What is the PSI, and how is it different from the Seminary Certification Program?
Our seminary instituted The Pastoral Studies Institute (PSI) to serve our synod by guiding and assisting “non-traditional” students find the best path for their pre-seminary and seminary training. The PSI offers another way for “second career” students to prepare for Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary besides the Seminary Certification program that is administered by Martin Luther College in New Ulm, Minnesota. The Seminary Certification program is a fully-accredited, residential, academic program offered at our college of ministry. The PSI, on the other hand, allows qualifying “second career” students to receive their pre-seminary courses at home in a modified distance learning format. The seminary’s PSI program as well as MLC’s “Sem-Cert” program only offer courses that prepare a person to attend the seminary fulltime in Mequon. The PSI has no plans at this time to offer any of our seminary courses via distance learning.
Who qualifies for the PSI “distance learning” courses?
Individuals qualify who have special circumstances in their lives. Special circumstances include the following: 1) they are older men; 2) they have families to support; 3) they currently live in a situation that would make relocation to New Ulm a significant hardship for them; 4) they are presently engaged in active, congregational/church ministry; 5) they are from a diverse cultural background. Whether or not someone qualifies is a matter that is determined through a process of interview and discussion. You can begin this discussion by contacting the PSI director, Dr. E. Allen Sorum. You will find his contact information below.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of the PSI program?
First, consider the disadvantages. The PSI route is not easier, shorter, or cheaper. Language learning is a challenge when a person studies for the most part on his own. He doesn’t have the daily encouragement of his teacher and classmates to keep him going. It takes a lot of hard work and a high degree of commitment on the part of a student to succeed. Most of the pre-seminary credits are language related. Learning languages in this fashion may pose special challenges even to a highly motivated student!
Current fees are set at $165/per PSI credit. The PSI director will work with men who are enrolled in the PSI pre-seminary program and their local congregation regarding financial matters. Besides the financial resources required, the PSI director would also have to determine that your pastor–or pastors in your vicinity–would be willing to devote a significant share of his time to “shepherd” a PSI pre-seminary student through the required courses.
There are 42 credits in the basic PSI pre-seminary course of study. In addition to these, a student may be required to complete the Congregational Assistant Program. Three years would be a conservative estimate of the length of time it would take to complete PSI pre-seminary studies. A lot depends on the amount of time an individual is able to spend on his studies. For many, the Seminary Certification route at New Ulm, Minnesota would be quicker.
If, however, the PSI Executive Committee would accept you as a PSI pre-seminary student, a plan would be designed just for you which would indicate a) the number of courses you’d need to take; b) who would likely be serving as your teaching mentor while you were taking them, and c) the sequence in which you would be taking them. This plan (called an ISP for “Individualized Study Plan”) would give you a better idea of how long the process would take for you.
PSI applicants who successfully enroll in the seminary pre-seminary program should understand that they miss out on important “intangibles” by not enrolling in MLC’s Seminary Certification program. Pastoral ministry is about relationships, and that includes relationships with fellow pastors. At Martin Luther College, a person has the opportunity to build the kind of relationships that last a lifetime. Besides this, students at MLC have the opportunity not simply to learn subject matter, but to study with professors who are modelers and confessors of the faith they are teaching. Studying at a confessional residential college is far more than simply a matter of learning subjects. It is an opportunity to be imprinted by the character of godly men.
Can’t a person enjoy some of these same things by working together with his pastor? Of course! Still, going the distance learning route means a person is not going to have the same richness of experience as the student who attends MLC. On the other hand, there are also obvious advantages for the one pursuing the PSI program. He can begin the program without having to move to New Ulm. He can continue serving in his own congregation, and in every case, someone taking part in the PSI program is expected to be actively involved in his congregation’s ministry.
The PSI pre-seminary program is for those few “non-traditional” students who are very involved in their congregation’s ministry and who, for various reasons, cannot break away from that service and from their circumstances to study at MLC. Contact the PSI director to discuss your unique circumstances. If you want to serve as a pastor in the Wisconsin Ev. Lutheran Synod, we want to get you started on that journey and to encourage you along the way.
The pastoral ministry is a high calling! May the Lord bless you as you consider whether or not to serve your Lord by pursuing it further.
For More Information about PSI contact:
Dr. E. Allen Sorum
Director, Pastoral Studies Institute