This fall more than 90,000 students across the United States and Canada are pursuing graduate theological or ministry training. Twenty years ago such students had one big decision: which school to choose. Then you typically had to relocate and enroll in a residential program for two to four years of full-time study.
Fast-forward two decades and the options have increased dramatically. Seminaries have been joined by Christian colleges and universities in offering graduate theological degrees. The Master of Divinity (M.Div.) degree is now one of dozens of master's-level options, including specializations in counseling, cross-cultural ministry, youth ministry, children's ministry, worship leadership, and executive leadership, to name a few.
Meanwhile, the internet has radically changed the way education can be delivered. Distance education options include online programs, satellite campuses and extension programs, and hybrid programs that combine online interaction with on-campus instruction. These allow students to remain involved with their current ministries while earning an advanced degree or certificate. The growth of options has made further education more accessible but also more confusing. There is no longer one standard path for continuing education. The myriad choices can make it difficult to compare and decide.
So how should a ministry leader choose?
No one answer will apply to everyone. But let's take a look at the stories of three leaders who faced this dilemma. Each chose a different path. Perhaps their experiences will equip you to make better decisions about educational options.
Going "ALL IN"
When Chris Shinnick began considering additional education, a distance program might have been the logical first choice. After ...