The Seminary’s Unconventional Student

Carole Ardell is from Prince George, British Columbia in Canada. She is the fourth generation of her family to be affiliated with the Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination. Although she has never worked fulltime on staff at a church, she is very active in ministry. She has been part of two church plants and recently travelled to the Philippines to teach at a Bible school.

Given that her children were all grown and out of the house and that she was transitioning out of the family business, Carole began contemplating what her next step should be. She ultimately decided to pursue further education. Carole was impressed by the focus on personal transformation and leadership offered by the Doctor of Ministry program at Alliance Theological Seminary. “There was no better day to be transformed then starting in that moment. So, I just said: It’s the right time. Let’s do this.

Carole also chose to pursue her Doctor of Ministry degree at Alliance Theological Seminary because she could be an unconventional seminary student there. Her current professional plans do not require her to get this degree. She is interested in the transformational content the program provides, not the credentials. “I knew I wanted to do further education. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do it for credit or just audit for personal interest. It’s not for the initials after my name. It’s actually for how it can change me and then hopefully my influence.” Although this makes Carole unique in the community of seminary students, it makes her feel no less welcome. “Alliance Theological Seminary actually makes room for people like me who don’t fit the mold. I have found belonging and have people who are saying it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t look the same, that God is the same, and His mission is the same, so find your place in that and stand tall in that. That’s been really good.”

Carole has gained a lot during her time at Alliance Theological Seminary. The first module alone was deeply impactful for her. During this module, participants created a grief journal. This exercise resonated deeply with Carole. She suffered a grave loss as a teenager and found it hard to make emotional space for lesser losses in life because they seemed so trivial by comparison. The grief journal helped her tremendously. “I hadn’t been thinking how God thinks about loss and grief, and that had affected my soul, which had affected my lesser loves. Everything came together for me in that first module. And the beauty of that too was being transparent with a small group of people who don’t know me yet are all here for the same purpose. It’s outside of my normal context, so I’m not worrying about what they assume about me or anybody that may be part of my story. The cohort’s been huge for me.”

Carole has gained a lot as part of her cohort of students in the Doctor of Ministry program at Alliance Theological Seminary. She has found a comfortable place to be vulnerable, because Alliance Theological Seminary “provides a safe place to risk being honest.” She has also benefited from the diverse perspectives of her fellow students, because Alliance Theological Seminary, “creates space to be objective about my context and to hear from other people who love the church but view it completely differently from me.” This helped to expand her understanding of what ministry is and what it can look like. She’s also found that she’s more comfortable in her own skin as well as with not having all of the answers and moving forward in faith. “I don’t need to know the details. I can just continue to walk step by step. And [Alliance Theological Seminary] is a really good place with people asking me intentional questions about how’s it going in this step of the journey.”

In considering all that’s she’s gained from her time so far in the Doctor of Ministry Program at Alliance Theological Seminary, Carole sees a correlation between her progress and her profession: “I’m a tree planter. That’s what we do at our company. We put seedlings in the ground. We plant millions and millions of little trees. We know we’ve done our job well when those little seedlings are free to grow—meaning they’re rooted and established enough that they’re now free. They don’t need us to manage them anymore. They’re just free to grow. I feel like [because of] the first module, and then where I see this [current] one leading, that I am going to be well on my way to being free to grow.”

If you’re considering seminary, even if you aren’t a conventional prospective student, Carole has the following words of advice for you, “Don’t put it off if you could do it now. And don’t second-guess your qualifications, because God is the one who qualifies. We’re His kids. Just come and do it. Allow God to dream a bigger dream about what the future could be.”