Flying around the world or walking next door

picture found at flickr.com from  Sean MacEntee

picture found at flickr.com from Sean MacEntee

Little known fact about me: I am a third generation seminarian.

While other families might talk about politics, football, or family drama over the holidays, my Christmas family debates have always been about theology, pastoral care, and the life of Christianity.

However, among three pastors, two missionaries, three seminary trained pastor’s wives, and me…only one of us has been taught about the importance of cross-cultural education while at school.

Having gone to two seminaries in different denominations, one thing that has struck me has been not only having a mandatory cross-cultural experience, but also seeing an increasing emphasis on global perspectives. In addition to having the priceless impact of having people from all over the world as my fellow students, I have also had friends go out to countries like South Africa, Turkey, Egypt, and Thailand. Each one of them came back from these once-in-a-lifetime opportunities totally changed for the better and thrilled to take their experiences into their future ministry in whatever form it took.

However, even if your seminary can help you pay for trips, the idea of going across the world is not something in which everyone can participate. For many people, traveling is an impossible privilege.

What I have found is that some schools have taken this very important criticism and adjusted the curriculum and their own perspectives to include the reality that meeting our neighbor is just as vital a “cross-cultural experience” as going to Argentina. We live in one of the most culturally and religiously diverse countries in the world. Yet, the fact is that many American citizens grow up, live, and socialize with people who generally have the same background that they do.

Our world is both vast and also so small. It is important for future church leaders to leave their comfort zones and be exposed to a life that is different than theirs, but a life-changing experience can come both from traveling to Rome or visiting a monastery on the Southside of Chicago.

My hope from this submission is to not only to bring up cross-cultural experiences within seminary education, but more specifically to open up the conversation on how each of our schools have adjusted to include everyone in this important aspect of ministry training.

So….what does cross-cultural education look like for you?