The Baltic Methodist Theological Seminary (BMTS) Development Plan 2021-23 offers a brief summary of the seminary’s present state and sets forth the school’s goals for the next three years. This Development Plan is coupled with an Implementation Plan which outlines specific goals and actions which will be reviewed and updated annually.
The Development Plan is based on the vision of our founders and builds on the similar goals that were listed in the first formalized development plan in 2010 and all subsequent plans. We are convinced that the basic principles of our founding have not changed. Much of what we were and did in the beginning we will always continue to be and do.
BMTS was founded in 1994 and is now 27 years old. We have grown a distinct identity and with age comes experience. Our goals are long term goals of inward and outward growth, goals of cultivating academic deeper thinking, practical ministry skills and spiritual maturity in our students. Our goal is to train theologically competent Christians to serve the church and community, particularly in the Baltic-Nordic region. We do that for the glory of God and benefit of the church. We have our own tri-lingual and International character that fits our mission. The WHY we exist remains the same.
With that said, the HOW has to be more flexible. The seminary will adapt together with the Methodist Church and Estonian society to operate in the world as it currently exists around us. And much has changed globally in 2020. The unforseeable worldwide pandemic has mandated vast changes also in education and the church. Such a seismic shift requires (and liberates us for) rethinking and reimagining the future opportunities, possibilities, and necessities. Since the crises is not yet over, we are in a phase where, as leaders, we are not yet ready to draw firm conclusions about what the „new normal“ will look like. We are now in new territory.
BMTS has continued offering its educational and formational content online. Already before the pandemic we made strategic use of e-learning, but now we have to ask ourselves would we be open to an entirely online study option? It will take time to formulate a new understanding about how we want to move forward. Leaders, faculty/staff, stake holders all have a say in what they want the seminary to look like. Most importantly, regarding the “How”, we have to ask ourselves what will our current and future students desire and expect? These discussions have begun. Will online tools alone be able to shape the kind of persons that the church needs as leaders? Also, if future leaders do not get enough online experience, will they be effective in e-Estonia?
The seminary does not exist apart from the Methodist Church as an independent institution. It is through a dialogue and synergy between the church and the seminary that we shape the way forward. It is through a collegial and practical co-operation that the seminary can provide its best academic quality and serve the church and the community in a way that is most relevant.
Our mission at any time is to provide a balanced theological education that is practical and applicable in today’s world to empower today’s church with people ready to lead and serve. As an organization, we strive to be pro-active, contemporary and flexible in order to inspire the students as well as their churches.
We have a creative and unprejudiced attitude towards the idea of co-operation with other churches. We practice ecumenism as people from different denominations are studying together. Partnerships with different churches and higher education institutions and mission organizations at home and internationally have made us stronger and better.
I am not holding my breath, I am excited about the next three years. There is energy at BMTS and a great team of people that I work with who are motivated and willing to learn and lead. These next three years will be a time of growth inwardly and outwardly and a time of a refreshing creativity. I have also experienced that through the crises, our international board and partners have been closer to us than ever. It no longer matters where we are, as long as we are there for each other, working together and sharing the same mission and values. When the crisis is over, we will reconnect and appreciate anew what it means to be together physically. I believe that in spirit of unity and with God’s help we can accomplish the objectives set in the Development Plan and will see even greater things than these (John 14:12-14).
Külli Tõniste, BMTS Rector
2. General information
2.1. Location, address and registration
Baltic Methodist Theological Seminary (BMTS) is located at 51 Narva Road, 10152 Tallinn, Estonia. The building in which the seminary is housed is owned by the United Methodist Church (UMC) in Estonia.
Telephone: +372 66 88 467
Registration code: 80196661.
Licence number: 351-KHM
2.2. Brief History
In 1994, three short years after Communism fell and freedom came to Estonia, Baltic Methodist Theological Seminary (BMTS) opened its doors in Tallinn, Estonia. The primary task of the new school was training pastors and leaders for different ministries for the Methodist Church in Baltic countries. The seminary was desperately needed following fifty years of restriction of theological education and had to be built from the ground up.
The founders (like Superintendent Olav Pärnamets) desired to make affordable and government accredited quality theological education in the Wesleyan Methodist spirit possible for students throughout the Baltic region to strenghten churches in post-Communist countries.
