Competency Based Theological Education (CBTE)

Competency Based Theological Education

Ministry Training in Ministry Context

Northwest Seminary was the first seminary in North America to offer a fully-accredited Competency-Based Theological Education (CBTE) program. But what does that mean? What is CBTE?

In short, CBTE is an educational philosophy that represents a paradigm shift in theological education. In CBTE programs, student's graduate when they prove they have mastered the competencies (knowledge, skills, and character traits) that define the program.

In other words, CBTE programs establish the knowledge, skills and character traits that a graduate should exemplify, translate them into articulated competencies, and drive the learner toward demonstrated achievement of those ends.

One way to better understand CBTE is to look at the seven values that drive Northwest's CBTE programs.

CBTEValue1Collaborative Partners

CBTE programs are a partnership between Northwest and the churches, denominations, or other ministry organizations that want to train their future leaders. Together we focus on the knowledge, skills and character traits we want to develop in our learners. The ministry context has the best sense of what a student needs to flourish on mission and the school can connect them to a broader and deeper scholarship.

CBTEValue7Team-Based Mentors

Learners are mentored toward mastery by a team of hands-on ministry practitioners and academics who walk with them, know them, and nurture their growth and development. This cross-functional mentor team offers different perspectives and fosters holistic growth.


Mastery is developed and demonstrated in the context for which the learner is preparing to serve. Because of that, learners are actively involved in ministry throughout their program, and assignments can be adapted to meet the needs of their individual situation and ministry.

CBTEValue3Direct Assessment

Northwest's CBTE programs utilize direct assessment, which means that learner progression is based on demonstrated achievement of program competencies, not course completion. The benefit to the learner is that they can move through the program at their own pace, focusing time and effort on areas where development is required, and not where competency has already been achieved and demonstrated.

CBTEValue4Integrated Assessment

Conventional programs tend to focus on knowledge and classroom simulation of skills. CBTE programs develop and assess holistic application of knowledge, skill and character in the field, throughout every aspect of the program.

CBTEValue5One Goal, Many Paths

What matters is demonstrated competency, not a uniform path to it. Assignments are always a means to the end, not an end to themselves. They may be skipped, repeated or adapted, depending on what a learner needs to take the next step in development.

CBTEValue6Student-Paced Development

This program allows learners to move at a pace that fits them. Some competencies may come quickly, others may take much longer to develop. The mastery-based system allows them to focus their time differently than their peers to focus on their individual learning path.


There are many advantages to CBTE that we believe make it an ideal way to train the next generation of ministry leaders.

Learn More

Follow the links below to learn more about how Northwest implements Competency-Based Theological Education

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