The Community Based Model for Ministry Preparation
The Community-Based Model for Aboriginal Ministry Training is authorized by the United Church of Canada. The education model was developed by an Aboriginal Committee. It is dedicated to the spiritual wholeness of Aboriginal people, with a commitment to upholding both Aboriginal Traditional and Christian values and teachings, and to increasing cross-cultural understanding.
In the Community-Based model, preparation for ministry is a balance of course work and practical ministry. Learning and integration takes place (A) in the Learning Circles (four times a year), when the students gather together to study, with Centre staff, resource leaders, and an Elder, and (B) the ministry field placements, where they work and reflect with elders, community leaders and their Vision Keeper (Diagram 1).
The Program is normally five years long for preparation for Order of Ministry (both ordained and diaconal), and three years for those who wish to train as a Designated Lay Minister. Order of Ministry (diaconal and ordained) student require a minimum of 45 course credits, and a minimum of at least half time field placement ministry in each of the five years. Designated Lay Ministry students require 27 course credits and a minimum of at least half time field placement ministry in each of three years.
Learning Circles: Each week is four and one-half days long, with an average of 30 hours class time. Additional time is spent in reflection before and after classes with the Vision Keeper, writing journal reflections and other assignments. Successful participation in one week-long Learning circle is one Credit. Students in the Order of Ministry (Ordained, Diaconal) require a minimum of 45 credits over five years to complete. Students in the three-year program for Designated Lay Ministry require a minimum of 27 credits over 3 years.
Field Placements: Field placements may occur in a variety of settings, including paid accountable ministry or employment community work such education, social work, counseling, health care. Field placements can also be volunteer positions. Whether paid or volunteer, field work will include active participation in a congregation. Students attend two-week Learning Circles four times per year, with one additional week being active participation in Grand Council and or Presbytery meetings of the All Native Circle Conference (or equivalent). For completion, students must have successful participation in paid or volunteer work equivalent to half time (20 hours per week) in each of the five years (Ordained, diaconal) or three years (Lay Designated Ministry).
Vision Keepers: The action-reflection education model allows students to gain practical experience in their field placement, receive guidance and support from elders and others in the community, as well is from a Vision Keeper (a term equivalent to “education supervisor” but more consistent with Aboriginal ways of offering direction and wisdom), and reflect on what they learn in the courses and field placement. The Learning Circles are designed to follow the traditional Aboriginal ways of learning, with wisdom and insight being shared by all participants – the students, resources leaders, and an elder.
Teaching and Learning: Within the Centre’s praxis (action-reflection) model of learning, all members of the circle are both learners and teachers. The art and skill of listening is fostered along with that of speaking.
Completion: On completion, graduates receive a Diploma in Aboriginal Ministry.