From a remote area in New Zealand, Georgia Allen recently graduated with a Bachelor in Theology at Ridley College. Here she shares her experiences of studying online and discovering how studying theology has set her up really well for ministry.
What are your motivations for studying theology?
I have always been interested in theology. Growing up, I loved thinking up tricky theological questions to try and stump my ‘all-knowing’ dad, who was a pastor! In my late teens, I started to consider working in cross-cultural missions, and I was advised that having a degree would assist me in being permitted to enter other countries. Considering my interests, the Bachelor of Theology seemed the best fit. Since then, studying theology has helped me better understand ministry and my faith, whilst I worked at a Christian campsite and in youth ministry.
Why did you choose Ridley College?
When I decided to study theology, I was living and working at a remote Christian campsite, so I needed to be able to study completely online. Ridley College has a great reputation for offering excellent online learning, and some ‘big name’ theologians as tutors and lecturers. I knew that the content would be high class, and being able to complete my degree entirely online, with flexibility as to when the content needed to be completed each week, suited my lifestyle perfectly.
What did you study at Ridley?
I studied for a Bachelor of Theology entirely online and part-time for six years. During this time, I lived in three different countries (Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and then back to NZ!), and changed jobs four times. Some semesters I studied close to full-time, sometimes I was a part-time student, and sometimes I took a full semester off. I even had the opportunity to do a few face-to-face units at a local NZ theological college which were cross-credited to my Ridley degree.
Did the COVID situation in New Zealand impact you? If so, how did you manage?
Doing my degree online meant that the NZ lockdowns were a welcome pause from work, allowing me to catch up and get ahead in my studies, with online learning being very familiar and simple for me. However, as 2021 progressed, and as I looked towards the final six months of my degree, I began to feel burnt out, having done youth work throughout the COVID pandemic. In mid-2021 the impacts on my mental, emotional and physical health came to a head, just as NZ went into another lockdown. This lockdown was actually God’s saving grace for me, as it gave me space to rest. I contacted my GP and Ridley tutors to make a plan for moving forward. With some help from Ridley Student Support and a few extensions, I completed my degree within the same time frame I had hoped for, and also avoided a full burnout.
How did you engage with faculty or other students/cohorts as an online student?
My main engagement with other students was through the online forums, and I occasionally contacted tutors through email or Moodle messages. I also had a few Zoom and Skype calls with some tutors when struggling with a particular subject or assignment. When it came time to choose subjects for the year, I would often email Jared Catchpoole (Ridley Academic Counsellor) to get advice on which subjects to enrol in. I also had several Zoom calls with Flyck Clift (Academic Counsellor), who helped me process the best ways to research and write essays and to manage my time. Flyck became a key support for me during my struggles with burnout, as she helped me get extensions on assignments and manage rest and study.
What do you plan to do moving ahead?
Having completed my studies, I have increased my work hours as a youth pastor at St Barnabas Anglican Church in Nelson, NZ. I will continue serving my local community as a youth pastor, and as a youth worker at a local public high school. Now that I have learnt some great exegetical and ministry skills from Ridley, I look forward to continuing to study theology informally, without the pressure of assignments and due dates!
Would you recommend Ridley College, and how would you say it in a sentence or two?
Ridley Theological College has excellent learning material, great lecturers, and high-quality online learning that allows you the flexibility to study when and where it suits you. It sets you up really well for ministry and deepens your understanding of God and his works.