This was not an easy vision for the small church but with assistance from American and Korean donors and logistical support from Eddie Fox and World Methodist Evangelism this dream became a reality. Many of the initial supporting churches organized in the Friends of Estonia network assisted with this endeavor and some of these same supporters continue to invest time, talent and treasure to BMTS to this very day.
Asbury Theological Seminary in the USA became a close partner. The United Methodist Church in the USA sent Wes Griffin and his wife Joy (both Asbury graduates) to Estonia to help us found the seminary. The Griffins’ contribution to the seminary was remarkable. They set up the structure and organization and hired the first faculty and staff. What is more, Asbury continues to support the seminary to this day by sending visiting professors.
In the spring of 1994 Andrus Norak, a former pastor of the Tartu Methodist Church graduated from Asbury Theological Seminary with a Master’s degree. He became the first Rector. From 2007 till 2009 the Academic Dean Lii Lilleoja worked as the Interim Rector. And from 2009-2018 seminary was led by Meeli Tankler as Rector, who completed her doctoral studies (D.Min) at Asbury. Külli Tõniste started working as the Rector in 2018. She also graduated from Asbury with a Master’s degree and completed her PhD at London School of Theology.
In August 1994, the opening seminar took place at Methodist Camp Gideon at Aa. Regular studies began in the fall. The school was initially housed in a very limited space at the church office building on Apteegi street. It relocated to a newly constructed Tallinn Methodist Church on Narva Street in January 1999 where the conditions for studying were excellent for they were designed with the seminary in mind.
The first class of students was unique. Most of them were seasoned pastors and workers who were not able to receive proper theological education under Soviet rule. Despite their age they became diligent students who excelled in their studies and stood out for their experience and high motivation. Some were pastoring several churches and raising children. In some cases the teachers were half the age of their students.
The nominal study time was initially four years and later became three years which was the new European educational standard. There was also a one year progam dedicated to basic Christian studies.
In the spring of 1998, the seminary received state accreditation as a private institution of applied higher education. We are the youngest amidst the four institutions providing theological higher education in Estonia. In 2000 we started with a Distant Learning Program, which focused on students outside Estonia. From 2006 on we offer a study format that allows for study while working full-time, and allows for intensive study sessions four days a month, eleven months a year. In addition to Methodists we also have students from Pentecostal, Lutheran, Baptist, non-denominational and other church backgrounds.
BMTS was to be a regional school and it was founded, and has remained, tri-lingual. BMTS is the only school in Estonia that offers theological higher education in Russian. Students from Latvia, Lithuania, Russia, Ukraine, Belorussia, and Estonia have used the Russian study track. Students from Latvia, Lithuania, Finland, Romania, Korea, USA, Ghana, and Brazil have used the opportunity to study in English. All lectures are simultaneously translated. Estonian language is also taught. Our students experience diversity while learning and learn valuable skills related to cross-cultural communication.
BMTS has prepared over 250 graduates (22 classes). Our graduates are working as pastors, youth workers, teachers of Religious Education, education administrators, Christian media workers, social workers, military chaplains, prison chaplains, and several other positions. Seminary graduates Anne Saluraid, Tatjana Semjonova, Rein Laaneser, Külli Tõniste and Taavi Hollman are teaching different disciplines at the Seminary. Rector of the seminary, Külli Tõniste, is also a BMTS graduate.
A special characteristic feature of the seminary is its international and Pentecost-like study atmosphere where students from different nations and denominations come together in the same classroom and hear and experience the same theological knowledge „in their own native language“ (Acts 2:12). We believe that our strength also lies in connecting our Biblical and theological studies with pastoral and missional practice. This connection is intentional and we now call our curriculum „Theology and Missions“ to highlight this focus.
BMTS is unapologetically Methodist but as such is always ecumenical in character and while raising up leadership for Methodist churches is our key focus, our mindset is to be a partner for other churches and organizations in building and strengthening the society wherever we serve.
3. Mission Statement
The goal of Baltic Methodist Theological Seminary (BMTS) is to prepare clergy and lay leaders for ministry in the church, as well as in Christian and charitable organizations; offering theological higher education in the Wesleyan/Methodist tradition based on needs of the church and society; and to support spiritual formation in the course of study.
