Announcing: Porterbrook Training

One of our great prayers and dreams as a church has been to facilitate gospel-driven, missional, Reformed theological education for developing leaders. Until now we’ve relied on good institutions like Reformed Theological Seminary and Covenant Seminary to educate our elders, interns, and church planting residents. But the seminary model has some drawbacks. It’s expensive, time-consuming, and generally feasible only for those who are already sensing a vocational calling to church ministry.

For quite some time we have been networking and researching some alternative models that would allow us to equip a broader group of leaders. So we are pleased to announce that beginning this fall, Coram Deo will launch a 2-year, cohort-based theological education program using the Porterbrook curriculum. Porterbrook was developed by some of our ministry partners in the UK. It’s a Reformed, missional, church-based curriculum that’s rich in gospel depth. Here are some of the distinctives:

  • Consists of 24 modules delivered over 2 years (4 modules per quarter, 3 quarters per year, 1 quarter off)
  • Requires 5 hours per week of dedicated study
  • Costs only $200 per quarter ($600 per year)
  • Beneficial for both formal leaders (elders/church planters) and informal leaders (church members seeking further theological development)
  • Training will begin in September 2010 and progress on a quarter system (Sept-Nov; Dec-Feb; Mar-May; summers off)
  • Participants must:
    • Be part of a local church and be recommended by their pastors/elders
    • Apply for acceptance to the program
    • Commit to 5 hours a week of study, with accountability
    • Pay for the entire year in advance ($600; dropping out will result in the forfeiture of fees paid)
  • All potential participants must be part of a cohort of at least 4 people from their church or geographical area (i.e. Coram Deo cohort, Core cohort, Lincoln cohort, Sioux City cohort; some churches may have multiple cohorts)
  • Each cohort will have a designated cohort leader who will be responsible to track progress, ensure faithfulness to schedule, and set up weekly cohort meetings for study and interaction
  • Each quarter will kick off with a day-long “residential” bringing all participants and cohorts together in Omaha for presentations, assignments, and introduction of new material
  • This format will allow for the synergy and momentum of large-group learning (quarterly residential gatherings) while allowing the flexibility and personal interaction of small-group learning (cohort format)

Below is a table comparing the strengths and weaknesses of the Porterbrook model and the traditional seminary model.

Type of Learning Functional Learning (you get out what you put in) Formal Learning (pass or fail)
Format 24 modules delivered over 2 years (4 modules per quarter, 3 quarters per year, 1 quarter off) 50-70 semester hours
Time Required 5 hours per week Up to 15 hours per week
Measurement More Subjectively Measured – are you applying what you are learning? More Objectively Measured – exams, papers, grading
Advantages – Flexible and adaptable
– Communal, integrated learning style
– Functions within the context of a local church’s ministry and mission
– Missional and gospel emphasis – immediate application of theology to life
– Self-paced
– Smaller time investment
– Trains and equips a large number of people – any motivated spiritual leader can participate
– Fits within a “normal” life pattern (full-time job, church involvement, family)
– A more culturally established paradigm of learning
– You receive a formal degree
– More credible in the eyes of many people
– Develops academic disciplines – reading, writing, etc.
– Expert professors
– Standardized “body of learning” ensures familiarity with a broad spectrum of topics
– Better for those with an academic learning style (books, papers, tests)
Disadvantages – No formal degree received
– Less credible in the eyes of many
– May not prepare well for pulpit ministry due to lack of language training, paper-writing, academic rigor
– Narrower spectrum of topics covered
– Significant investment of time and money
– Can be academic and tedious
– Application to life isn’t always clear
– Trains fewer leaders (not all can invest the time and money)
– Can take much longer to complete; harder to fit within a normal life pattern
Cost $200 per quarter ($1200 total) Upwards of $20,000

At this point we are seeking to gauge interest so we can plan appropriately for the size and scope of the program. So if you’re interested, please send us an e-mail and let us know. FYI: “Interested” means “I’d like to participate and I’m willing to invest the time and money,” not, “This sounds cool.”

Once we have a sense of the general interest, we’ll roll out a more formal application that you’ll need to complete. We’ll post more updates here on the blog as things develop. We’re excited about the future and thankful to God for the opportunity to provide theological education for our city and region!


Leave a Comment

  1. Bob, this is an exciting, excellent and beneficial way to bring reform to the church, pastoral training and graduate level education. Blessings as you embark on this vision.

  2. Bob – really excited for this. I’m going to point a couple of guys towards it. For me, “it sounds cool” – not sure I’ve got the time to invest in it personally in this season, but I’d like to.

  3. Sounds awesome and would love to do it. However, if I read you correctly you wish to gather all participants together in Omaha once per quarter? So, this is focused mainly at local folks? Or, will there be some sort of provision for people who are say, thousands of miles away?

  4. Yes, Nick, the focus is local. However, there are numerous Porterbrook training centers all over the world. Drop us an email and let us know where you are and maybe we can help you connect with Porterbrook somewhere near you.

  5. Thanks so much Pastor Thune. I dropped a line to your general church email. ( I appreciate your time and willingness to help.

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