Extension and Popularization of Theological Education – Who? Where? When? How?
Director of Theological Education by Extension
PhD 2017, ThM 2013, MDiv 2009
I have loved science since I was young. Not only was I a science student, but I also liked to buy science books for leisure reading. As soon as I entered the bookstore, I would go straight to the “Popular Science” section. Popular science books are not the same as textbooks, by having not many jargons. They would not explain the scientific theories in great details, but they are able to make people understand the subject. Even if readers are unfamiliar with science and they may not fully grasp the concepts in the books, they can understand a little about the field, without feeling out of touch with the science world. If they are interested to explore more deeply, they can look for more specialized publications for further reading.
Science needs to be popularized, so does theological education. Our Department of Theological Education by Extension (TEE) was established since the beginning of CGST. As the name implies, the main objective of TEE is to extend the theological education of CGST to a wider community, so that more believers will have a basic understanding of theology and their faith will grow stronger. At the same time, TEE is a window of CGST, through which brothers and sisters will have a taste of theological education. If they are drawn to seek for more rigorous inquiry, they can further their studies through the Graduate Programs.
There are at least four dimensions in the extension of theological education. The first dimension is target students. Not every believer has the aspiration to study theology and become a theologian or a biblical scholar, nor can they afford to put a lot of time and energy into studying theology. Courses offered by TEE target for those brothers and sisters who have limitation in time and availability so that they may have a preliminary glance at theology. Students can enroll on one or two subjects from time to time according to their convenience. For those who are more available, they can complete certificate programs, such as Lay Christian Theology Certificate, Certificate of Life Renewal and Certificate of Soul Care, as their learning objectives according to their own needs. TEE will review regularly and redesign the certificate courses in order to reach a wider community of believers.
The second dimension is locations. Apart from offering courses at CGST campus, TEE co-works with churches in various districts to offer courses in different locations. At present, we offer day-time extension courses in three locations on a regular basis, covering Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories respectively. We also tried to collaborate with churches to offer evening courses in various districts other than CGST campus. This can save travelling time for brothers and sisters. CGST is also committed to offering extension courses to overseas Chinese believers so that overseas Chinese churches, who often have limited resources, can benefit from the extension of theological education.
The third dimension is modes of learning. With the rapid technological advancement, learning modes are no longer confined to regular scheduled classes. TEE has been offering online courses in recent years, for those brothers and sisters who cannot attend classes in person can still take the extension courses. Online course development is one of our foci at this phase. From just offering the videos of classroom teaching on the internet in the past, we now are gradually redesigning the courses, so that they are more suitable for online learning. Students learning experience will then be further enhanced.
The last dimension is course content. Some brothers and sisters may not be motivated, or may be even afraid to take those traditional subjects, like systematic theology and church history. The flexibility of the curriculum allows TEE to offer diversified courses to equip brothers and sisters of various interests and to benefit from their studies.
CGST believes that theological education is more than equipping full-time students or leaders involved in church ministry. Every believer should acquire a basic understanding in theology. There should be a “theological sense” in their Christian faith. We strive to achieve this goal, anticipating that the church to be built, and through faith believers be “rooted and established in love, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” (Ephesians 3:17-18, NIV)