4. Strategic Vision
1. The seminary offers quality applied higher education in theology that is internationally recognized and contextually relevant.
2. The seminary is an educational institution with a distinct identity, its operations are based on the Code of Ethics and it fulfills its Mission to equip leaders for ministry.
3. The seminary has a modern infrastructure, is flexible and well-run organization that is also financially sustainable.
4. The seminary works in close co-operation with its partners internationally and in Estonia in the fields of ministry, education and mission to serve the churches in Baltic Nordic area.
5. The seminary a has strong collaborative relationship with the Methodist church in Estonia that promotes and supports its activities and participates in its development.
5. Present Situation
5.1. Student Body
BMTS has an international and diverse student body. At present, we have 62 students (12.31.2020). 45% males and 55% females. 29% of students are younger than 30, 23% are 31-40, 32% are 41-51 and 18% are older than 51.
The number of students has remained stable in the last three years. All three language tracks are well established: 40% of students learn in Estonian, 40% in Russian and 20% in English.
The majority (62%) of our students are permanent residents of Estonia.
The remaining 38% of students are from the following countries: Ukraine, Finland, Russia, Ghana, and USA.
A third of our student body is Methodist. Other confessions present are Pentecostals (26%), Non-denominational churches (29%), Lutheran (5%) and Baptist (8%).
Seminary is headed by the Board of Trustees and the Rector.
The Board of Trustees is the highest governing body of the seminary. The members of the Board of Trustees are elected by the Church Board of the UMC in Estonia and present them to the Annual Conference of the UMC in Estonia for approval. The meetings of the Board of Trustees are held at least once a year.
The members of the Board with a vote are: the Bishop of the UMC Nordic and Baltic area, the Superintendent of the UMC in Estonia, a Russian representative of the UMC in Estonia, a representative of the World Methodist Evangelism/World Methodist Council, and other members elected by the owner. At least 1/5 of the members should be representatives of faculty, and at least 1/5 representatives of the student body. Board may invite to its meetings consultants with voice but no vote.
The Board of Trustees draws up a long term plan of development for the seminary and presents it to the owner; annually approves the proposed budget drawn up by the Rector’s Cabinet; determines the range of stipends; institutes special scholarships from the resources of the seminary; decides the creation of paid positions and salaries, presents them to the UMC in Estonia; approves the qualification requirements and job descriptions for faculty and regulations for their certification; selects the candidate for the position of Rector, presenting him or her to the Annual Conference of the UMC in Estonia for approval; approves the heads of structural units; presents proposals to the owner about changes or additions to the seminary’s Constitution.
The Rector of the seminary is elected for three years among the persons with a postgraduate degree. The Rector is elected and dismissed on the proposal of the Board of Trustees and approved by the Annual Conference of the UMC in Estonia.
The Rector heads the seminary as the highest official, delegating certain authority to the Academic Dean and to the accountant following the directives of the UMC in Estonia and the Board of Trustees. He or she represents the seminary and acts on the seminary’s behalf without special commission; makes contracts and opens seminary bank accounts; is responsible for the general state and development of the seminary, the purposeful and expedient use of the financial resources; enrolls and dismisses students; presents to the holder the employees of the seminary who are subject for employment or dismissal; if needed, appoints his or her temporary substitute in consultation with the owner.
The Rector’s Cabinet is the executive body of the Board of Trustees. The Rector, the Academic Dean, the bookkeeper and the Superintendent of UMC in Estonia belong to the Rector’s Cabinet.
The Rector’s Cabinet draws up the project for budget, presenting it to the Board of Trustees for approval; determines the conditions and order of payment of the allowances and stipends; appoints the seminary’s registrar; confirms the positions of permanent faculty and establishes their qualifications, job descriptions and rules of their certification. The meetings of the Rector’s Cabinet are held according to need, but not less than once a month.
5.3. Structural Units
The structural units of the seminary are the Theological Department and the Department of Continuing Education.
The Theological Department is responsible for giving applied theological higher education and publication of necessary theological literature. The Theological Department is headed by the Academic Dean, who is elected and approved by the Board of Trustees for three years. The Dean heads the academic activity and reports of his/her activity to the Board of Trustees at least once a year and to the Rector's Cabinet according to their prescription. The leadership body of the Theological Department is the Academic Committee.
