Many women today are returnign to school for ministry training. Should you? Here's how to find the educational path that's right for you.

At the age of 56, Joyce Shankland went back to school. As a recently divorced grandmother, she didn't seem like a typical candidate. Two years earlier, her husband had left her for a 20-year old, and the following year had been a nightmare of pain as she worked through the grief of being abandoned by her husband of 36 years. During that time of grief, she endured a car accident, back surgery and internal bleeding.

But Joyce was undeterred. Ever since she had come to know the Lord at age 30, she had dreamed of being in full-time ministry. "I thought, Now is my chance, so in July of 1999 I came to Crossroads, a YWAM missionary training school on the island of Hawaii."

All across America women are going back to school. At Fuller Seminary, the largest non-denominational seminary in America, about 400 women are enrolled in their Long Distance Learning (LDL) program, and at least 400 are enrolled in the on-campus seminary.

Twenty years ago, there was only one way to get ministry training--go to school. You could either enroll in the local Bible college or move to the school of your choice, often hundreds of miles away.

Today you still have those options, but you can also take classes online, through local extensions or through correspondence courses. You can eschew traditional education altogether and opt for a YWAM Discipleship Training School in Hawaii, like Joyce, or take an 11-day intensive program on Women in Ministry from Cindy Jacobs through the Wagner Leadership Institute (WLI).

MAKING THE RIGHT CHOICE
Trying to choose among all these options can be daunting, but there is sure to be a program that's right for you. Here we give you the tools to investigate any school, and we've covered a range of programs to get you started. Where to begin? Start by asking these four questions.

1. Do I want to take a class purely for personal enrichment, or do I want to earn a degree? Some people want to earn a degree or finish a degree they started earlier, and others just want to improve their ministry skills. Traditional undergraduate degrees include a two-year associate's degree or a four-year bachelor's degree. Beyond that there is graduate school or seminary, where you can earn an advanced degree such as a master's or a doctorate.

Not all schools offer all degrees. Bible schools offer undergraduate degrees, and seminaries offer graduate degrees. Universities usually have both undergraduate and graduate programs, but each school varies. Some, such as Moody Bible Institute and Wheaton College, have both undergraduate and graduate programs, but others, such as Fuller Seminary or Regent University, offer only graduate degrees.

In addition, some schools offer either graduate or undergraduate certificates. At Fuller Seminary, for example, you can earn a certificate through its LDL program after taking just six classes in a particular area of concentration.

Some students have no interest in earning a degree. They may want to take a class purely for personal enrichment or the sheer love of learning. Many schools have extension programs that offer university-level classes at sites away from the main campus. Moody offers classes in Florida, Ohio, Michigan and Washington in addition to those at the main campus in Chicago.

Some of these extension classes confer credit and some don't, so be sure you understand your options and make your choice clear. Courses taken for personal enrichment are often called "continuing education classes" or "audited classes," but many colleges have their own terms for non-credit classes.

2. Do I want to attend a school that is accredited? Most traditional schools are accredited, but many alternative schools are not. According to Marilyn Chappell, Director of Admissions of The King's Seminary, accreditation means that an independent organization has evaluated the school's facilities, faculty and curriculum to make sure they are up to standard. Classes from an accredited institution can usually be transferred to another accredited school.

Many alternative programs are not accredited and don't want to be. They want the freedom to offer classes without the restrictions of accreditation. Peter Wagner left Fuller Seminary to start WLI so he could offer training without grades, exams or even a college campus. In its literature, WLI clearly states that it has "an educational paradigm so different from traditional seminaries and Bible schools"...that "in certain ecclesiastical circles, diplomas from WLI may not be recognized as legitimate credentialing for ministry."

What if you aren't sure of your goals? Karl G. Wolfe, Ed.D., Director of Distance Learning at Fuller Seminary, notes that many students who start taking classes simply for the love of learning end up wanting to get a degree. He advises students who are unsure of their educational goals to pursue educational options that will give them the freedom to earn a degree later.

