Caucus Meetings - The Association for Theological Field Education | ATFE
Evangelical Association of Theological Field Educators (EATFE)
EATFE is a professional association of evangelical theological field educators. Membership in EATFE is open to anyone serving in a seminary who is committed to effective engagement in ministries of personal and vocational formation.
Chair: Jim Hampton, Asbury Theological Seminary
Vice Chair: Stan Newton, Dallas Theological Seminary
Treasurer: Katherine Horvath, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
EATFE held its biennial conference at Gateway Seminary in Ontario, CA in January 2020. There were 26 attendees from 15 member schools and organizations. This was the 19th biennium conference for the group. Here are some highlights from the conference:
* Attendees benefitted from several plenary presentations dealing with pertinent topics such as theological reflection, intercultural ministry, and spiritual direction in the classroom.
* Select members presented unique aspects of their current field education programs representing the diversity of practices in which our various schools engage as they help students immerse themselves in field education experiences.
* A panel of current ministry mentors of students was held, providing helpful perspectives on both how they see the value field education provides, as well as the importance of their role as they mentor students in their ministry engagement and formation.
EATFE's 2022 biennial conference will be held at Dallas Theological Seminary. Tentative dates are Jan. 11-14, 2022.
Presbyterian/Reformed Theological Field Educators (PRTFE)
PRTFE is an informal fellowship of theological field educators serving the theological schools of the Presbyterian Church (USA), together with others who are members of the PCUSA. PRTFE met January 29-31, 2020, at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. They worked on the Excellence in Supervision project. PRTFE’s next meeting will take place around the 2021 ATFE Biennial Consultation in Tampa, FL.
Contact: Matt Floding, firstname.lastname@example.org
ATFE Membership vs Caucus Membership
by Dipa Hart
I’ve been attending conferences for both ATFE and my caucus for evangelical seminaries (EATFE) for over 15 years. Whereas participation and membership with one is not a requirement for the membership in the other, both conferences remain a priority for me and the staff I lead.
I am often asked the question: Why should I do both? Is the expense worth it?
For starters, no one grows up wanting to be a field educator. It just happens. This means new field educators join their institutions at various, sometimes tumultuous times. However, ATFE conferences meet only every other year in the odd dated years. My caucus meets every other year in the even dated years. (Some of the other caucuses share this schedule while others meet in conjunction with ATFE’s conference.) Therefore, new field educators can access resources, understand their responsibilities, and learn what other programs do, etc., in whichever conferences comes first after their hire.
ATFE, however, always offers a workshop for new field educators and provides a broader understanding of field education that greatly helps the newly initiated. In the past, the majority of ATFE’s benefits were tied to conference attendance. Currently, ATFE is developing a series of web-video conferences and continuing education pieces available to members only. The cost/benefits of ATFE membership has been problematic for some colleagues in the past, so these additional educational resources are in response to this concern. I expect to see more member benefits in the future too.
As an evangelical, I find the ATFE workshops on the normal topics, from mentoring to developing cross-cultural experiences, helpful and challenging to rethink the program direction for my students. I find the broader conversations engaged during ATFE easy to utilize or theologically nuance for my constituency base. On the other hand, my caucus, EATFE, focuses deeply on a single issue at its conferences; for example, standards of accreditation and theological reflection were covered in our last two meetings. It turns out that no matter the theological grid, we all experience the same set of issues and concerns with our students and respective institutions. I find in both organizations a wealth of knowledge that is astonishing. Who needs to start from scratch when someone else has already started to address my questions?!
I also attend ATFE to compare ideas and programs with more schools because it often has over 100 attendees and EATFE, even as the largest caucus, has only 30 attendees. When I first started in field education both groups were vital to me for the diversity of program structures alone. Now with the diversity in my own student body, I attend both because my students vary across 25 denominations—let alone the backgrounds from their youth which they sometimes hope to return and serve. Staying connected to and aware of what other schools are encountering and how they are training their students helps personalize my internship program for each student.
I also am in a unique situation because I oversee a larger team and many other colleagues are the only field educators at their school. The camaraderie and shared fellowship at both conferences is tremendously helpful to reduce the isolation of being the solo field educator at any school. And even with a local team, hearing from those outside my tradition sustains my passion for field education and constantly challenges me to not grow stagnant.
With that said, I confess only 40% of my caucus attends the larger ATFE gathering when the topics and workshops are more meaningful to them—sometimes ATFE’s plenary topics represent larger conversations that not all evangelicals want to engage. Since EATFE remains an organized group of helpful, like-minded colleagues, some colleagues always attend EATFE in the even dated years and use the odd dated years to attend either ATFE or other conferences. The larger expense of ATFE conferences has also contributed to smaller attendance from my caucus. Even so, only I need to stress that ATFE does try to make conferences topically relevant regardless of denomination or theological commitment and for seasoned veterans of field education or new field educators. I appreciate this commitment to variety and most recently, to reducing the cost of ATFE. It has proven itself to be an organization that is responsive to its members.
Finally, I need to share that these two groups are some of the best colleagues I have found in academia; they are supportive and sincere which in the academy, feels rarer than it should be. Seeing these colleagues at ATFE and EATFE makes each conference vital to maintaining my focus on my calling as a field educator. And as a fifteen-year veteran, I sincerely believe I would not have made it this long without the prayers (and chocolate) of such like-minded colleagues.
Whether you attend ATFE or your caucus meeting, I encourage you to stay connected. We are your people and we look forward to seeing you soon.
Contact: Dipa Hart, email@example.com