cross section of interviewees during Chapel worship service

As in any institution of learning, there are processes to admit new intakes. Thus, the interview week in the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomoso holds a special significance in determining who comes in next. It is a time of nervous anticipation, eager preparation, and hopeful aspirations. As candidates gather from far and wide, having written the entrance examination in various centres; they embark on the final lap of the race to determine whether they will be resuming at the Seminary for the upcoming academic session. From April 2nd to April 4th 2024, the seminary campus, fresh from the Easter break came alive with the energy of applicants. The applicants included both those embarking on theological education for the first time and others on additional adventures in the academic and spiritual journey as they prepare for life transforming ministry through training in the premier theological institution in Africa.

 The Thrill of the ‘First Missionary Journey’

For candidates embarking on their first experience in theological education, often referred to as the ‘first missionary journey’, the interview process is a mix of excitement and anxiety. Some of the candidate spoken to before their interviews expressed nervousness, while others exuded quiet confidence in their preparation. When asked about their preparation for the interview, many of the candidates admitted to receiving counsel from current students and church pastors about how to prepare and what to expect. A candidate intending to pursue a Master of Divinity programme shared her preparation strategy, which revolved around reading every material about the Baptist denomination she could lay her hands on.

After the interviews, when asked if the counsel tallied with what they met during the interview, some replied in the affirmative, while others said they had a totally different experience from what they expected. One candidate mentioned unexpected discussions on politics during his interview. Another candidate, when asked to describe his interview experience, described it as “interesting, technical, and reflective.” Yet another interviewee, a mother and candidate for the Religious Education programme shared her greatest challenge during the interview process as the wait time for her interview, as it conflicted with her responsibilities to pick up her children from school, requiring arranging for someone else to pick up her kids on her behalf. The interviewees described the interviewers as friendly and ‘fatherly’ as they put them at ease and created an environment conducive to open and honest dialogue.

The ‘Feel’ of Applicants for Other Missionary Journeys

For candidates returning for postgraduate studies, the interview process carries a different weight. When asked how this interview process compares to their previous experience of the interviewing in their previous missionary journey, they shared that this interview process helps them reflect on the evolution of their journey and the lessons learned along the way. Asked about their perspective of interviewers in this their new journey, they shared that the questions posed to them focuses more on the experience they have had during their years on the field as opposed to the elementary questions asked about salvation and doctrinal matters in their earlier experience. A Doctor of Ministry (DMin) candidate, reflecting on his interview experience, highlighted the significance of this being his third interview process spanning several decades. Though he approached the interview with some nervousness, he was well prepared due to the extensive interactions and reflections he had engaged in, he explained.

Inclusivity through Remote Interviews

There was a provision for remote interviews to accommodate candidates who were unable to make it physically to Ogbomoso. When asked about the remote interview option, a candidate mentioned receiving counsel about its availability and expressed gratitude for the smooth arrangement facilitated by the school authorities and faculty interviewers. Despite the virtual format, the candidate felt as though he was present in person due to the smooth conduct of the interview via video call – thanks to God for available power supply and seamless internet connectivity. A candidate who had not been in NBTS for any of his earlier studies was full of appreciation to NBTS leadership and the interviewers for the remote option, for calling and for conducting the video interview on WhatsApp. On the flip side, there were a few glitches. While some waited a while online, not being sure of when they would be called, a few had their virtual interview rescheduled because they were not available when it was their turn.

Faculty Members as Key Players

Faculty members play a crucial role in the seminary interview process as interviewers. Interestingly, their perspectives on what they look for in applicants largely align with what applicants themselves consider important. Both interviewers and interviewees emphasize these key criteria: Salvation Experience: ensuring genuineness and consistency between applicants’ written and professed salvation experience during the interview; Call Conviction: assessing if applicants possess a genuine call to ministry; Academic Readiness: determining an applicant’s ability to handle the academic demands of seminary and Financial Planning: evaluating applicants’ plans for funding their theological education.

The lecturers reported encountering a balanced mix of candidates in terms of interview preparedness, conviction about their salvation and calling, as well as readiness for the academic rigour and financial demands of seminary life. On a lighter note, one lecturer shared a memorable anecdote about an interviewee, struggling to knot his tie and hesitant to ask for help, ended up wrapping it awkwardly around his neck. He was then taught how to knot a tie on the spot – a valuable life skill gained during the interview week!

Gearing Up for Your Seminary Interview

While preparing for the next set of intakes, the Seminary looks forward to many more of such interview experiences till Christ returns to take the saved Home. In the meantime, interviewers and interviewees provided tips for intending candidates for future interview processes. Some valuable advice for future applicants, gleaned from both candidates and faculty perspectives are therefore highlighted below.

  • For Applicants on their First Missionary Journey

Open Mind is Key – be prepared for a wide range of life-based questions. The interview isn’t just about theological knowledge; it’s about assessing your personal readiness for the Call from God and for missionary work.

  • For Postgraduate Applicants

Showcase Your Experience – be ready to share your past ministry experiences and what you’ve learned in the field. Highlight how this background equips you for postgraduate studies.

  • General Interview Tips
    • Make a positive first impression by being neatly and professionally dressed.
    • Be prepared to discuss your genuine salvation experience and your call to ministry.
    • Demonstrate a concrete plan for funding your education.
    • Come prepared! Research the seminary, ask informed questions, and gather information beforehand.

As the much awaited interview week for the coming 2024/25 academic session has become history; applicants have returned to their respective places with hopeful hearts as they look forward to a positive outcome to the interview and the usual routine of the Seminary continues. 

Debo Odunlami

For Advancement Office.

April 8, 2024

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