The Academic Committee consists of the following voting members: the Academic Dean, Rector, Registrar, seminary’s faculty, translators’ and three student representatives.
The Academic Committee organizes the academic activity of the department; approves the curriculum and teaching regulations; may make a proposal to the Rector about academic dismissal of the students; and institutes working groups to fulfill the tasks of the seminary.
The Academic Committee meetings are held according to need (at least three times a year).
Meetings are convened and presided over by the Dean or a member of the Academic Committee to whom the task has been entrusted by the Dean.
The Department of Continuing Education organizes continuing education courses for clergy and laity in UMC in Estonia. The working group leading the department is put together in cooperation with the holder, and consists of Rector, Academic Dean, District Superintendent, representatives of Estonian speaking and Russian speaking clergy and other invited members.
5.4. Faculty and Staff
Qualification requirements for faculty and staff are stated in their job descriptions. Seminary faculty consists of persons with pedagogical skills and ministry experience, holding master or doctoral degrees, as well as experts having higher education and practical knowledge in their specific field. Faculty members are supported to participate regularly in continuing education and encouraged to research, publish and perform in academic and ministerial activities.
Total faculty/staff employed at BMTS are equivalent to 7,5 positions. Of these 1,5 positions are missionaries funded by General Board of Global Ministries of the UMC (GBGM) and 0,33 by General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the UMC (GBHEM).
Current BMTS faculty and staff:
Rector (full time, also teaches) GBGM
Rector’s Assistant (0,5)
Dean (full time, also teaches)
IT /Education Technologist (0,33) (same person as registrar)
Lecturer (0,5) GBGM
Librarian (0,6) (same person as bookkeeper)
Translation Equipment manager (0,55)
Director of Research and Development/LEaD Hub Manager (0,33) GBHEM
Positions currently vacant: IT specialist (0,5), Lecturer (0,25), PR admin (0,25)
In addition to contracted staff listed above (10 people currently) we use guest lecturers from other Estonian and foreign higher educational institutions as well as practitioners from specific fields of study. We also employ translators who are paid hourly.
Academic Dean is responsible for recruiting faculty, inviting guest lecturers and collecting course feedback. The employment contracts with faculty and staff are signed, renewed and ended by the Rector. The Rector holds annual performance interviews with faculty and staff.
5.5. Teaching Regulations
The seminary offers a one-year program in Basic Christian Studies at the completion of which the student receives a certificate. The seminary also offers a three-year program in applied higher education at the completion of which the student receives a diploma (Batchelor’s Degree).
Studies are organized in intensive monthly 4-day sessions. These contact-based learning sessions are supplemented by independent study, e-learning, group or independent site visits and supervised practicums.
The proportions of study forms are established in the syllabi. Contact-based study takes place in the format of a lecture, a seminar or another form as proscribed in the syllabus. Independent study is obtaining necessary knowledge and skills for achieving learning outcomes independently under the supervision of a faculty member, it can also take place in the interactive e-learning. Some site visits for observation and learning are also taking place. Practicums are purposeful activities for achieving learning outcomes. Practicums are supervised by practitioners in their field of work or ministry.
Curriculum offers both mandatory classes and electives. Learning outcomes are assessed in the exam, in pass/fail evaluations, in the diploma paper defense. Grades are registered in the examination report. The format of grading is fixed in each course syllabus.
Consideration of prior studies and work experience is assessed on an individual basis (VÕTA).
Continuing education opportunities are offered in collaboration with the United Methodist Church.
5.6. Services: Library, E-Learning Support and Translation
The seminary’s library offers important support to faculty and students in the learning process. Library constitutes 142 square meters and includes over 21500 items. The library adds new books to its collection in consultation with faculty members. There is also a priority book list to cover major disciplines with quality literature suitable for the undergraduate level. Priority is given to Methodist and Wesleyan resources and materials that support our Theology and Mission curriculum. Library purchases literature in Estonian, English and Russian. A part time librarian oversees the collection and assists students in finding materials for research. The library uses Riksweb environment and online catalogue ESTER (by ELNET Consortium).
