A New Vision for Theological Education: Reconnecting Our Culture with God’s Love
Yellowstone Theological Institute is the embodiment of a unique vision for theological education. At a time when historic seminaries are folding, and “on-line” learning has become the fallback method for generating tuition dollars, YTI is pioneering a different approach to theological education. In a modern culture of education, which values expediency and factory-like efficiency above all else, YTI has chosen the road less traveled.
YTI identifies three problems with theological education today: minimal face-to-face interaction with professors, excessive tuition costs, and a failure to engage the broad spectrum of human experience on both theoretical and practical levels. This is where YTI is changing the playing field. YTI maximizes student-professor engagement, where the learning environment is not limited to the classroom, but is also found at the coffee shop, athletic field, concert hall and living room. YTI partners with many donors to keep tuition costs low, and, makes sure that qualified students are given a place to thrive. Finally, the YTI context is a place where students are constantly engaging not only church history, theology, culture and biblical studies, but are putting that knowledge to use on a daily basis with practical application.
YTI claims to be “the place where faith meets adventure and the arts.” The claim is preposterous to some, but extraordinary to many, many more. We see it as a promise which accurately describes our institutional convictions and educational aim. The Christian faith and ministry are both art and adventure. The grand failure of theological education, and even secular education, is its failure to realize and embrace the comprehensive nature of human existence. God, birth, work, art, relationships, children, adventure, death, and love are bound together in existence. Humans who are connected to and filled with the spirit of God feel compelled to lead others to an understanding of the pervasiveness of the divine in all aspects of life, and thus to a wholeness of existence. I know this sounds a bit audacious and even perhaps high-handed, but the time for mincing words has come to an end: to be a fulfilled human being is to be a person of reason and faith; a person who loves unconditionally; a person who is connected to the rest of creation, and indeed, is a creator; this is a person who knows God.
Part of the classroom experience at YTI is not in a building. The YTI campus is being developed on 80 acres of prime Gallatin Valley land, but only a small portion of this land is dedicated to classroom and administration buildings. In additional development are fine arts studios, an orchard, community gardens, athletic fields, play areas, walking trails, ponds, an outdoor amphitheater, a retreat center, and even a planned performing arts center. The YTI campus will be a place for all of the Bozeman community to enjoy.
YTI is committed to training the next generation of men and women for ministry in this changing world. We have the facilities, the property, the Spirit and a new vision. Our students are immersed in biblical, theological, cultural and practical studies, with consistent real-world application. Our faculty members are committed teachers and scholars, guiding our students through ancient texts, and real-life ministry situations.
There are many fine seminary and divinity schools today that equip young men and women for ministry, but YTI has gone “off-road” and is changing the way theological education is pursued. What is the difference? YTI makes theological education richer, deeper, and more meaningful for our students, and for the people they serve. YTI is where the future begins.
Dr. Jay Smith (Ph.D. Trinity College, University of Bristol) is President and Bridger Professor of Theology & Ethics at Yellowstone Theological Institute. He has taught at Howard Payne University, Baylor University, and the United States Naval Academy, and is the co-author with Stanley Grenz of The Pocket Dictionary of Ethics (IVP 2003) and Created for Community Revised Edition (Baker Academic 2015). Jay loves to hike, compose music and write about Jesus. He roots for the Baylor Bears and Howard Payne Yellowjackets.