominations and faith communities have maintained as a learning paradigm, without determining whether people have the necessary competencies to learn or whether after formally completing a theological education program, the competencies acquired are those needed to enhance the mission of the church in the contextual reality in which it operates.

It is necessary to take into account that the contents taught in any theological formation program should have as a fundamental objective the transformation of the student’s life. If there is no change in the life of the human being involved in theological study, we would not be talking about learning but about an intellectual exercise, which for the purposes of the kingdom of God, does not comply with the biblical nature of theological formation.

This research does not seek to replace the teaching of the church in the processes of formation and discipleship, nor does it deny the role that academic institutions play in theological formation, however, and due to global development and change, new technologies, new pedagogical approaches, cultural plurality and the challenges presented by the new generations, it is of utmost importance for teachers, professors, leaders and pastors to form critical and biblical thinking in the people of God, through a transformative learning that aims to teach how to live the faith, develop competencies to form suitable leaders.  Therefore it is of utmost importance for teachers, professors, leaders and pastors to form critical and biblical thinking in the people of God, through a transformative learning that aims to teach how to live the faith, to develop competencies to form suitable leaders that enhance the construction and development of the Kingdom of God, regardless of whether it takes place in a seminary classroom or in a church pew.

Selected References:

Gonzales, Garcia. J (2013) Brief history of ministerial preparation. Clie. Barcelona, Spain.

Mohler, A (April 17, 2018) Seminaries don’t make pastors. Churches do, retrieved from:

Mohler, A (2018) 15 Things Seminary, Couldn`t Teach Me. Crossway Ed. Wheaton, Ilinois, USA

Sills, M. D.( 2016) Reaching and enabling (A call to fulfill the great commission). Ed. B&H Publisching Group, Nashville, Tennessee, USA.

Smith, G.T. (2014). Called to be Saints: IVP Academic: Downers Grove.

Siemens, H. (30/12/2017) Academic Yearbook Evangelical University of Paraguay. Theological education and its challenges for the 21st century (CEMTA- Centro evangélico Mennonita de Teología Asunción). Retrieved from

White Paper/Pro-Meta (2020) The challenge of theological education to transform the church in Latin America, pg 26-29.

Qualitative vs. Quantitative Data

Since there is some confusion as to the difference between qualitative and quantitative data in assessing student learning, I thought I would ask an expert: Chat GTP. Full disclosure, everything below comes from what the AI told me. Actually, I think Chat GPT did a pretty good job, but if you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me.

Qualitative vs. Quantitative Data according to Chat GPT: Retrieved 1/28/2023

“Qualitative data is descriptive and deals with non-numerical information, such as opinions, observations, or open-ended responses. It is often used to understand attitudes, behaviors, and motivations. Examples include interview transcripts, written comments, and video recordings.

Quantitative data is numerical and deals with measurement and counts. It is often used to test hypotheses and make statistical inferences. Examples include numerical survey responses, test scores, and counts of things such as number of customers in a store.

When measuring student learning outcomes, qualitative and quantitative data can provide different types of information.

Quantitative data, such as test scores and grades, can provide a numerical measure of a student’s knowledge or proficiency in a specific subject. It can be used to compare students to one another, as well as to track progress over time. It is particularly useful for measuring knowledge in subjects that have clear and objective answers, such as math and science.

Qualitative data, such as observations, interviews, and open-ended questions, can provide a deeper understanding of a student’s thought process, motivation, and engagement. It can be used to understand student’s learning process and evaluate the effectiveness of teaching methods. It is particularly useful for measuring skills that are not easily quantifiable, such as critical thinking, problem-solving and creativity.

Both types of data can be used together to get a more complete picture of student learning outcomes. Quantitative data provides a snapshot of student performance, while qualitative data provides a more nuanced understanding of how and why students are performing a certain way.

Regenerate response”

A School’s response to a Site Visit Report

This posting talks about what is required of a member school after they receive a site-visit report.

First some background.  Our Policies and Procedures (and other documents) address specific processes and timeframes for the site visits.  While the process is documented in our Bylaws and Policies and Procedures, we are taking steps, (such as our new Blog – ) to further explain the process in plain language. 

After a site-visit is concluded, the report is finalized by the site visit team and sent to the school for their review and comments. If a site visit team marks as standard as “partially, or not met” then these are items that the school needs to respond with a plan for remediation.  That plan is then reviewed by the ARTS Executive Director and forwarded to the COA for approval.  For most items, Schools will tend to agree to the findings of the site visit team, and they will say something to the effect that:  “Yes, we recognize that this is a problem and here’s how we will fix it by <date>.” Schools have 12 months to remedy notations. 

The key is that the ARTS-COA requires compliance, not just a response to items which partially meet, or do not meet, ARTS standards.

However, what happens when a School does not agree with the COA’s findings?  The first step is to seek more information to understand the school’s perspective.  Usually, a short discussion clarifies, and the institution has time to come into compliance.  The submission of the next annual report is a logical “touchpoint” to monitor areas of improvement.  However, if an institution does not demonstrate correction of the notations and compliance with the standards within 12 months then the COA would take action as delineated in our Policies and Procedures.

The COA also takes into consideration the nature of the standard which has been partially, or not at all met.  Not all standards or lack of compliance are of the same importance or carry the same weight.  In other words, there are mortal and venal sins.

The complexity of standard non-compliance is also a factor.  Take standard 8.7 for instance.  “The institution shall include on its website, social media, and any other appropriate publication an explanation of accreditation and the dangers of diploma and accreditation mills.” If an explanation does not exist, it is a simple thing to add it in a relatively short period of time.  However if a school does not currently have a chief executive officer it might takes months, or longer, to find a suitable candidate.

As noted above, there are gradations in the process.  Some areas of non-compliance are clear cut.  E.g., Standard 8.5, “…does the institution publish and make publicly available an academic catalog…?  If a catalog does not exist, it is a clear failure on the school’s part.  Our new training for site-visit teams will help teams understand and apply rubrics for those areas in a standard which are less clear in interpretation.  Again, to take 8.5 as our example, the site-visit team may feel that the academic catalog’s structure or language does not fully explain to prospective students the precise nature of the programs.  The site-visit team has the obligation to make comments and suggestions with the goal of helping the institution improve. 

Finally, having said all of that, there may be items in a site-visit for which there are differing opinions on the ARTS-COA.  Given that there are such items, and the changing and evolving nature of the state of theological education, the COA must keep an open mind to potential revisions in the standards and/or further elucidation of our tenets and practices.  The COA needs to practice continual self-evaluation and ensure that we are applying ARTS standards consistently.

We still have some details to work out in this process to make sure that we are applying our metrics and rubrics for compliance equitably across all our institutions.  In addition, we want to make sure that we are pursuing any actions in a timely fashion.

The bottom line in all of this is the recognition that we are all involved in a process of continual self-improvement.

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