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Exploring Seminary

Should Seminaries Be Theologically Distinct?

April 16, 2024

Westminster Theological Seminary is committed to the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Westminster Larger Catechism, and the Westminster Shorter Catechism (i.e. The Westminster Standards). Each of our full time professors must subscribe to the Westminster Standards “ex animo” or “without exception.” This means that we are unswervingly committed to the Reformed tradition as it is defined in these documents.

A necessary consequence of this commitment is that, because we are a Protestant, Reformed, Presbyterian seminary, (though without any formal denominational affiliation) our curriculum is going to be set apart from seminaries that do not share these theological convictions. However, Westminster’s six key theological distinctives set us apart from even seminaries that do share our Protestant, Reformed, Presbyterian tradition.

Now, some might ask why a seminary that is committed to the historic Reformed tradition as expressed in historic creeds and confessions would champion theological distinctives that set us apart from other schools that also are committed to said creeds and confessions. In this article we’ll answer that criticism and others, first by laying out our theological distinctives. We’ll then show how these distinctives aren’t historical or theological novelties, but rather, are consistent with our confessional subscription. Then we’ll explain how our desire is not for theological distinction for distinction’s sake. We’ll finish by showing how Westminster’s distinct curriculum prepares our students for ministry.

Westminster’s Theological Distinctives

At Westminster, our commitment to theological distinctives stems from a deep-rooted understanding of our Reformed heritage and a desire to equip our students with a robust theological framework for ministry. These distinctives, while complementary to our confessional subscription, serve to sharpen our theological focus and enrich our educational experience.

Covenantal Apologetics:

We advocate for a robust defense of the Christian faith grounded in the covenantal relationship between God and humanity. Covenantal apologetics emphasizes the coherence and validity of truth claims within the framework of God's covenantal revelation, providing a solid foundation for engaging with unbelievers and defending the Christian worldview.

Biblical Counseling:

Our approach to counseling is deeply rooted in Scripture, recognizing the sufficiency and authority of God's Word in addressing the complexities of life and relationships. Biblical counseling seeks to apply the timeless principles of Scripture to contemporary issues, offering hope, healing, and transformation through Christ-centered counseling.

Redemptive Historical Hermeneutics:

We interpret Scripture through the lens of redemptive history, recognizing the unfolding drama of God's plan of salvation throughout the pages of Scripture. Redemptive historical hermeneutics highlights the unity of Scripture and the centrality of Christ in God's redemptive purposes, guiding our interpretation and application of biblical texts.

Biblico-Systematic Theology:

Our approach to systematic theology involves examining theological topics through the lens of rigorous exegesis. It emphasizes analyzing Scripture's original languages, historical contexts, and literary genres to derive theological principles directly from the biblical text, ensuring doctrinal formulations remain faithful to Scripture's authoritative message.

Church History/Historical Theology:

We study the history of the Christian church and the development of Christian theology with a view toward understanding our theological heritage and learning from both the insights and the mistakes of the past. Church history and historical theology provide valuable understanding of the life of the church, the struggles of faithful Christians throughout history, and the ongoing relevance of the Holy Spirit’s work amongst his people.

Christ-Centered Preaching:

Our approach to preaching is centered on the person and work of Jesus Christ, recognizing Him as the focal point of all Scripture and the ultimate fulfillment of God's redemptive purposes. Christ-centered preaching seeks to exalt Christ, proclaim the gospel, and call hearers to faith and obedience in light of His saving grace.

Harmony with Confessional Subscription

Our theological distinctives harmonize seamlessly with our confessional subscription to the Westminster Standards. These distinctives are not extraneous appendages but rather integral expressions of the timeless truths encapsulated in our confessional heritage. Our commitment to covenantal apologetics, biblical counseling, redemptive historical hermeneutics, biblico-systematic theology, church history/historical theology, and Christ-centered preaching finds solid ground within the foundational documents of the Reformed tradition. Each distinctive emerges organically from the theological soil cultivated by the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Westminster Larger Catechism, and the Westminster Shorter Catechism.

Far from deviating from tradition, our theological distinctives deepen and enrich our understanding and application of the Westminster Standards. By embracing these distinctives, we affirm our commitment to the historic Reformed faith while also demonstrating its relevance and vitality. Our theological distinctives are not innovations, but faithful expressions of the enduring truths enshrined in our confessional documents, guiding our academic endeavors and shaping our mission as a seminary dedicated to equipping men and women for faithful service in the church and the world.