He also warns that some schools are accredited by little-known independent groups. "That may give a school their blessing, even though no one else may recognize the school," he says. "Traditional seminaries are accredited by the Association of Theological Schools."

3. How much time will I need to spend on campus, and how much of my program can be completed at home? There is a lot to be said for the traditional college experience. Many find it easier to focus on their studies when they are surrounded by fellow students and can interact with their professors face-to-face.

However, if you are a parent of young children or have a full-time job, you might need to do your entire program at home. Today there is a complete range of programs, from those that allow you to work on your degree at your kitchen table to those that require your presence on campus the whole time you are enrolled.

At World Harvest Bible College (WHBC), Rod Parsley asks all students to take their first two years of classes on campus because "the vision of WHBC is to take the anointing on my life and ministry and impart it into your life and ministry." Steve Gray of World Revival School of Ministry feels much the same way: "We want you to be here to experience revival."

In contrast, Berean/ICU Global University System and Trinity Christian College offer their entire programs online. And WLI has no campus--just different conference locations throughout the country. Other schools, such as Asbury Seminary, will allow you take up to half your classes at home before coming on campus to complete your degree.

WHBC does offer an optional third year of training called the Advanced Pastoral Leadership Program that requires only one day a week on campus. Even Fuller Seminary and the graduate school at Wheaton College will let students take some of their classes through LDL programs, utilizing correspondence or online courses.

Correspondence courses have a workbook and usually, a pack of cassette tapes. You need just a pencil and a tape player.

To take online classes you'll need a computer and an Internet service provider. Assignments are given and turned in over the Internet.

Be sure to ask if the LDL class you are considering has a fixed start and stop date. Some classes begin on a fixed date so that everyone in the class is working on the same assignment at the same time. That way students can interact with each other through chat rooms or e-mail.

Other classes let you work at your own pace. But even self-paced classes often have deadlines--usually six months or a year after you start.

Many schools offer intensive, concentrated or modular classes in which you can take an entire quarter or semester of material in one to three weeks.

According to Dr. Wolfe, all of the ATS- accredited theological schools require students to be on campus for at least one year (or its equivalent) because they believe that spiritual formation should take place in community, not in isolation.

4. Do I want a program that emphasizes classroom instruction or hands-on practical instruction? At YWAM Discipleship Training School, half the program takes place in the field. For three months, Joyce Shankland traveled to Taiwan and India. In India, she ministered to Christians who were abandoned by their families when they came to Christ.

Asbury Seminary requires practical, on-the-job ministry experience as part of their degree program, so students can put the concepts they are learning in the classroom to work immediately.

Some schools give credit for life experience. At The King's Seminary you can get credit for expertise obtained through life experience, on-the-job training, or community or ministry service.

What about that leadership development class you took or the program you developed to feed the homeless? You may be able to get credit for the skills you learned if you can demonstrate that your expertise is equivalent to a college course. Other schools have similar programs. You may be closer to your degree than you think.

5. Is cost a factor? Make this a matter of prayer, then talk to the school of your choice to learn about your options. Many schools offer financial aid in the form of scholarships, grants and loans.

Students who enroll in YWAM DTS typically raise support from friends, family and their local church since their training is considered missions experience. Moody doesn't charge undergraduates for tuition, though they still have to pay room and board.

Do you sense that God is calling you back to school? You may be a laywoman eager to minister in power, a college graduate who always wanted to go to seminary or a new Christian, hungry to know more of God's Word. Not everyone can move to Chicago or Los Angeles, but we can all get the training we need to be the person God is calling us to be.

Joyce is glad she sold everything and went to Crossroads. "I love it here. I am so fulfilled in the Lord. For me, life began again at age 54."


Elizabeth Moll Stalcup is a free-lance writer based in Reston,Virginia.

