“I am no longer impressed by academic backgrounds or credentials, and I pay little attention to them. What ultimately stands out are the humility and respect towards realities and circumstances they are not familiar with.”

“The education of 21st-century problem solvers needs itself to move into the future,” says Roshan Paul, president of the Amani Institute. “Aspiring leaders must equip themselves with apprenticeships, practical skills, and personal leadership qualities so they’re employable and so they can create social impact. They should train for their careers the way a doctor or athlete or soldier would train.”

These quotes from a recent article in from Fast Company caught my attention for a number of reasons. As I think about the young adults I have encountered while helping with the launch of S.E.N.D. I think about how many of them do carry a sense of respect and humility about the realities of the world today. They are more aware of the challenging circumstances many in their generation face and they are increasingly aware of the challenges of being an active Christian in the world today brings.

When we started putting together the pieces of the vision for Servants Equipping New Disciples (SEND) we intentionally set aside any interest in academic degree certification even though everyone around the table in our visioning meetings held some sort of advanced degree, some with more than one. We were not concerned about the academic certification or degrees of SEND young adults. We were not concerned about SEND training being counted as credit toward any type of degree because we knew it would be more important for young adults in SEND to have an experience that was reflective of real world mission and ministry, not a classroom. An experience that would give them stories to tell, examples to learn from and work to build upon. An experience that could be the foundation for not only their own discipleship and leadership development but something they could transfer to those around them.

We wanted to make sure young adults in SEND would come away with an increased understanding and respect for being a mission minded Christian in our world. Whether they chose to answer a call to work in ministry or not, we wanted to make sure young adults had the chance to experience the realities of working in mission and ministry. Of course we also wanted to make sure those in SEND would grow closer to God and experience how their own spiritual growth and increased relationship with God could impact and change the world. The SEND experience embeds into young adult that living out your faith and working in ministry is more about who you are as a Christ follower.

SEND doesn’t grant you a degree. It doesn’t give you credit or a certificate that is recognized by any academic institution. SEND will give you an experience that will allow God to work in your life. It will humble you and increase your respect for the challenges of the world we live in. SEND is an experience where you will grow closer to God, you will experience hands on mission and ministry. You’ll grow as a person, disciple, and leader God is calling you to be. Your experience in SEND will help you change the world. One new disciple equipped to be a servant to others, serving God alongside others. That’s the SEND experience and no degree can give you that experience.

By Tracee J. Swank, Co-Leader Church Doctor Ministries, Advancement Team Leader, SEND