Our shift to competency-based theological education (CBTE)
Northwest’s role since its inception has been to prepare and support pastoral leaders for Fellowship churches in Western Canada, the Yukon, and beyond. We did this through course-based models of higher education until 2009, when our constituency asked us to develop a new model of learning that would meet church leadership needs in ways that course-based models could not.
After four years of collaborative research and design, Northwest and Fellowship Pacific launched the Immerse Master of Divinity (MDiv), the first direct assessment competency-based theological education (CBTE) program in North America. Our first cohort started in 2013, and in 2015, the program was accredited and raised to high-profile experimental status by The Association of Theological Schools (ATS), North America’s gold standard accreditor for graduate level theological education.
Since that time, we have continued to operate and refine the Immerse MDiv, and introduced further CBTE degrees and certificates at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. We have seen enrollment grow from tens to hundreds of students, and we now serve networks through CBTE across Canada, the USA, and South America.
The results speak for themselves. CBTE program completion rates are higher than average, and the placement rate of graduates is 75%. Our students develop and demonstrate competency within their ministry context so that by the time they graduate, they already have years of experience working in the roles for which they have been prepared. Further, graduation requires demonstrated competence, so learners are guided, coached, and supported to develop high levels of knowledge, skill, and character by individualized mentor teams.
We have clear evidence CBTE is serving our constituency’s leadership development needs better than course-based models of theological education, and as such, we continue to strengthen our CBTE infrastructure and model, and sustainably expand our CBTE programs.