MINISTRY EDUCATION OPTIONS

Asbury College
800-888-1818
www.asbury.edu

Asbury Theological Seminary
800-2ASBURY
www.asburyseminary.edu

Berean/ICI Global University System
800-443-1083
www.globaluniverity.edu

Evangel University
417-865-2815
1-800-EVANGEL

www.evangel.edu
Fuller Seminary
800-238-5537
800-235-2222

www.fuller.edu
The King's College and Seminary
888-779-8040
www.kingsseminary.edu

Lee University
800-LEE-9930
www.leeuniversity.edu

Moody Bible Institute
800-955-1123
www.moody.edu

Pastoral Care Ministries, Inc.
630-510-0487
www.LeannePayneNews.com

Regent University
800-373-5504
www.regent.edu

Southeastern University
800-500-8760
www.seuniversity.edu

Trinity College of the Bible
800-457-5510
www.trinitysem.edu

Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry
800-874-8754
www.tesm.edu

Wagner Leadership Institute
800-683-9630
719-262-9920
www.wagnerleadership.org

Wheaton
800-888-0141 grad
800-222-2419
www.wheaton.edu

World Harvest Bible College
800-940-9422
www.breakthrough.net

World Revival School of Ministry
877-804-LIFE
www.worldrevivalchurch.org

YWAM University of the Nations
808-326-7228
800-383-4572
www.uofnkona.edu

 

Best Magazine Deal. Subscribe now and get 3 magazines for the price of 1. Get Charisma, SpiritLed Woman and Ministry Today, all for $24. YES - I want this deal!

3 Reasons Why you should read Life in the Spirit. 1) Get to know the Holy Spirit. 2) Learn to enter God's presence 3) Hear God's voice clearly! Click Here to draw closer to God!

Your Turn

Comment Guidelines
View/Add Comments
  • Roadblock

    6 Roadblocks That Will Stop Your Spiritual Growth

    God wants you to grow in your faith, but many of us get stuck along the way.

  • 2017 is the year that swords will clash.

    Prophetic Word: 2017 Will Bring a Clashing of Heaven and Hell

    "This is a time to cross over and not pull back."

  • Inner Healing Is the Fruit of the Spirit

    Inner Healing Is the Fruit of the Spirit

    I have been puzzled about the subject of inner healing for some time.

  • Cindy Jacobs

    2017: Year of the Breakthrough

    "There will be a significant increase in miracles and signs and wonders."

  • Are you willing to volunteer for God's offensive army?

    Prophetic Word: Preparing for God's World War 3

    God is searching for soldiers of the cross who are willing to volunteer for His offensive army.

  • The devil will try to silence you in any way he can. Don't give him the satisfaction.

    Satan's 2 Most Potent Lies to Render You Ineffective

    There's something in you so powerful that Satan doesn't want it out. Kyle Winkler reveals ...

  • Growing relationship

    2017 Prophetic Word: The Supernatural Key to Growing Your Relationship With God

    It's vital that we understand what comes from God and what comes from the devil.

  • Marriage man and woman

    Why Marriage Is Not Just Between a Man and a Woman

    Marriage is a miracle. Let us treat it like one.

  • Be encouraged to slow down to hear God in unexpected ways.

    A Common Reason You May Be Missing God's Voice

    Out of thousands of people, only six didn't fall into one experiment's trap. Discover how ...

  • Continue Your Journey with the Holy Spirit

    Continue Your Journey with the Holy Spirit

    Follow God on the most fulfilling journey of your life with Encounter the Holy Spirit! Break away from past hurts and press into the One who wants a personal encounter with you.

  • Dream the Unimaginable In His Presence

    Dream the Unimaginable In His Presence

    Reach your full potential and be led by His Spirit. In His Presence takes you to a deeper understanding of who God is and how he communicates with us.

  • Set Your Spirit on Fire

    Set Your Spirit on Fire

    Receive the power and gifts that come through the Holy Spirit Baptism. Don’t go empty-handed; accept all that He has for you! His power is available to those who ask.

  • Put on the Full Armor of God

    Put on the Full Armor of God

    Break every stronghold with the power of the Holy Spirit. Use the power of your tongue to declare and decree the Word of God. Witness heaven move on your behalf.

Use Desktop Layout
Charisma Magazine — Empowering believers for life in the Spirit