Context-Based Ministry Leadership Development

Great leaders are essential, but they can be hard to find. If the church is going to be able to fulfill its mission, it is going to have to accept its responsibility to identify and develop those people who will lead them in the future. Typically, churches have contracted this function out to the seminary, which they have seen as a kind of factory outlet for pastoral leaders. The results have been predictable. Immerse offers a better way.

What is Immerse?
Northwest Baptist’s Immerse Master of Divinity program is the first fully-accredited, Master’s level program to employ the Competency-Based Theological Education (CBTE) philosophy. View an Immerse overview via Spark.

CBTE is a paradigm shift in theological education – an innovative way of helping people to fulfill their calling and gifting as ministry leaders. Competency-based theological education and the Immerse program are characterized by the following elements:

Contextually Demonstrated Mastery
In a conventional program, students progress toward graduation by completing classes and assignments that are offered in semesters and require a certain amount of “seat time”. CBTE programs are built on a mastery model where students progress toward graduation by demonstrating their mastery of a set of integrated outcomes. Immerse was designed by starting with the end in mind. We outlined the knowledge, skills, and character that we wanted our graduates to possess and then worked backward to develop a program that helped the student develop and then display their mastery of those outcomes from within the ministry context in which they are serving.

Integrated Outcome Assessment
In Immerse, outcomes are designed to develop the student’s knowledge, skill, and character. In each outcome, all three of these values are developed. This is because we believe that these outcomes are integrated.

For instance, churches want their ministers to be characterized by humility. We believe that true, Biblical humility is driven, among other things, by an understanding of the doctrine of Humanity. So graduates from the Immerse program need to understand that all people are created in the image of God and are to be valued. Additionally, although humility is not a skill, per se, there is a certain amount of ability that goes into developing relationships that are characterized by humility.

Rather than just driving at a single character quality independently, the Immerse curriculum integrates the development of knowledge, skill, and character together.

Static Outcomes and Tailored Pathways
Each student that enters the Immerse program is unique. They have different abilities, weaknesses, personalities, and experiences. This uniqueness means that if each student undertook the exact same courses, each student would complete them with a varying level of skill and competency. In Immerse, we flipped that idea on its head. Rather than the program being fixed and the outcomes being variable, we fixed the outcomes through conversation with the missional organization that a student serves. While these ends are described and measured through carefully described performance standards and indicators, the pathways a student takes to display mastery of those outcomes will be flexible, customized to the student’s particular needs and contextual opportunities.

Team-Based Mentoring
Our conviction is that people train people. Books and resources are helpful, but ultimately unable to generate the development of the whole person on their own. For that reason, the Immerse program is created around a team of mentors. When a student enters into the program, a mentor team is built around them. This team typically consists of a representative of the seminary, a representative from the local ministry in which the student is serving and a representative from the partner network (typically a denomination or missional agency). This three-member team ensures that each of these three groups is invested in the development of the future leader as well as ensuring that the student benefits from the particular focus of the three different perspectives that their mentors bring.

Student-Paced Development
Immerse is a program that is completed at the pace of life. The in-context, subscription model allows for a developmental paradigm whereby the student moves at their own pace, accelerating where feasible, and slowing down where the work requires greater focus.

Collaborative Missional Partnerships
Competency-Based Theological Education programs like Immerse work best when they offer direct service to missional organizations who are willing to articulate outcomes and collaborate around the student’s journey. Such organizations have the best sense of what their students need to flourish on mission.

When Northwest started exploring this new way of approaching ministry leadership development, we did so in close partnership with our home denomination, the Fellowship Baptist Churches of BC and the Yukon (Fellowship Pacific for short). Together, we developed a program that was co-owned by the seminary and the churches that we serve. Since then, we have built partnerships with a variety of different missional networks to offer a program customized to their values and needs. Additionally, we have partnered with ACTS Seminaries to offer a version of Immerse to interested students who are not part of one of the networks with whom we partner.

Who are the different networks that run Immerse programs?
To date, Northwest partners with 11 different networks to run customized iterations of Immerse for the ministry leaders they are training.

These networks include:

Each of our Immerse iterations are uniquely designed and delivered with the full participation of our network partners.

What are the entry requirements to enter the program?
As a fully-accredited Masters of Divinity program, Immerse has a number of academic requirements for entry into the program. Additionally, as an immersive, context-based program, the student must meet other requirements related to their ministry-context and affirmation of the network partner that runs their iteration.

These requirements include:

  • Bachelor’s degree with a 2.50 GPA (or 60 undergrad credits with a 2.50 GPA)
  • Employment (or potential) in your ministry context
  • Support and endorsement from your ministry leadership team
  • Approval from your network/denomination leadership

What are the program requirements for graduation?
Immerse is an 87 credit, fully accredited Masters of Divinity degree program. Each Immerse iteration consists of 27 Ministry Leadership Outcomes plus the introductory Cornerstone and summative Capstone outcomes. Each of these 29 outcomes is worth 3 credits each.

