I am an online professor. When I first started teaching online it was 2005 and I thought quite frankly, “This will never work.” Now over a decade later, so much has changed, including my opinion. Online theological studies allow a student to be both in the field and in the academy at the same time, with both informing the other. Rockbridge students must already be in ministry. The seminary is only looking for students who have already received a call, have had that call endorsed, and are serving in a church or para-church community. The great value of a Rockbridge theological education is two fold: it is very hands-on practical and it involves a local mentor. The adult learners I serve in Rockbridge worship courses are not wanting an ivory tower education. They are wanting real applications to the real situations in which they engage. In the courses I teach, students want to feel that I have the academic side covered, but that I know the ropes because I too am in ministry. And I do. I was born into it. My dad, brother, and husband have all been pastors. I began serving when my dad would take me along on his pastoral visitation and I would belt out hymns. I was 11 years old when I was ready to accompany congregational singing on Sunday morning. But I am clear in the worship courses I teach, that worship is not first about music. It is about a posture of the heart.
I think the greatest value of online learning is the collaborative nature of the community built in each course. Students engage with men and women from different ages, stages, ecclesiastical streams, ethnicities, backgrounds, and geographical locales. They serve in small rural churches, mega churches in suburbia, and missions in the inner city. They are all there to learn from the course content and each other.
These learners already know who they are and what they are about. They are not trying to find themselves. They know how to manage one more area of their life as they go back to online “school.” They are motivated and confident. That I as a professor get to speak into their lives and facilitate their goals is such an honor.
About the Writer: Ingrid Buch-Wagler holds a Ph.D. in Conflict Management from Trinity Theological Seminary and has taught at Rockbridge Seminary since 2009. Her teaching and research interests include Conflict Management, Worship, and Mentoring/Discipleship. Ingrid serves at St. Luke’s Anglican Church in Fairlawn, Ohio.