Why the Pastoral Fellows?

December 8, 2023

In this article we’ll explore the purpose of the MDiv Pastoral Fellows program compared to the MDiv General Ministries program, the main distinctions between the two, and the unique structure of the Pastoral Fellows program. We’ll also provide a roadmap to help you get a better sense of the curricular and co-curricular requirements of the program. 

Purpose of the Pastoral Fellows

The MDiv Pastoral Fellows program exists to equip an army of God-glorifying, Christ-exalting, Spirit-filled, and mission-driven pastors, to be deployed by the Church in the service of Christ’s great commission in this generation and the generations to come. In the words of Westminster’s founding faculty member, John Murray, this program aims at preparing students for a “divine call for the ministry of the Word, without which the whole world perishes in sin, in misery, and death.”

Preparation for such a high calling must engage more than just the mind. Along with shaping a student’s convictions through an intensive classroom curriculum, the Pastoral Fellows program aims to shape students’ character through faculty-student mentoring and to hone students’ competencies for ministry through field experience as well, employing various co-curricular activities to supplement and enhance students’ in-class experience. 

Additionally, the Pastoral Fellows aims to train students for the rigors of pastoral ministry through its very structure. Pastoral ministry is challenging and time consuming as the high demands of this calling require equally demanding preparation, in order to condition students for the pressures of ministry. This is also intended to instill a sense of dependence on God and on brothers in the faith. This intentionality is part of what makes the Pastoral Fellows uniquely, specifically, and carefully built to ready students for the realities of pastoral ministry.

Distinction between the Pastoral Fellows and the MDiv General


By design, the program follows a cohort structure. Each student will go through the program shoulder to shoulder with the other students in their cohort, following the same sequence of courses. The goal is to create a context where iron can sharpen iron and students can encourage one another to persevere in their studies and, eventually, in ministry. In this way, the cohort structure will contribute to the character formation that is essential to students’ preparation for ministry.

Faculty Mentorship

Exposure to Westminster faculty is also integrated into the Pastoral Fellows program as a means of shaping students’ character and convictions. Each week, students share a lunch with a faculty mentor where the challenges of life and ministry can be discussed openly together. These group mentoring experiences are designed so that students will sit under the mentorship of a majority of Westminster’s faculty by the end of their course of study. Thus, students will have the opportunity to learn from the wisdom that Westminster’s faculty have gleaned from many years of ministry experience in a diversity of settings.

Study Tours

The Pastoral Fellows program is also unique in that it incorporates two study trips: a once-in-a-lifetime,10-day tour of Israel (conditions permitting; otherwise, a substitute tour will be arranged), and another to gain mission experience in a foreign missions field. These trips build upon the cohort structure of the program, strengthening bonds of fellowship between students while also providing insight that can only be obtained on-site at these key locations. With these experiences, the Pastoral Fellows program aims to reinforce and bring life to students’ classroom studies to further develop their convictions and character. 

Year-long Pastoral Residency

Pastors are physicians of souls. Accordingly, the preparation of a pastor should incorporate hands-on learning in the ministry field, where a students’ convictions, character, and competencies will be tested and refined under the mentorship of a seasoned pastor. To this end, the MDiv Pastoral Fellows program concludes with a capstone pastoral residency in the fourth year. After three years of intensive academic preparation on Westminster’s campus, students will be placed with a church where they will be engaged in the full scope of ministerial duties over the course of a year. Upon graduation at the end of the residency, students should be fully prepared for ordination and a ministerial call. Thus, students will be set up for a successful transition from seminary into a lifetime of fruitful ministry.

Format & Pace

We believe that in-person education and life-on-life mentorship are essential to the aims of the MDiv Pastoral Fellows program. As such, the program is one of the few that Westminster offers exclusively in a residential format. As noted above, the program is intended to be rigorous, with summer language intensives during the first and second summer, a full slate of coursework each term, and co-curricular requirements to manage along the way. Of the 111 required MDiv credits, 107 will be completed within the first three years leading up to the fourth-year pastoral residency. This pace requires year-round devotion and commitment commensurate with what is required for service in Christ’s church. The MDiv Pastoral Fellows program is not for the faint of heart—but neither is pastoral ministry. The Pastoral Fellows roadmap gives a full, semester-by-semester breakdown of the program, including coursework and co-curriculars.


Westminster’s MDiv Pastoral Fellows program provides rigorous training for a rigorous calling, shaping the convictions, character, and competencies needed for ministry. We have provided a brief snapshot of the purpose, structure, and basic highlights of the program, but if you have further questions our admissions team would love to talk with you about this program. If the Pastoral Fellows program is not the right fit for you, we would love to help guide you to a more suitable program for your ministry goals. Speak to an admissions counselor at admissions@wts.edu.When looking into the MDiv program at Westminster, you might wonder about what distinguishes the MDiv General Ministries and the MDiv Pastoral Fellows degree programs. Both programs will prepare you for the full-time ministry and both programs have significant overlap when it comes to the in-classroom curriculum. So, what is the difference between the two? 

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