The history and educational philosophy of Theological Education by Extension
You may well have heard of extension education. Even although the concept of extension education may be unfamiliar to some believers, the advantages of this form of education have already been incorporated into many areas of society, combining theory and practice in various types of distance education training, correspondence or evening classes.
From a historical perspective, Christian churches have often sent leaders off to be trained at special colleges or universities. But one of the results has been a tendency for the creation of a special class of professional ministers. This type of training can prepare a relatively small number of leaders and requires major expenditure of time, money and a small army of teachers. But history also gives us examples of some of this relatively small number of trained professionals losing sight of a vision for ministry.
The method of Theological Education by Extension was the innovation of some missionaries working in Central America in the early 1960s. A survey taken of graduates of the Presbyterian seminary where they worked showed that the majority were not doing the work they had been trained for. However, the leadership of more than two hundred new churches that had sprung up in the denomination over the previous twenty-five years were for the most part without any formal Bible training at all. So in the country of Guatemala in 1963 the decision was taken to stop taking local church leadership away from community and ministry for training, and by the method of TEE train them where they were, while still on the job.
Since that time, the method of Theological Education by Extension has spread to many countries.