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“It’s an alternative to the educational program offered by our seminaries,” explains Dr. Dennis Tevis, the director for the Upper Midwest Extension Course of Study. “It’s a 20-course program that covers things that pastors need to know in serving congregations, from congregational care, to preaching, to Old and New Testaments, to historical theology and contemporary theology.”
Part of the Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, the Upper Midwest school serves part-time local pastors from Iowa, Minnesota, and North and South Dakota. Enrollees take on either a five or 10-year study that involves both online sessions and in-person classes which are held on two weekends (Friday and Saturday) in both the spring and fall. Students meet at Morningside College, which Dr. Tevis says is a “wonderful place,” with smart classrooms and a large auditorium where everyone can gather for opening exercises and devotions.
Some students who take part in the Course of Study are retired, while others have full-time jobs while devoting part of their time to pastoral work. “We’ve actually grown fairly rapidly,” Dr. Tevis says of the student body, which was a little more than 30 people when he first became director a few years ago. “Now we’re at 50. That says something about the need and the use of part-time local pastors. As some churches become smaller and cannot afford full-time pastors, they employ part-time pastors, and that’s the group that we serve as a Course of Study school.”
Classes for the Fall 2017 session include titles like Bible I: Introduction, Theological Heritage II: Early Church, Mission, and Evangelism. Students in the Course of Study are actually engaging in part of the rich heritage of the United Methodist Church. “It goes back to John Wesley,” says Dr. Tevis. “Wesley had reading lists for his pastors, and he expected them to read those books. And then I think at the conferences when they would get together, there was some discussion, conferencing around some of those issues and topics.”
And how did Dr. Tevis himself become involved in the Course of Study? “One fall, the director there said that someone who taught New Testament – which is my area of expertise – was going to the World Methodist Conference in the spring or that next summer and would not be available to teach, and would I be interested? I said, yes I would. And so I did that. And he never came back. So I’ve been doing that for 25 years,” he laughs. Then five years ago, Dr. Tevis was offered the position of director, which he readily accepted. “I enjoy teaching, I enjoy working with pastors, so that was a natural thing for me.”
To find out more about the Upper Midwest Extension Course of Study, including information about tuition, scholarship applications, and how to register, visit https://www.iaumc.org/uppermidwestextensioncourseofstudyschool.