AU School of Theology offers new online degree specializations

Fri, 2010-02-19 07:40 -- univcomm
February 19, 2010

The Anderson University School of Theology has expanded its Online Master of Arts in Christian Ministry degree to include four new areas of specialization: pastoral ministry, student ministry, church planting, and Christian worship.

John AukermanEach specialization is designed to meet the educational needs of church leaders serving in specific roles within congregations of all sizes. The program is designed to serve leaders within the Church of God (Anderson) as well as those serving in other faith communities, according to Dr. John Aukerman, director of distance education and outcomes assessment at the School of Theology.

[PHOTO: John Aukerman works in his office at the AU School of Theology.]

For many participants, the online degree offers the opportunity to pursue a seminary education that would not be possible through a traditional residential program.

"We realized that most of our Church of God pastors have not had the opportunity for seminary education," Aukerman said. "We've heard from a lot of them that they want to pursue a degree, but they're unable to live in Anderson for a few years. So, we put the online degree together."

With the addition of the new specializations, the online degree has been further refined for specific roles within the church community.

  • The pastoral ministry specialization is designed for the senior or preaching pastor. This may include pastors of small congregations as well as those serving as lead preaching pastors in larger congregations.
  • The student ministry specialization is designed for individuals working with youth or children. The program may be geared specifically toward youth or children's ministries, or a combination of both.
  • The church planting specialization, offered in conjunction with the Church Multiplication Association (CMA), is designed for those who feel called to the work of establishing new church communities. In this specialization, the SOT provides coursework in theology, church history, and biblical studies, while the CMA provides professional coaching in church planting. Students in this specialization will be involved in an actual church plant while they are receiving coaching from the CMA, Aukerman said.
  • The Christian worship specialization is designed for men and women who will serve as worship pastors. The program is offered in conjunction with the Anderson University School of Music, with theological and ministry training provided by the SOT and musical training provided by the School of Music.

The Online MACM degree was initiated in 2004 in response to a growing demand for distance theological education.

While the School of Theology was not the first to offer such a degree among seminaries accredited by the Association of Theological Schools, its structure offers unique opportunities for online students to interact with the residential seminary community, according to Aukerman.

Typically, seminaries condense the residential component of an online degree at the very beginning of the program, Aukerman said. But students enrolled in the School of Theology's online degree visit campus once each semester. During this visit, they participate in the same classes as the residential students, join in and help lead chapel services, and interact with their instructors and peers.

Although this format requires more frequent travel to campus, Aukerman said response from students and graduates of the program in a recent survey has been overwhelmingly positive.

"Everyone who replied said it was the highlight of their degree and that they really felt part of the seminary community," Aukerman said.

The program typically requires 3 to 4 years to complete for students taking a normal course load, or as little as 2 and a half years for those taking a full course load.

Aukerman encourages those who are interested but are uncertain about committing to the full degree to sign up (the application cost is only $25) and take the first course in the program, Orientation to Online Graduate Theological Education.

"In that class they learn to use our online delivery system," Aukerman said. "Then through reading the textbooks and completing weekly assignments, they get an overview of the whole theological curriculum. They work through a very helpful book called What to Expect in Seminary. And then they learn how to write a graduate theological research paper."

More information about the Online MACM degree, including the new areas of specialization, is available on the SOT Web site at www.anderson.edu/sot. Those who wish to discuss the degree personally may contact Aukerman at (765) 641-4530 or by e-mail at jhaukerman@anderson.edu.

The Anderson University School of Theology is the only seminary of the Church of God (Anderson, Indiana). Established in 1950, the seminary is fully accredited by the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) and the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. The seminary offers a number of degree programs, including the Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.), the Master of Divinity (M.Div.), the Master of Theological Studies (M.T.S.), the Master of Arts in Intercultural Service (M.A.I.S.), and the Online Master of Arts in Christian Ministry (M.A.C.M.).

Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,700 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2009, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the sixth consecutive year. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing, and theology.