Library offers access to two computers and a copier/scanner/printer. WIFI is available throughout the building. During the Corona pandemic librarian also sends materials to students who are unable to come to campus.
E-learning has an important role in supporting classroom studies. While there are few totally online classes, almost all classes have some online learning incorporated. To support that process teacher’s room offers access to desktop computers. Faculty also have personal laptops provided. The IT-specialist/Education Technology Specialist services all computers and systems and advises faculty and students how to best use online tools such as Moodle, Teams, Tahvel etc. Regular training is provided every year. Specialist also updates seminary’s homepage and prepares classroom with video link for online or hybrid courses.
BMTS operates in three study languages (Estonian, Russian and English) with the help of simultaneous translation. There is professional equipment that works on Radio frequency and is very reliable. Sound Technician maintains and upgrades the translation equipment as needed. Due to increased online learning, built in translation cubicles in classroom have been recently fitted with computers so that translators can see the students who are online and support faculty in offering interactive online experience.
The seminary’s primary sources of finances include tuition (currently about a third of our budgeted income comes from tuition), budgeted funds from the UMC in Estonia and internationally, project-based grants through UMC Central Conferences Theological Education Fund, donations from churches and private donors, grants, and endowment income. A Development Committee that is a branch of the Board of Trustees sets annual fundraising targets, discusses with administration funding priorities and oversees meeting these goals. The budget project is put together by the Rector’s Cabinet, approved by the Board of Trustees and confirmed by the Annual Conference of the UMC in Estonia. Bookkeeping and accounts are audited by the audit committee of the UMC in Estonia.
6. Development Areas and Activities: People, Studies and Organization
6.1. Student body
Our goal is to continue to grow and nurture a culturally diverse, international and ecumenical student body while focusing on recruitment from the Methodist churches in the Baltic Nordic region and keep theological education accessible for all Estonian churches.
In 2021-2023 we are focusing attention on the following areas:
1. Recruitment of new students
The number of students has been stable in the last three years. Our desire is to grow. Considering our faculty-student ratio and spaces we could comfortably serve 80 or even up to 100 students.
Our main priority is to recruit more from Methodist congregations in the region. Growing ministers and leaders for the Methodist church is the “mission-critical” priority. The second priority is to recruit Estonian speaking students so as to maintain a strong Estonian language track. One of our goals for coming years is also to point the recruitment strategy more toward Baltic countries and Finland which do not have Methodist seminaries.
To support this we continue to offer tuition discounts for Methodist students and students active in ministry and a special new Baltic scholarship was approved by the Board of Trustees to encourage students to come from Latvia and Lithuania.
2. Supporting the students, and ensuring of their timely graduation
Retention has improved since applying testing and careful screening of applicants. A stronger academic mentoring structure would also support students’ timely graduation. In a small school a struggling student is easily noticed. Still, clear policies will ensure that there is intervention and make clear who and how can offer academic advising and how can a student seek help.
The presence of international students has highlighted the importance of support systems for international students’ integration into the student body as well as into local church life. Many students also need financial support. Seminary can provide information about policies and what kind of help is available. During the pandemic we have taken some extra measures to ensure that students can complete their education even if their economic situation has worsened.
3. Supporting student mobility and going into further studies
BMTS receives visiting students and BMTS students also have opportunities to take classes in other schools and attend conferences internationally. Most of these opportunities require good English language skills. The Regional Hub for Leadership, Education, and Development in Europe (LEaD Hub) recently opened a branch at BMTS which offers information and funding to support European collaboration and support student mobility. Work must continue to promote the Hub activities and opportunities. During the pandemic these opportunities may mean more online opportunities. Our desire is to see more students take advantage of these and we also encourage them to pursue further studies.
6.2. Facultuy and Staff
Our goal is to develop a motivated, enthusiastic, competent and collaborative faculty/staff to support our Theology and Mission curriculum and future curriculum development. Faculty is supported in their self-improvement and professional development, so they are able to support seminary in its development goals.
