I’ve talked a bit about why I decided to attend Seminary: the lust for knowledge, the drive to study, to research and write papers. I mentioned the heart for education, the hope that future believers would be well prepared for the world and the calling on their lives to take up their cross and begin their journeys—ever upward and onward.
I don’t know if I explained what drew me to DenSem. I can assure you that there was little desire to stay in Colorado; I had been trying to leave from the time I was in high school. In fact, DenSem seemed too easy of a choice. It was close to my parents, close to my teenage stomping grounds. I’d watch the seminary move from one location to another, I’d sat in the unfinished sections of the library during construction. I went to high school with a professor’s daughter, spent the night at their house. DenSem was too close to everything I wanted to escape. It was illogical that I might stay.
But that changed in January of 2011. I sat down with a professor who had helped design a program that was the first of its kind in seminaries across the world. We call it: Training and Mentoring or TM.
Each student meets for a certain number of hours with a mentor throughout the semester. We write character and skills contracts in which we describe either character traits or skill sets that we need to work on. Then, we describe how we are going to do that over the course of 60 hours in the semester and how we will measure our growth. We also meet with what are called Formation Groups, these are 7-9 students, led by a faculty member. There’s a covenant that each group makes with each other as they decide what they want the group to look like. It’s a promise to love and serve one another as you stay with this group through the entire TM program; it’s also a promise to be authentic and not disclose the group’s time to outsiders. At the end of the semester, students set up a meeting with their mentor (some have two mentors), their formation group leader and their mentoring director (who approved their learning contract).
TM is a way of assuring that students have a chance to look back on seminary as a season of intellectual and personal growth. It’s DenSem’s attempt to protect us from turning into a grave yard full of well thought students who can parrot something that they forgot to believe many years ago.
I listened to the professor explain the system to me and describe the heart of the staff that had created it. I knew, as he settled back in his chair in the student center that this was the place for me. That I would do well here: intellectually, relationally and spiritually.
So, in the same city that I had so longed to escape, I settled down and committed to another 3 year stint. This semester I begin my first step of the TM journey. I have a mentor, a half finished character contract and a fabulous formation group.
In my second year of seminary, it will be exciting to finally experience the thing that made me choose this school.