Seminaries and Bible institutes have the greatest opportunity ---and responsibility--- to prepare the next generation of leaders for the challenges which the Church will face. Every year, over 270 pastoral training institutions in North America, plus an estimated 600+ such training centers in Latin America and the Caribbean region, graduate the next wave of leaders who will lead the way in worship, prayer, discipleship, evangelism, church planting, mercy ministries and theological reflection. More than ever, ethnic populations which have traditionally been least reached by the message of Scripture now need training and resources which are relevant and indigenously sustainable among their people.
An informal survey of seminaries and Bible institutes in Latin America and the Caribbean has brought to light an important area for the growth of pastoral training institutions.
- Seminary student demographics used to primarily consist of students from dominant cultural backgrounds who would minister mostly in urban centers. However, ethnically indigenous people are an increasing percentage of seminary students as well as the populations among whom they serve. God is raising up this new generation of leaders, and it is a high privilege for seminaries to equip them for ministry.
- The corresponding need is for training that adequately develops these students’ abilities for using their indigenous languages and cultures as avenues for ministry, and that prepares them for the challenges of ministering among populations where Scripture access, use and engagement has traditionally been very limited.
Among the seminaries and Bible institutes that responded to our survey, approximately 2/3 said that half or most of their students speak an indigenous language. This represents a great resource. These pastoral training institutions also said that half or most of their students go into ministry in places with a large indigenous population. This represents a great opportunity to reach people groups which traditionally have had limited access to the Scriptures.
It is important to know however, that among these same seminaries and Bible institutes:
- Only 1 in 2 offer a course in cross-cultural mission.
- Only 1 in 4 offer training in how indigenous language Bible translations can be used for more effective evangelism and discipleship.
- Only 1 in 4 offer training in how to work with “oral learners” (which are the majority of the world’s population).
- Only 1 in 10 train students in ways that ethnic arts can be a powerful medium for worship, evangelism and discipleship.
This data shows great opportunities for impact among indigenous populations, but it also shows the need to fill a gap by providing training options which adequately equip the students to meet the challenges of those opportunities.
Partnership that Bridges the Gap
SIL Americas Area can help seminaries and Bible institutes, and the students they are sending out into the world for ministry and leadership, to become more effective than ever through partnership. By collaboratively developing curriculum strategies which meet the particular needs of each of our seminary and Bible institute partners, together we can close the gap between needs and opportunities. Our special interest is to help equip seminary and Bible institute staff members to gain the understanding and skills they need to teach new or modified courses which will prepare students for effective ministry among ethnically indigenous populations.
If you would like to dialog with us about what such a partnership might look like in your context, read more here.
Over 200 seminaries and Bible institutes in Latin America were offered the survey via email in late 2013. 42 responses were received from pastoral training institutions in 12 countries that have between 15 and 925 students.
- 58% of these institutions said that half or most of their students speak an indigenous language.
- 68% said that half or most of their graduates minister in population areas where there is a large percentage of indigenous people.
- 49% offer a cross-cultural missions course.
- 21% equip their students to take advantage of Scripture translations in indigenous languages for evangelism and discipleship.
- 26% offer training that prepares their graduates to minister to oral learners.
- 9% offer training in some form of ethnic arts.
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