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Looking to provide an education to students who are not able to relocate, Winebrenner Theological Seminary is preparing to introduce a new master s degree program that uses a combination of Internet lessons, on-campus classes, and real-life experience.
There are students who are in a career transition, maybe it s a second career, and they re beyond 100 to 150-mile commuting range, said the Rev. John Nissley, dean of academic and student affairs. We wanted to come up with a way to change the delivery system.
The program, which leads to a master of arts degree in church development, or MACD, will take four years of study and will be offered starting in June, 2006.
We want them to think theologically on a deep level, Mr. Nissley said.
The idea of church development is actually not necessarily church growth, said the Rev. Steven Sherman, director of the MACD program and an assistant professor of systematic theology and Christian ethics at Winebrenner. It can include that, you bet. But it s primarily the idea of developing the church as a whole, from individuals to small groups within the congregation.
A bachelor s degree is a prerequisite and students will be required to come to Winebrenner s Findlay campus for intensive sessions twice a year, once for a two-week program in the summer and once for a week in the fall. For the rest of their courses, they can pursue their studies from anywhere in the United States.
Mr. Sherman described it as a cohort format, in which the students learn together and grow spiritually, meeting regularly in groups of five to 12. When possible, they will meet in person, but there will be situations where the groups meet in online sessions.
One of the advantages is that it offers an opportunity to complete some of the work online, although it is not entirely focused that way, Mr. Sherman said, adding that the MACD is a full-fledged curriculum requiring 60 hours of study.
There will be seven areas of specialization for the students to choose from: biblical studies, Christian leadership, Christianity and culture, counseling, missiological studies, spiritual formation, and theological studies.
The Rev. Lance Finley, director of operations for Winebrenner, said the MACD is an option for people who want to be ministers in denominations that do not require a Master of Divinity degree.
"Usually a Master of Divinity is standard, but most denominations are struggling to fill pulpits and not all require an M-Div. It really varies among denominations, he said. The MACD does not require ancient languages, like Greek and Latin, so it appeals to certain students.
Winebrenner has 150 students, with about 35 in Findlay and the rest commuting from within a 150-mile radius. Mr. Finley said the school is looking for an initial MACD class of 20 to 24 students.
Mr. Nissley said online studies, or course-in-a-box programs, have become increasingly popular with seminaries in the last five years .
More information on the Winebrenner s Master s of Arts in Church Development program is available online at www.winebrenner.edu or toll free, 1-800-992-4987.