What is CBTE?

Competency-based theological education (CBTE) represents a paradigm shift in theological education. Focused on “mentored mastery in-context,” CBTE offers an innovative way for seminaries and learning networks to raise a new generation of proven leaders, trained in-context, in the knowledge, skills, and character traits they need to prosper in their callings.

Competency-based education is not a new idea. When the goal of a program is vocational preparation, it goes to reason that its outcomes and context should emulate the vocation as much as possible to make the transition from training to practice seamless. In some industries, mentored training designed around a specific set of competencies has been the primary training model for decades. Even in theological education, the ministry practicum has been central to programs for years.


A Brief History

Competency-Based Education grew out of educational experiments in mastery learning, learning from apprenticeship and CBT models developed within industry and the trades. Early experiments grew out of schools like Western Governors University and encouraged by early adopting states like New Hampshire and Ohio.

Competency-based theological education (CBTE) grew out of a need to re-think pastoral training. Pastors were being prepared for vocational ministry in a primarily academic setting, and upon graduation, students were proficient at writing papers and exams, but not always ready or equipped for success in the field.


About CBTE 2020

Recognized as an innovator in CBTE, Northwest Baptist Seminary (NBS) received an ATS Educational Models and Practices Innovation Grant to host the first International Conference on Competency-Based Theological Education (CBTE 2018). This conference, hosted in November 2018, sought to share ideas and learnings with other theological institutions to help establish and sustain CBTE practices within the broader world of theological education.

One exciting outcome of the conference was the development of a CBTE Advocacy Group comprised of those passionate about the value and potential of CBTE. The Competency-Based Education Network (C-BEN), recognizing much overlap between CBTE and CBE (competency-based education), offered the CBTE Advocacy Group the opportunity to run a dedicated CBTE track at their annual CBExchange conference in 2019. This allowed us to continue our vision for the initial conference, while allowing us access to over 100+ sessions from leading minds in CBE.