Bethel Seminary Launches Sem Together

Sem Together is a flexible cohort system that gives students the opportunity to build a deeper sense of community by consistently taking classes with the same students. Starting in fall 2023, students can follow a Sem Together cohort track that best suits their goals, preferences, and location in life.

By Katie Johnson '19, content specialist

January 30, 2023 | 2:30 p.m.

Sem Together begins Fall 2023.

Sem Together begins Fall 2023.

As more and more seminary students take advantage of flexible program offerings, Bethel is providing students with opportunities to forge deeper connections with their classmates beyond the occasional group project or online discussion forum. This fall, Bethel Seminary is launching Sem Together, a cohort system that allows students to build community by consistently taking classes with the same students. This new cohort model resembles Bethel Seminary’s current M.A. in Marriage and Family Therapy program as well as the M.A. in Children's and Family Ministry, where students in correlating years progress through the program together at the same pace. “I really love being a part of a cohort in the journey of grad school, because it truly has become a place of belonging along the way,” says Trevor Limberg ’18, S’24, a marriage and family therapy student.

The Sem Together model looks to foster this similar sense of community across all Bethel Seminary programs by bringing together students who start at the same time, study the same program, or both. According to Dean of Bethel Seminary Peter Vogt, “Students will stay with students in their same program. Everybody who starts at the same time will see each other frequently. You might be friends with somebody in a different program, and in some models, you’d never see them again. In the Sem Together model, you get to be with your people. Your cohort is a combination of who you start with and who’s in your program.” 

Over the years, Bethel Seminary’s program delivery options have adapted to fit students’ lifestyles and schedules. Currently, students in most programs can choose between taking classes in person during the day or evening, online, or in a blended format that combines the two. While the variety of options creates flexibility, about two-thirds of surveyed students say they prefer more fixed schedules that allow for community-building. “We are trying to offer students meaningful experiences in ways that they value,” Vogt says.

In addition to their program-specific courses, most seminary students have to take core seminary classes, including: Hermeneutics, Old Testament Survey, New Testament Survey, Systematic Theology I and II, Christian Social Ethics, Church History, and an exegesis course. Now, these students have the opportunity to take them with a consistent group of peers, building connections with students across all programs. The marriage and family therapy students will continue to operate within their own cohort model due to the established nature of their program.

“I have loved my experience of going through my seminary program with our cohort. As each class builds in the knowledge it takes to be a therapist, I also sense a deeper connection and friendship with my peers that allows us to support one another and grow in trust and vulnerability. Even though we vary in age, giftings, and backgrounds, we encourage each other and challenge one another to see the world from different perspectives.”

— Jamie Horn ’05, S’25, marriage and family therapy student

Vogt also clarifies that students who follow the Sem Together track will still make many individual choices. Each program requires a certain number of elective courses, allowing students to study what they’re most interested in. Sem Together just provides a consistent time for students to take their chosen elective course, so when the next term begins, students will come back together and bring what they learned to their discussions and interactions, enriching the overall seminary experience. Additionally, students are not “locked in” to their cohort or delivery option. If another option proves better for one season than another, students can easily switch to whatever best fits their lives, schedules, and preferences.

Vogt and his team have also tried to make Sem Together as simple as possible for students to be a part of. There’s no special application to participate, and Bethel’s enrollment and student success teams are equipped to make sure students register for the right classes. “We will have courses available for face-to-face cohort students, online cohort students, and then ‘a la carte’ online offerings,” Vogt says. “This will allow flexibility for those who value that most and community for those who prioritize that.” Vogt also credits the Bethel student success team for their diligence in advocating for the overall student experience, ensuring that workloads are balanced each semester as the students move throughout their programs in this new way.

For face-to-face classes, cohort students will meet in person at Bethel’s Anderson Center on Tuesday evenings. Vogt points out that this is when the marriage and family therapy students are already meeting—in addition to the occasional course meetings on Thursdays—so there will now be a critical mass of seminary students on campus at the same time, allowing for potential community worship experiences and large group connections. Vogt is excited about the opportunity for programs to remain flexible while also building a strong sense of community, which is a meaningful part of the Bethel Seminary experience.  “Some classes are going to be online, and many of our students are going to be online,” Vogt says. “We can still offer them a sense of community. We can still offer face-to-face students a sense of community, even if some of their courses are going to be online. By being with the same people, a stronger sense of community will begin to emerge.”

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In a rapidly changing world, ministry leaders must be grounded in truth, with unshakable faith and agile leadership skills. So Bethel Seminary provides holistic training that first transforms you, then equips you to transform others. Here, you’ll be challenged and changed—so you’ll be ready to change the world.

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