In 2021-2023 we are focusing attention on the following:
1. Increasing faculty/staff pay and supporting faculty development
We are working with the Board of Trustees and fundraising with the help of Development Committee to increase faculty and staff pay. Efforts are ongoing to create a culture in church that encourages academic, personal and spiritual development, thereby stimulating higher teaching quality and better education for students. Our goal is to pay our faculty Estonian national average and to reach that goal by incremental pay increases in 5 years. (Following BMTS 5-year Faculty Development Plan).
2. Bringing new faculty under contract and filling vacancies.
Work continues to build a strong faculty team for teaching our core curriculum while decreasing reliance on adjunct faculty; ensuring a good support system for faculty to avoid faculty/staff burnout and making new programs possible; and filling vacant positions especially in the IT and hire new faculty with at least 0.5 teaching load.
3. Supporting faculty in continuing education, research and publishing.
There is need for more local textbooks, teaching materials and electronic resources. We desire to cultivate a culture of research among our faculty. Principles for paying honorary for publishing theological materials are being established to support and motivate faculty.
The alumni organization was created in 2019, with the goal to develop a strong and active alumni organization that helps to uphold the seminary’s ethos, identity, and traditions and create a sense of belonging together even after graduation.
In 2021-2023 we are focusing attention on the following:
1. Keeping contacts and networking
Working closely with the leaders of the alumni supporting them in reaching out to our graduates via phone, social media and in person. We are improving data management to keep alumni contact information current and secure. We desire to provide our alumni with regular opportunities to reconnect, and continuing education opportunities.
2. Celebrating alumni accomplishments
We also recognize distinguished alumni by celebrating their accomplishments (by highlighting them in Prayerchain newsletter, on Facebook, giving out Alumni of the Year Award).
3. Involving alumni into shaping seminary’s future
We shall cultivate among the alumni a culture of supporting the seminary with time, talent and treasure. Alumni can be involved in recruitment events, curriculum development, fundraising campaigns and the graduation ceremony as well as serve in the role of practicum supervisors, as guest speakers, as volunteers at seminary events, as seminary’s representatives etc.
6.4. Academic Studies And Christian Spiritual Formation
Our goal is to provide students an educational environment that is supportive spiritually and academically. We strive to offer a balance between the why and the how of Christian ministry. Critical thinking and reflection is matched with practicums; becoming a Christian disciple is linked with serving others by applying the knowledge and skills gained in the classroom setting.
In 2021-2023 we are focusing attention on the following:
1. Admissions process that establishes a good foundation
We make sure in the admissions process that our students are connected to a church and have the support of their pastors. Through the Spiritual Formation component of the curriculum, and through our chapel program students develop a stronger support network to sustain them spiritually and relationally.
2. Meaningful student-teacher relationships, mentoring, and feedback
In addition to classroom and online learning the seminary offers academic mentoring and formative fellowship to facilitate interchange between students and faculty/staff. This includes not only purposeful constructive feedback in all courses about students’ academic knowledge but also about their general competencies, critical thinking, and creativity. Feedback should from students/alumni to faculty/staff to ensure that curriculum and course content has practical value in ministry context.
3. Theological education put in practice
As an institution of applied higher education faculty should frequently empharize the practical application opportunities of any given subject. Special practicums and site visits are designed to link students with specific ministries. It is ongoing work to establish connections with church leaders and organizations to offer quality practicum placements which add value to students educational experience and training supervisors.
6.5. Research and Development
Our goal is to sustain the high academic level of the seminary by motivating and supporting faculty in the area of research and publication of theological articles and/or study materials.
In 2021-2023 we are focusing attention on the following:
1. All faculty engage in research and publication
It is expected that all contracted faculty at BMTS publish at least annually. A schedule for Planned Publications 2021-2024 as well as an overview of recent faculty publications is being developed. A new position of Director of Research and Devlopment will help faculty to find venues for publishing in their field in a contextually relevant way. Faculty members are encouraged to participate actively in professional organizations, conferences and continuing education.
2. Focus all research on topics that are priority for UMC in the region
BMTS plan for research is based on topics offered by UMC in Estonia and will involve both faculty and students into practically oriented studies with the goal of serving the church and the wider community. Churches need contextual data to develop their ministries. Seminary students can offer observations, survey focus groups, collect historical data, do theoretical and empirical research etc. In these areas.
