Spiritual Education: The New Unity Worldwide Spiritual Institute

Published on: June 13, 2016

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Spiritual awakening and transformation are goals of the spiritual journey for most people. The new Unity Worldwide Spiritual Institute (UWSI) can be part of your strategy to facilitate the spiritual awakening and transformation for each and every one in your ministry.  Unity Worldwide Spiritual Institute can also draw people into your ministry from your greater community that have never heard of Unity. How is this possible? We’ll get to that in a moment.

Unity World Headquarters announced in April 2015 that it was ending its ministerial training through Unity Institute and Seminary and eliminating its Spiritual Education and Enrichment (SEE) program, effective in the Fall 2016. Shortly after their decision, Unity Worldwide Ministries chose to redesign those programs to deliver high quality, affordable, accessible and sustainable education to a worldwide audience of spiritual seekers. The redesign of the programs has been underway since last October; the results of which will be described in detail at the 2016 Unity People’s Convention on Wednesday, June 15, at 3:30 p.m. This session will be livestreamed. Let’s take a brief look at how UWSI’s education programs will empower both you and your ministry.

 

Educating All Ages

The Youth and Family Ministries curricula and program support materials have long been provided as a part of Unity Worldwide Ministries’ services. Those materials will continue to be available from Unity Worldwide Ministries’ Shop.

Adult education through Spiritual Education and Enrichment (SEE) has evolved from face-to-face classes held only at Unity Village, Mo., to SEE classes held in the field plus online, self-paced education. UWSI will soon be offering online, interactive (live) classes with small group breakout sessions using the latest techniques in accelerated learning via a leading-edge learning management system.

This opens up a range of educational opportunities to your congregation since more courses will be available more often, allowing your students to choose the courses of greatest interest that fit with their schedule. In addition, an extensive list of advanced courses will be offered through UWSI to give your motivated students the opportunity to immerse themselves in specific areas of advanced study.

 

Utilizing Our Treasure of Knowledge and Skills from Field Ministers and Teachers

Unity Worldwide Spiritual Institute will also provide opportunities for credentialed Unity leaders to teach to a broader audience than available in their local ministry. We will be employing adjunct instructors to present courses in Biblical studies, metaphysics, communication, etc. As an instructor of these SEE courses for UWSI, the available students for your classes will expand enormously since your course will be marketed worldwide and available through the powerful and easy-to-use learning management system!

In addition to courses for Unity students, Unity Worldwide Spiritual Institute will also look for new live, interactive, innovative, spiritual courses to be developed to address the extremely large population of spiritual seekers that would otherwise not set foot in a traditional ministry. According to Pew Research Study of Lifestyles—2012, there are over 22 million self-described “spiritual but not religious” seekers (SBNRs) in the U.S. alone! The innovative, practical, spiritual courses addressing the SBNR audience will provide an “on ramp” for a few percent of these 22 million seekers to engage in the more Unity-oriented SEE courses. From there, some of these SBNRs will be curious about local Unity communities, and Unity communities across the country will benefit from their involvement. In addition, the market for your classes addressing those SBNRs can continually grow.

 

Growing Our Movement

While this growth opportunity of students is very exciting, the growth of the Unity movement will depend upon a substantial growth in the number of Unity ministers available to lead ministries. The availability of a quality, affordable and accessible ministerial education program is key to this growth! Unity Worldwide Spiritual Institute has developed a progressive ministerial training program with live, interactive, online courses with small-group breakout capabilities, augmented by face-to-face intensives and an internship program to launch effective Unity leaders for the next generation.

A key feature of the new ministerial training is that it can be engaged wherever the student is—with a live, online, interactive learning experience as a significant component of every course. The live components of the courses will be offered such that the typical ministerial student can engage a three-, four-, five-, six- or seven-year program without giving up their 8 a.m.-5 p.m. employment, yet still have a high-quality, affordable and accessible education experience.

In addition, full-time students who enroll in a given year will be able to advance through the program and establish a sense of community with their classmates. Of course, the part-time students will not advance as rapidly as those in the three-year program, but they will all get the same high-quality instruction, live discussion and small group interactivity in every course. Moreover, all students will develop lifelong relationships with other Unity ministers throughout their education experience.

The Ministry and Religious Studies program (M&RS) is built around a graduate school model, offering a Unity-conferred master of divinity degree, as has been provided for the last ten years. Requiring 90 credit hours for completion, the courses include six face-to-face intensives that will provide additional learning experiences for specific courses (such as homiletics, pastoral counseling, youth education and family systems, to name a few) and community-building with classmates. Three internships—one focused on ministry operations lasting 16 weeks, one focused on clinical pastoral orientation for nine weeks and another nine-week internship of the student’s choice from a list of Institute-approved alternatives—will give the students real-world experience in various ministry activities.

 

Adapting Our Education for More Effective Leaders

Conversations with Unity leaders in December 2015  and January 2016 provided substantial input for our curriculum development team. Among the most requested changes to the curriculum were to add marketing, fundraising, technology and more in-depth ministry administration courses. Our Youth and Family Ministries (YFM) team also suggested a more robust curriculum in youth and family education. From their suggestions we have added one course and an intensive focused specifically on youth education in ministry. In all, we have added six courses, redefined many courses, enhanced the internships and added intensives to create the most effective ministerial education experience we could design!

From this ministerial curriculum we can now provide a broad and deep Continuing Education program for all credentialed leaders that—due to its online, interactive nature—will provide our Unity leaders with current courses to enhance their ministerial skills and enhance their knowledge. We will explore avenues for credentialed leaders to engage the MDiv program.

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Together, the YFM, SEE, M&RS and Continuing Education programs will propel the Unity movement into new frontiers of spiritual education that will embrace the world and engage spiritual seekers from all walks and all ages. Buckle up! We’re about to take a wonderful and exciting journey!

David Ridge
Rev David Ridge is the senior minister at Unity Living Water Spiritual Community, Arvada, Colo. He is also contracted by UWM to work on marketing for Unity Worldwide Spiritual Institute and UWM.

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