News Perspective Online Summer 2020

Development Update: The New Normal?

I recently read an article which argued that “normal” has not worked for many people, so why should we now seek a “new normal”?  The article reminded me of a survey taken many years ago at a theological institution at which I served.  The survey was designed to find the pattern of student attitudes about the curriculum.  The results?  We found that only 17 percent of students were in what we called the “normal” program.  There had been a time when almost 100 percent had been in that program—but those years were long gone.  We ceased calling that program “normal.”

Perhaps the future will not be normal at all, at least not as we have used that word in the past.  Think of just a few of the very recent changes:

  • Overall e-sales have increased 25 percent since March 1, and online grocery sales have increased 100 percent!
  • Most of us have not been inside a church for three months, although many of us participate online.
  • We are much more aware of personal hygiene and the cleanliness of those around us than we have been.
  • Increasingly, we are aware of those in need, those without jobs, those who struggle in many settings, including school, because of a lack of equipment and supervision.

Seminarians, like everyone else, are impacted by the fast-moving changes this year.  They are realizing that forms of ministry are being transformed radically, and, most likely, permanently.  Bishop Mike McKee, of the North Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church, recently commented that “now pastors and church workers need to retain the ‘old interpersonal skills,’ but must also add a ‘basket of new skills’ to interact virtually.”

We are all stretched by the changes, and Perkins is no exception.  The Administrative Council is examining our curriculum and changes are already underway.  A course called “Social Innovation: Creating World Changers with Emerging Digital Ministries” will be offered this fall (and in a virtual setting, no less).  A full curriculum review is scheduled to begin soon, as noted in our self-study presented to the Association of Theological Schools.  Undoubtedly, in that review, new modes of pedagogy and ministry will be explored and implemented.

Recently, I asked members of the Perkins Executive Board to set up a fund to allow all of our students access to online courses, as a number of international students need upgraded computers and internet access.  The response was overwhelming.  However, we will undoubtedly have more needs of this type and many others as the semester unfolds. This fund will be part of the SMU Fund for Perkins, which Dean Hill can use at his discretion.

I ask all alumni and friends of Perkins to join in funding needs of this type during these days of change.

To give online, click here to visit our giving website. The first item in the drop-down menu is the SMU Fund for Perkins.  Please make a gift, of whatever size.

If you would rather give by check, make it out to “SMU” with a notation, “SMU Fund for Perkins” and send it to:

John A. Martin
Perkins Development
PO Box 750133
Dallas, TX 75272-0133

Next month I will be sharing backgrounds of our newest cohort of Perkins Scholars.  Until then, be careful, stay safe, and follow your best judgment.

John A. Martin
Director of Development