3.Library development to support student research
Importance of a good Christian library to support learning in the Methodist church cannot be overstated. BMTS library already houses books that are only copy in the country. We continue to improve access, security, collection and environment of the library. Development Committee has made library a funding priority. Library acquisitions are focused on key resources in three languages in our specialized areas. Space and finances are limited, and collaboration is just as important, therefore, BMTS will partner with Asbury Seminary Library online resources and Tallinn University library. For faculty more specialized needs of research partner schools in England and Asbury Theological Seminary offer opportunities for writing retreats.
6.6. Continuing Education
Our goal is to support the UMC in Estonia in continuing education and help to create a habit of lifelong learning offering regular study days for pastors, continued and targeted training for Christian workers and our graduates.
In 2021-2023 we are focusing attention on the following:
1. Support Methodist church in offering broad based continuing education
In order to develop a more wholistic approach for continuing education, a task group will dialogue with the UMC in Estonia plan educational events and evaluate results jointly. In addition to current ministers, we see as our target groups all seminary alumni but also potential students, and people interested in self-improvement and study. The seminary sees continuing education also as an opportunity to serve the wider community.
2. Continue to offer training in Church Planting
In 2020 we held the first Church Planting Conference in collaboration with Asbury Theological Seminary. We desire to be a resource and help nurture leadership for church growth.
6.7. Leadership and Communication
Our goal is to have dynamic leadership culture that is open and responsive to the needs of our students, faculty/staff and community partners by always maintain a working environment that is safe, respectful and professional. Our community values are expressed in our Code of Ethics. We seek to have the attitude of Jesus: greater is the one who serves (Luke 22:27).
1. Professional roles and collaborative spirit
Professional roles are defined in job descriptions so that tasks are performed by people with training and professional expertise. During the extraordinary times of the Covid pandemic we also experienced how team members generously lend their abilities for the benefit of the team.
2. Open communication
We facilitate open communication when workers share their concerns with the leadership and leaders communicate expectations clearly, equip the staff with tools they may need to meet the expectations (training, information etc.) and give constructive feedback. We encourage excellence and outstanding efforts receive recognition.
3. Balance of doing and being
Constant refining of collaboration skills (including online collaboration skills) is needed to keep communication strong during the pandemic and social distancing rules. It is important to balance work with sabbath and practice good time management to avoid burning out in ministry. Faculty and staff retreats are not luxuries but have important role of sharing ideas, bonding and communication.
6.8. Study and Work Environment
Our goal is to continue to provide a safe and functional study and work environment, including physical spaces for teaching and learning, translation and administration and user-friendly virtual environment with tools for online learning. Goal is to use all resources with care and respect.
1.Physical infrastructure that supports learning
With that said, our goals is to improve the physical infrastructure as much as funding allows. The primary focus will be on the library, to improve access and security and creating a more user-friendly study space. This also requires the most funding and fundraising for that purpose is ongoing.
Recent addition of a Conference room has added value as a meeting space. There are plans for improvements for chapel and Teacher’s room which will happen gradually. We dialogue and partner with Tallinn Methodist Church who owns the building with these and other changes. We also ensure that rooms are clean, appropriately ventilated and there are hand sanitizing stations available in strategic areas during the pandemic.
2.Improved virtual environment
User-friendly virtual environment is also important. We have used Moodle as an online learning platform for 15 years and it is well accepted. In 2020 we adapted Tahvel student information system which has good mobile functionality. During the pandemic we have done a lot of teaching online via Zoom and online meetings via Microsoft Teams. Keeping workers computers up to date and improving classroom technologies for teaching online with good sound and video quality is increasingly important but also very demanding of resources.
3.Respectful use of resources
We seek to be mindful about the environment and teach good stewardship. We wish to raise awareness among ourselves and the Methodist churches about need for all to practice creation care, moderation in consumption and responsible management of financial resources.
6.9. Partnerships in Estonia
Theological education field in Estonia offers much work but there are few workers.
Our goal is to help the Methodist church in Estonia and to partner and collaborate with other theological institutions in training, publishing, and joint promotion of the field of theology.
1. Partnership with the UMC in Estonia
Our closest partnership continues to be with the UMC in Estonia, and the seminary is following closely the developmental areas prioritized by the church by offering continuing education opportunities and contributing to the church journal Koduteel.
