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You made this up, right?  This didn’t really happen, did it?

These are some of the comments students express upon reading the case study scenarios assigned to them for their final assignment. But each and every scenario is based on actual ministry experiences (duly masked for confidentiality).

Calvin Seminary followed the lead of elite graduate schools like Harvard Business and Johns Hopkins Medicine when they introduced a case study learning course for all M.Div. students called the Capstone Integrative Seminar, developed by Professors John Witvliet and Scott Hoezee. Students are challenged to draw upon their work in prior courses and their ministry experiences as they consider specific ministry situations typical of those faced by 21st-century pastors. 

The final course requirement is an individual case study presented to a three-person review panel consisting of two seminary faculty members and one current pastor. After writing a comprehensive paper reflecting on the scenario that is submitted to the panel in advance, each student is quizzed by panel members in an hour-long oral examination.  

What if in the course of taking this action you discovered a key person in the scenario had lied to you? What would be your backup plan if you did this and it blew up in your face? Panelists probe the students about their action plans to ensure that they are able to weave together biblical wisdom, theological understanding, and pastoral sensitivities in complex ministry situations. 

According to Hoezee, case learning introduces students to real applications of theology and the Bible that go beyond textbooks and classroom settings. “As medical students learn when dealing with real patients in real hospitals, things don’t always go according to the textbook. In real-life cases people lie, symptoms are muddled, and your own emotions and fears come into play. Ministry is no different: a multitude of factors affect actions and outcomes. When you are dealing with real people, anything can happen!”

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