The characteristics of beginning students in the ministerial training programs of the Wesleyan Church

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Heer, Kenneth
McElhinney, James H.
Issue Date
Thesis (D. Ed.)
Department of Educational Leadership
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Knowledge of the characteristics of beginning students in ministerial training programs is important if those programs are to adequately prepare persons intellectually, emotionally, socially, and spiritually to be effective ministers. The purpose of this study was to answer the question: What are the important characteristics of the 1990 student population entering into the ministerial training programs of The Wesleyan Church?Sixty students who enrolled during the 1990 fall semester in programs leading to ordination in The Wesleyan Church were studied. These programs existed on the campuses of five colleges governed by the Church and six seminaries approved to provide graduate theological education for the Church's ministers.A survey instrument collected data on the students' backgrounds, attitudes, values, educational motivations, beliefs, and perspectives regarding the future. The responses of the Wesleyan ministerial students were analyzed to define the differences between students involved in different ministerial education programs of the Church and to compare their responses with national norms established by the 1989 Cooperative Institutional Research Program study which is administered annually to freshmen in American colleges and universities.Wesleyan freshmen ministerial students were older, had lower average grades in high school, and were less motivated to pursue graduate studies than students in the national study. The ability to finance their education was a major concern and they were very dependent upon government aid and borrowed money to pay for their education.The ministerial students studied had a wide variety of experiences which have had traumatic effect upon them. The students were highly motivated in their desire to help people. On most issues, they held traditional values and life style expectations which are promoted by the church. There were points at which their belief as to appropriate behavior for Christians did not characterize their own behavior. A high percentage of the students indicated they did not fully understand theological terms which are basic in church doctrine.The results from the study of Wesleyan ministerial students indicated the need for developing greater cooperation between the formal academic programs offered at the church's colleges and seminaries, and the non-formal learning opportunities which should occur through all levels of church organization.