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Transforming Theological Education Through Experiential Learning in Urban Contexts

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An important paradigm shift underway in education allows students to be partners in cooperative learning and to field test old answers to ever-changing problems in urban life through the continual journey into neighborhoods and the return journey into the classroom for reflection. The rhythm of journey in and journey out ofthe classroom allows spirituality, community and justice to embrace. Diversity is reflected through students' journeys into contexts where people's worldviews and faith suppositions differ from their own. Jesus educated his disciples by sending them out on journeys, sometimes going with them, other times processing their experiencesd when they returned. Students should likewise be allowed to journey outside the confines of the classroom and interact with the world in all of its complexities. Experiential learning in urban contexts calls for a "servant learner" approach rather than the "servant leader" approach that still dominates theological education. The servant learner goes into a context with the goal of understanding the culture, needs, agendas, and issues of a community as an alternative to the traditional method of seeking to set the agenda for the people of the community. Christian educators are called to slow down, reflect, re-evaluate, and re-direct the educational journey back from where it began-out in the world. In its commitment to free-floating thoughts and cognitive concepts, contemporary higher education is left unanchored and without concrete expression in the world. Theological education cannot justify itself based on what it has become, but must seek a new path based on what might become. It must return to its true calling of educating Christians in their faith journeys through engagement and participation in the real world. It must also allow those whom we serve in our communities to evaluate our efforts.

Affiliations: 1: Azusa Pacific University


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