Princeton Theological Seminary has launched a project, funded by Trinity Church Wall Street, to help theological education prepare faith leaders as “spiritual entrepreneurs” — people who inspire, equip, and lead congregations to become crucibles for “changemaking” in their communities. So far Princeton Seminary has received $290,000 to launch this project. The Teaching Spiritual Entrepreneurship (TSE) Project aims to make spiritual entrepreneurship and social innovation a more intentional component of theological education.
Spiritual entrepreneurship aligns with Princeton Seminary’s mission to equip Christians for leadership worldwide in congregations and the larger church, in classrooms and the academy, and in the public arena. “Half of Christian young people say their actions — not their words — should be the church’s primary form of witness. Other studies show that Americans have significantly more confidence in small businesses making a positive difference in our communities than churches or other nonprofits. No wonder interest in social entrepreneurship has skyrocketed,” says Kenda Creasy Dean, Mary D. Synnott Professor of Youth, Church and Culture and director of the TSE Project.
But Dean says few people — and even fewer churches — think of social innovation as ministry. “We’ve started mapping what theological schools are doing to change that. So far, not much. There are a few notable exceptions. But interest is growing quickly. We hope the TSE Project will accelerate seminaries’ interest in, and capacities for, helping faith leaders mobilize congregations to lead change in their communities.”
Fifteen years ago, the phrase “social entrepreneur” was largely unknown. “But this has changed swiftly over the past several years,” says the Rev. Larissa Kwong Abazia, TSE project coordinator: “Not only do secular universities now have full-blown programs in social entrepreneurship, they are introducing programs in faith-based social entrepreneurship.” But she points out that critical theological conversations are still missing from these programs — and those resources are most visible and tangible in seminaries.
The TSE Project hopes to provide theological schools and students with the practical tools, knowledge, and confidence to shift this conversation. This spring, the TSE Project will review applications and select eight seminaries to join Princeton Seminary in piloting 11 curriculum prototypes to contextualize this learning for various theological schools’ cultures and student groups. Three of those prototypes will be piloted at Princeton Seminary: one for degree students, led by Dean; one for non-traditional students (returning citizens from prison, led by Dr. Charles Atkins), and a third for online continuing education students, designed by Kwong Abazia with Associate Dean of Continuing Education Abigail Rusert.
One key to the project’s success, hopes Dean, is its insistence seminaries partner with community organizations already supporting Christian social entrepreneurs. Dean says there are two advantages to this approach. First, it gives students contexts where they can gain hands-on experience and mentors in the field. Second, it reduces the burden on seminary faculty who are not trained as community organizers or entrepreneurs and have no desire to become so. “God has given us the leaders we need,” says Dean, “but they don’t all teach on a seminary faculty. We prepare students best when everyone comes out of our holes for a minute, and share what we have. It’s ‘stone soup’ theological education.”
Learn more about the TSE Project here.
About Princeton Theological Seminary
Princeton Theological Seminary, founded in 1812, is the first seminary established by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church. Its mission is to educate leaders for the church of Jesus Christ worldwide. Its students and more than 11,000 graduates from all 50 states and many nations around the world serve Christ in churches, schools and universities, healthcare institutions, nonprofit agencies, initiatives for social justice, mission agencies, and the emerging ministries of the church in the 21st century.
About Trinity Church Wall Street
Now in its fourth century, Trinity Church Wall Street is a growing and inclusive Episcopal parish of more than 1,200 members that seeks to serve and heal the world by building neighborhoods that live Gospel truths, generations of faithful leaders, and sustainable communities. The parish is guided by its core values: faith, integrity, inclusiveness, compassion, social justice, and stewardship. Members come from the five boroughs of New York City and surrounding areas to form a racially, ethnically, and economically diverse congregation. More than 20 worship services are offered every week at its historic sanctuaries, Trinity Church and St. Paul’s Chapel, the cornerstones of the parish’s community life, worship, and mission, and online at trinitywallstreet.org. The parish welcomes approximately 2 million visitors per year.
Princeton Theological Seminary
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