2. Partnership with other Christian denominations and organizations
BMTS students come from various denominations and churches. The cooperation with their churches involves training practicum advisors, inviting guest speakers and supporting students during their studies etc. On the ecumenical level the seminary plans to be more active in conferences and interdenominational events, and to continue its cooperation with Christian organizations such as Estonian Bible Society, Estonian Evangelical Alliance etc. As well as invite partners to our events (such as Church Planting Conference).
3. Partnership with other theological schools
Holding joint training sessions for faculty together with other theological schools creates opportunities for exchange of ideas and good practices as well as negotiating options for faculty exchange.
6.10. International Relations
Our goal is to nurture existing and build new mutual relationships in areas of ministry, fundraising, recruitment, student and faculty exchange, joint research projects and teaching.
1. Partnering in ministry with UMC churches and Friends of Estonia network
Develop and keep strong relationships with supporting churches and Friends of Estonia to keep missional focus on church development in the Baltic states.
2. Cultivate teaching and research partnership with Asbury Seminary
Based on its long-standing partnership with Asbury Theological Seminary in USA, the seminary continues to engage in faculty exchange and joint conferences and will explore options for joint research and publication.
3. Collaboration between European Methodist Theological Schools
BMTS continues to be active in Methodist-related Theological Schools of Europe (MTSE) network. Having the fresh experience of hosting Europe-wide student conference in 2020, seminary is facilitating student exchanges between MTSE member schools with the help and financial support from LEaD Hub. Through the MTSE network seminary will also explore international joint research options. Seminary is an active member in European Council of Theological Education (ECTE) as well as in denominational worldwide organization IAMSCU.
6.11. Economic and Financial Activity
Our goal is to ensure the continuation of our educational mission through balanced tuition policy, commitment to fiscal responsibility, active mission-driven fundraising and relationships and structures for long term sustainability.
BMTS is committed to fiscal responsibility and long-term sustainability. The budget project is put together by the Rector’s Cabinet, approved by the Board of Trustees and confirmed by the Annual Conference of the UMC in Estonia. Use of funds is annually audited by outside auditors.
1. Tuition policy that balances well seminary’s needs and mission
About a third of BMTS income comes from tuition. BMTS long term goal is to be locally supported. With that goal in sight tuition fee is projected to go up (up to 10% annually). If admissions is strong tuition raise can be slower. Our goal is to keep tuition affordable for missional students. There are discounts-scholarships available for students active in ministry. Churches are encouraged to support students by paying their study fees.
The majority of BMTS income comes from Methodist sources. General Board of Global Ministries of the UMC funds some faculty, UMC Central Conferences Theological Education Fund (CCTEF) supports projects such as online learning, translation, library etc. Recently GBHEM LEaD Hub was established in Estonia to support collaborations within Europe.
2. Active and mutual relationships with donors
We continue to nurture mutual missional connections with many UMC churches in Estonia and several in the US (Asbury UMC, First Broad Street UMC etc.) that support us annually and stay in contact with individual donors through Friends of Estonia group. We reach out via monthly Prayerchain newsletter, visit churches and write letters. We are working with Board of Trustees to cultivate new support and with alumni leaders to grow local support.
3. Vision and mission-driven fundraising
In 2019, the trustees established a Development Committee that helps with fundraising and has taken leadership in development. In 2020 BMTS set a Visionary Budget“ and a Philanthropic Goal and produced Case Statements to communicate with donors and draw funds to areas that require most investment. BMTS also has an endowment fund which also provides steady stream of income. A targeted campaign is needed to grow the endowment fund.
7. Implementation and Renewal of the Development Plan
Development Plan is coupled with an Implementation Plan. The Implementation Plan describes the concrete action steps that need to be taken to move forward in the directions that this Development Plan has outlined. It also sets approximate timeframe, assigns roles and notes whether extra funding is needed for these activities.
The Implementation Plan will be reviewed and updated annually. The Implementation Plan should be consulted when planning the annual budget.
The Rector bears responsibility for the fulfillment of the Development Plan. The Academic Committee and the Board of Trustees assess the progress of the Implementation Plan of the Development Plan, and the fulfillment of the Development goals in an annual report.