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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Preparing for Rural Ministry: A Qualitative Analysis of Curriculum used in Theological Education to Prepare Clergy for Ministry in a Rural Context
by Sherin, Kenneth Mark, Ph.D., University of Missouri - Columbia, 2012, 295; 3533981
Abstract (Summary)

Increasing the capacity of rural clergy through their educational preparation is important. Unfortunately, there is lack of research and understanding about the educational preparation of clergy to work in rural communities. This qualitative content analysis of course descriptions, goals and objectives and an analysis of the content covered in the syllabi, reading materials and films was conducted to provide current and sociologically informed knowledge and understanding of rural clergy preparation programs. The results of this analysis give scholars and educators knowledge of the manner and extent clergy are prepared to work in a church located in a rural community.

Five organizations, purposively chosen, sent twenty syllabi in response to a request for curriculum materials used to prepare clergy to work in a rural context. Duke Divinity School submitted two syllabi used in their Thriving Rural Communities program. Wartburg Theological Seminary submitted six syllabi used in their Center for Theology and Land program. The Rural Home Missionary Association sent five syllabi used in the Town and Country Training program. Luther Seminary submitted six syllabi and Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity provided one syllabus.

The qualitative content analysis examined the course descriptions, goals and objectives from twenty syllabi seeking to discover the general intent and purposes behind the educational preparation of clergy to work in a rural context. The subjects and activities outlined on sixty-seven syllabus pages, seventy-three books and articles, and sixteen films were examined seeking to describe the content of the course materials used to educationally prepare clergy to work in a rural context.

Three themes were found that describe the general intent and purposes for the preparation of clergy to work in a rural context. The three themes are: Contextual (to produce knowledge that informs students about the basic elements of life in rural areas, trends that shape rural life, and the norms and values of rural culture); Professional Skills Development (to teach clergy “how-to” skills needed in order to be a successful rural minister such as pastoral care and church leadership); and Issue Specific (to teach students how to educate and/ or advocate for specific issues within the rural community, such as immigration).

Seven themes describing a majority of the course content were discovered. These themes are: Rural Context (demographic, social, economic factors), Rural Churches (characteristics of rural churches), Rural Culture (norm, values, and attitudes typical in rural communities), Pastoral Care in a Rural Context (caring for rural people), Leadership in a Rural Context (leading rural churches and people), Agriculture and Environment (agricultural practices and sustainable environmental solutions), and Demographic Changes in Rural Areas (migration and ethnic diversification).

This new knowledge was placed into the context of the historical Rural Church Movement, which was an effort to prepare clergy for the campaign for rural progress initiated by President Theodore Roosevelt’s Country Life Commission in 1909. Recommendations were made for additional training for clergy preparing to work in a rural context by discussing the social and economic changes that have taken place in the century since the Country Life Commission report. It was determined that clergy currently preparing to work in a rural context need the capacity to be community leaders in order to coach, guide and care for rural communities experiencing social change.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Grigsby, Mary
School: University of Missouri - Columbia
School Location: United States -- Missouri
Source: DAI-A 74/04(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Clerical studies, Religious education, Sociology, Higher education
Keywords: Church, Clergy training, Contextual education, Curriculum inquiry, Rural ministry, Rural sociology, Theological education
Publication Number: 3533981
ISBN: 978-1-267-79375-1
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