Seminary Builds Community in Online World

Oct 03, 2011, 06:00 ET from Lexington Theological Seminary

LEXINGTON, Ky., Oct. 3, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Michael Junkroski was a church musician and a full-time business owner/operator in Florida when he felt the nudge to pursue ministry.

"The idea of going to a school where I could learn more about that and become someone who could minister to the ills of the world was extremely appealing," Junkroski said. However, with no seminary close to his Florida home, he wasn't sure when or how he would take that step. Junkroski operates a business with his brother and had family who needed him close by, so moving away to attend seminary was out.

Learning of the new program at Lexington Theological Seminary, with 2/3 of classes online, "was obviously a Godsend," Junkroski said.

The next part of the journey was another surprise. Junkroski expected to be largely on his own with 2/3 of the classes online. However, he quickly found that LTS students have a tight-knit community.

"My attachment to the people here has been pretty surprising," he said. "We're a very close group of people. We're in touch with each other and supporting each other all the time."

IT Director Ben Wyatt says that the technology used by LTS (Edvance 360, MegaMeeting, PowerPoint and others) are used to enhance, not replace, interpersonal relationships. For example, online discussion boards within the LTS Online system give students a place to post prayer requests. Students also communicate offline through emails, chats, Facebook groups and phone calls. They can see one another in class through virtual meetings, and have had virtual pizza parties.

"Technology is the medium we use at LTS to bring students together," Wyatt said.

That connection is an important part of spiritual formation at LTS, Junkroski noted. "Not only are we in the student body there for each other, but I found the faculty to be extremely accessible."

Faculty often will have face-to-face chats via MegaMeeting, which "is a big, big help. It's a very supportive environment. The biggest reason for the success of this program is the faculty. If we were left just doing the assignments online, it would be very cold and impersonal, but I feel I'm really involved in a community of caring people who  have my best interests in mind."

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SOURCE Lexington Theological Seminary