I always relate the Master of Socio Pastoral Ministries (MSPM) experience to the feeding of 5,000 with few loaves of bread and fish. Although our experience pales in comparison to the miracle. It is one of the only two miracles that are recorded in all four Gospels. The other one is the resurrection. Of the four, I like John’s narrative (John 6:5-14) which portrays the role of a boy with five loaves and two small fish. Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.
Apart from the dominant view on the literal multiplication of the food, some emphasize the miracle of sharing. This view assumes that people have brought with them little food of their own. They just kept them for themselves, hence the scarcity. However, upon seeing the unselfishness of the boy whose generosity was blessed by Jesus, they began to share what they have. Thus, the abundance of food are more then enough for their needs.
In the same way, we also offered whatever we have to respond to the needs of the time. Like the boy, we were not disturbed by overwhelming discrepancies and limitations, even criticisms. Such voluntary spirit made a difference. Amidst reservations, if not downgrading of the modest offering, Jesus made use of what was available and another miracle happened.
When the program started in 2007, some downgraded the voluntary effort while others already expressed skepticism of its sustainability, even before it is tested. Worse, there were those who consistently campaign against it when the program was well accepted by pastors, even to the extent of recruiting those already participating in the MSPM program to join the program they promote.
In our response, we dared the critics to a debate which was never materialize. We argue that MSPM has been designed with quality not inferior to what Central Philippine University (CPU) offers in Master of Social Work program which was patterned after that of UP Diliman. Yet, the program is friendly and affordable for pastors. The faculty are more than qualified. The only difference is compensation because in MSPM, we teach voluntarily, gaining the love and respect of pastors, not monetary profit.
Conglomeration of events have been favorable for the design of the MSPM program. A couple of us tried the distance education program of a state college in Iloilo for our doctoral degree which met once a month. Some were also teaching, once a week, in Korean seminary in Iloilo City which offered Master of Arts in Missiology. Moreover, we were inspired by the successful revival of the Master of Science in Social Work (MSSW) program in CPU which produced the first graduate, after 30 years. We even opened an extension class with weekly meetings at Convention Baptist Bible College for Negros students.
The aforementioned favorable trends sparked the idea to design similar approach for a graduate studies program for pastors. The break came when through the pastors’ support, I was elected to the board of Trustees of the Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches (CPBC) in 2006 and subsequently chaired the Theological Education and Ministerial Concerns (TEMC) Committee. By divine guidance, the first document that caught my attention was the CPBC Strategic Plan for 2000-2010 which highlighted the TEMC program. Finding the missing link, I started advocating the program, trying to bridge the gap through voluntary involvement in its implementation. My wife also volunteered to teach in theological institutions in Negros to strengthen the TEMC program.
Studying previous initiatives of various organizations related to continuing theological education, eventually the CPBC Unified Theological Education System (UNITES) was conceived and gradually implemented. Two breakthroughs were undertaken, namely: Formulation of Standardized Curriculum; and the MSPM program.
But why MSPM? As registered social worker and holder of master of social work, I can only offer a degree program within my area of specialization. My exposure to development work and community service has also shaped my holistic perspective. Likewise, pastors who were enrolled in Master of Social Work in CPU encouraged me to integrate social work courses in designing a masteral program for pastors. Comparing the curriculum of divinity and theology masteral programs with that of social work and other masteral programs, the relevance of MSPM appears convincing in terms of meeting the needs of pastors, its practicality and length of time for studies, as well as usefulness to their work in church and community.
The mission of the Master of Socio-Pastoral Ministries program is to prepare pastors for leadership roles in church, church-related institutions and community. Specifically, it is geared towards a healthy and balanced pastoral leadership in church and community services. MSPM classes are conducted in provincial centers by volunteer faculty. Students in respective centers shoulder their transportation expenses accommodation. Certificate is issued upon completion of each subject with corresponding grade. This will be used for official enrolment in the aforementioned theological institutions. The enrolment can be done simultaneously while the students are taking up modular classes. Or may be enrolled later.Participating theological institutions are the ones granting the degree after official enrolment.
The program in Master of Socio-Pastoral Ministries is a combination of Master of Social Work and Master of Ministry. The curriculum incorporates Ministry Core courses, Biblical Core Courses, and Socio-Pastoral Courses. Both ministry and biblical core courses include the following: Philosophical Foundations of Ministry, Ministry Assessment & Equipping Strategies, Church: Ministry & Mission, Hermeneutics, Biblical Theology, Biblical & Theological Foundations of Discipleship.
On the other hand, the Socio-Pastoral Courses consist of Socio-Behavioral Theories, Group, Community, Social Institutions and Processes, Family Wellness & Pastoral Counseling Models of Ministry and Leadership in the Church & Community, Strategies in Church and Community Mobilization, Seminar in Socio Pastoral Ministries, Social Research, Social Jurisprudence & Local Governance, Pastoral Ministry in Conflict Situations, Administration and Management of Church & related organization/institutions, Community Organization & Social Welfare and Development Services. After completion of academic courses, students have the following options as final requirement: Thesis Writing, Special Paper, or Community Project.
Through sharing of resources, our pastors can earn masteral degrees without necessarily leaving their pastorate or respective work. Indeed, the KATIPAN Hall and MSPM are living testimonies that whenever we start sharing whatever we have, God will work more stories of endless possibilities.