The time devoted to develop and demonstrate mastery of each outcome will vary from student to student, but the program is designed to be completed in around four years.

With this basic structure in common, each network partner has a customized list of the 27 Ministry Leadership Outcomes that they have deemed crucial for their context.

How do I begin?
Each Immerse iteration has an intake process customized to their network but each one follows a general four-step process:

Step 1: Inquiry
One of the unique aspects of the Immerse program is that it is not as student-selective as conventional programs. This means that students come to the program through their ministry network. Because of this most prospective student’s do not initially contact Northwest to inquire about the program but are rather informed about it through the partner network they are affiliated with. In these cases, students are able to contact the Northwest admissions office ([email protected]) to ensure that their academic credentials are sufficient for entry in the program.

Students who are not part of a partner network are invited to contact the Northwest admissions office ([email protected]. The admissions office is equipped to help the prospective student better understand the program, the Competency-Based Theological Education philosophy it is built on and if the program is a good fit for them. The admissions office will also put prospective students in contact with ACTS Seminaries who functions as the partner network for any student who is not a part of one.

Step 2: Assessment
Each partner network operates their own unique assessment process in consultation with the seminary (on academic issues). The prospective student will interact directly with their network for this assessment. (Note: For some iterations, there is an assessment fee charged)

Step 3: Application
If the student passes their network’s assessment process and Northwest has determined they meet the academic qualifications, they will be invited to complete a Northwest Baptist Seminary application form for entry into the Immerse program and pay the application fee.

Step 4: Orientation
All successful applicants are invited to join their Partner Network’s orientation. These events serve as an orientation to the process of studying at the graduate level in a Competency-Based Theological Education program. Additionally, students will be given access to the Immerseonline learning platform and oriented to its use.

How much does it cost?
Immerse fees are assessed in three phases – initial fees, annual fees, and program completion fees (view fee chart).

Initial Fees are the one-time fees associated with gaining entrance into the Immerse program. Not all fees are required in each network setting (view fee chart).

  • Assessment Fee. This fee is associated with the network’s costs in determining which students it will be recommended for application to the Immerse program by the host network.
  • Application Fee. Students who successfully complete the network assessment process will be invited to apply for the Immerse program and receive an application link from NBS. The Application Fee is required as part of the application process for Northwest Baptist Seminary.
  • Orientation Fee). Upon successful admission into the Immerse program, students will be invoiced the Immerse Orientation fee. This one-time fee covers costs for program orientation for new students and new mentors.
  • Logos Bible Software. Immerse Students are required to purchase the customized Northwest Logos Bible Software package (comparable to the Gold level base package).

Tuition and Fees (view fee chart)

  • Annual Tuition.
  • Annual Fees:
    • Instructional Seminar Fee. This fee is used to cover the costs of teaching and hosting the instructional seminars.
    • Mentor Training and Community Fee. This fee is used to cover the costs of providing initial and ongoing training of mentors in their role and responsibility in the Immerse program.
    • Technology and Online Resource Fee. This fee covers the online library resources Northwest provides as well as access to the student learning platform.

Immerse  Program Completion

  • Intent to Graduate. Students approaching the end of their academic program must apply to graduate. This gives the Registrar opportunity to do a program audit for the student and to confirm whether the student is eligible to graduate. The Application for Graduation initiates a series of protocols to determine the student’s readiness for graduation and initiates the CAPSTONE Assessment process.
  • Program Extension.The Immerse Program Extension Policy allows students who have applied and paid their Graduation Fees to be eligible for a program extension and subsequent payment structure for program completion in a timely manner.
  • See Immerse Graduation Policy and Protocols for further information.

 Financial Assistance
Financial assistance models, where available, assume program completion within five years.

Can I apply previous graduate work to Immerse?
Because academic achievement in Northwest’s Competency-Based Theological Education programs is predicated upon demonstrated mastery of prescribed Outcomes, transfer credit is not granted at the programmatic level. Students with previous academic credit may have their transcripts evaluated by their mentor team, assisted by the Northwest dean’s office, to identify areas within one or more Outcomes where their previous academic work might be applied to specific Outcome Development Assignments (ODAs). This exercise may speed up the process of demonstrating mastery of an Outcome but does not constitute formal academic credit transfer and will not be reflected on a Northwest academic transcript as transfer credit. No more than 1/3 of any single Outcome’s required assignments (ODAs) may be considered for substitution by previous academic credit.



Student Standing
Credential Assessment
Concerns, Grievances, Disciplinary Matters and Dispute Resolution

 Contact us about Immerse