Explaining TEE

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If you have not heard of TEE this will give you an insight into it's origins and the reason why Wau Diocese along with many other Christian churches use it. In some places, Christians lack the resources and availability to relocate for leadership training; this article discusses an alternative church leader training system.

In late 1950s and early 1960s, the Presbyterian Church in Guatemala experienced an explosion in church attendees triggering a noticeable shortage in qualified church ministers and leaders to teach and train the new believers in the Christian lifestyle and doctrines.

Moreover, the traditional seminary proved incapable to recruit and train the necessary leaders fast enough. Given this problem, international mission organizations devised a plan to take Christian instruction and leadership training out to the people in a project called Theological Education by Extension (or TEE).

The Early History of Theological Education by Extension
The Theological Education by Extension experiment began in 1963 under the guises of Presbyterian missionaries Ralph Winter and James Emery (Winter, 1969).

Although the TEE project ran into some major obstacles from proponents of traditional seminary education, it proved flexible enough to meet at least some of the leadership training needs which the formal training institution could not do.

The Expansion of Theological Education by Extension
As TEE proved to be a capable alternative for training Christian pastors and church leaders in Guatemala, other church and mission organizations in Central and South America adopted and adapted the Theological Education by Extension method to train church leaders in their respective regions. 

In the 1970s, the Christian movement in Africa experienced an explosion in church attendees causing a problem similar to the one encountered by Christian groups in Guatemala. In order to overcome the the lack of qualified church leaders, they also turned to TEE.

The Essentials of Theological Education by Extension
While its use has declined some, Theological Education by Extension is still employed in many locations of the world today. But what distinguishes a TEE program from a correspondence or most other distance learning programs? According to TEE experts Ralph Winter, Stephen Snook, and Graham Chipps, the essentials of TEE include…

  • Trains older, more recognized leaders.
  • Programmed instruction, self-study course materials.
  • Accessible study centers.
  • Active participation in church affairs.

Theological Education by Extension programs are aimed at older, more recognized community leaders. Many societies around the world equate age with wisdom and leadership. In poor and rural societies, the older more established leaders cannot afford to leave their families or church communities for long periods of time to be trained for ministry.

Conversely, the younger people who are trained in traditional seminaries fail to gain respect as leaders when they return to their home villages. TEE attempts to direct training to older more recognized leaders.

TEE Employs Programmed Learning Instruction in Self-Study Courses
Theological Education by Extension courses employ program instruction and learning techniques in their self-study courses. Programmed instruction and learning is an educational technique first postulated by researcher B. F. Skinner.

In a nutshell, Skinner discovered that vertebrates of different types learned in much the same way and found that reinforcement promoted learning more than threat of punishment. He also observed that subjects learned faster when they were taught in small incremental steps and reinforced accordingly.

From these observations, courses were devised by which students’ answers were immediately reinforced by the curriculum. TEE adopted this educational format.

TEE Establishes Regionally Accessible Study Centers
Theological Education by Extension seeks to establish regionally-placed study centers for easy access by potential students. As is inherent to the phrase “by extension,” TEE programs emphasize taking instruction out to the people where they live.

Traditional seminary is often costly because prospective students have to relocate and pay for room and board as well as tuition. TEE is more affordable because it eliminates the need to pay extra housing costs.

TEE Promote Active Participation in the Local Church
In addition, Theological Education by Extension programs require students to take an active role in the local church. TEE students do not merely study to gain head knowledge of the Bible and Christian doctrines; they also train in practical ministry and apply that training to their respective church ministries. Since TEE students do not move away for training, they remain present to help with the work of their local churches.

Over the last 40 years or so, Theological Education by Extension has proven to be a well-balanced alternative to traditional Bible School or seminary training. For the reasons stated above, other Christian movements in the world e.g. Cambodia which have recently experienced sudden growth have adopted and adapted TEE to train pastors and church leaders in their respective countries.

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Winter, R. (1969). Theological Education by Extension.

Snook, S. (1992). Developing Leaders Through Theological Education by Extension.

Chipps, G. (2003). TEEAC Policy and Operations Manual.