A student with international mission aspirations contacted Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary last spring. He had heard about the BibleMesh Institute and wanted to know whether he could combine the self-paced flexibility of BibleMesh courses with work toward an accredited master’s degree from Southeastern. Absolutely, the seminary told him, because the student’s personal goals dovetailed with the goals of Southeastern’s collaboration with BibleMesh.
Beginning in February 2019, Southeastern partnered with BibleMesh to increase the number of seminary entry points for students. The seminary also sought to strengthen God’s kingdom by merging traditional and nontraditional approaches to theological education.
“We’re always looking for people we can come alongside” and “work together toward a common goal,” said Chris Thompson, Southeastern’s associate vice president for academic administration.
Established in 1950, Southeastern is one of six Southern Baptist Convention seminaries, with 85 percent of its students coming from Southern Baptist churches. This fall, the seminary enrolled 5,300 students working toward bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees—thousands more than the average member institution of the Association of Theological Schools, one of the main North American accrediting bodies for graduate theological education. Southeastern has more than 60 faculty members and has been offering online classes since 2004.
With so many resources of its own, why did Southeastern feel a need to partner with BibleMesh?
The partnership, Thompson said, makes theology degrees accessible for a greater number of ministry workers. The more students who transfer credit from BibleMesh, the more degrees Southeastern will be able to confer.
“Healthy churches are the goal,” he said. “We want to have more and more people with a solid theological foundation that are leading small groups, preaching, and leading worship. That’s always a good thing for the church and ultimately a good thing for the kingdom.”
Under the partnership, students may transfer up to 30 hours of BibleMesh Institute credit toward a Southeastern degree, though the transfer credit may not exceed two-thirds of a student’s overall degree requirements. The partnership includes Southeastern’s undergraduate program, The College at Southeastern. Students are encouraged to review Southeastern degree requirements before beginning BibleMesh coursework to determine which classes will satisfy the demands of their desired degree.
BibleMesh Institute course offerings span the theological disciplines. Students enroll in each course on a subscription basis for $225 per month. On average, students complete a course in three months, though some move through more quickly.
So far, four students have transferred BibleMesh Institute credit to Southeastern.
Other large seminaries should consider partnerships with BibleMesh, Thompson said, and not assume such collaboration is only for smaller schools that need to fill gaps in their curriculum or supplement their online programs.
“What we value more than anything is transformation,” he said. “We want lives transformed. We want people growing into the likeness of Christ. More access points to that is a good thing. If [other large seminaries] are thinking of a partnership too, I would encourage that.”
David Roach is editor of the BibleMesh blog.