The Purpose of Theological Distinction

Our pursuit of theological distinction is driven not by a desire for mere uniqueness but by a deeper commitment to theological clarity, doctrinal integrity, and academic excellence. Our distinctives serve as guiding principles that inform every aspect of our educational mission, from curriculum design to faculty hiring practices.

By maintaining distinct theological emphases, we ensure that our students receive a comprehensive theological education that is rooted in the historic Reformed tradition and grounded in Scripture. These distinctives provide a framework for theological inquiry, enabling students to engage critically with theological ideas and traditions while remaining firmly anchored in the truth of God’s Word. Moreover, our theological distinctives serve to cultivate a vibrant intellectual community characterized by robust theological dialogue and rigorous academic inquiry. By fostering an environment where theological distinctiveness is celebrated rather than stifled, we encourage students to wrestle with challenging theological questions and to develop a deeper understanding of their own theological convictions. Thus, Westminster, though deeply traditional, is on the cutting edge of theological discourse.

Ultimately, the purpose of theological distinction at Westminster is to continue unfolding the truth of God, learning more and more of what he has revealed of himself. By providing students with a solid theological foundation and a clear sense of theological identity, we prepare them to serve faithfully and fruitfully in a variety of vocational contexts, whether in pastoral ministry, missions, academia, or the workplace.

In this way, theological distinction at Westminster is not an end in itself but a means to a greater end– namely, the equipping of men and women for faithful service to Christ and his kingdom. It is our prayer that,  through our distinctives, our students will be better equipped to proclaim the gospel, make disciples, and advance the cause of Christ in the world. Ultimately, because we wholeheartedly believe these distinctives to be true, we long for the day when Westminster is no longer theologically distinct… because all of God’s people believe them as well.

The Impact on Ministry Preparation

The distinctive curriculum at Westminster is designed to cultivate theological depth, spiritual maturity, and practical competence in our students. Through rigorous academic training, experiential learning opportunities, and pastoral mentorship, we prepare graduates who are well-equipped to serve faithfully and fruitfully in various ministry contexts. Our alumni's impact bears witness to the effectiveness of our distinctive approach, as they contribute to church ministry, global mission endeavors, and cultural engagement worldwide.

Conclusion

Westminster's embrace of our theological distinctives reflects our unwavering commitment to the Reformed tradition and the Westminster Standards. These distinctives, far from being arbitrary, serve as pillars of strength and sources of blessing in our educational journey. As we navigate the ever-changing landscape of theological education and ministry, may we continue to uphold these distinctives with humility, conviction, and gratitude, trusting in the faithfulness of God who has called us to this sacred task.

If you would like to hear more about these theological distinctives or would like to apply for a program with us, please feel free to reach out to an admissions counselor. Our Office of Admissions stands ready to assist you.

Seminary at Any Age

March 27, 2024

At Westminster, the foundations of theological education remain steadfast, yet the means of accessing them have undergone significant transformation in the context of a rapidly changing world. We recognize the enduring importance of robust, confessional theological content while embracing new ways to make this accessible to learners across diverse life stages.

Gone are the days when seminary education was almost exclusively pursued by young adults preparing for ministry within structured academic settings. Contemporary society often requires a more flexible approach to higher education, and accommodating people at various points in their personal and professional lives has become more and more important.

In this article, we'll take a closer look at how we have adapted to meet the needs of students in a changing world while continuing to champion the timeless essence of Westminster’s theological distinctives. We'll explore the enduring significance of our theological content, coupled with the flexibility of modern learning methods. From traditional classroom settings to innovative online platforms, we're committed to providing a comprehensive educational experience for students at every stage of life. We’ll cover seminary for young adults and recent college graduates, continuing education for professionals and church leaders, and education for retirees and second-career seekers.

Seminary for Young Adults and Recent College Graduates

Westminster offers an educational environment tailored to the needs of young adults stepping into theological studies. Our programs provide a solid foundation in biblical studies, systematic theology, apologetics, biblical counseling, church history, and pastoral theology. Students are equipped to navigate the complexities of faith in the tumultuous world of today. These young adults are empowered to deepen their understanding of Scripture, cultivate critical thinking skills, and discern their vocational callings in preparation for a lifetime of Christian ministry.

Theological education for young adults isn't just about preparing for future ministry—it's about fostering spiritual growth, theological literacy, and biblical knowledge in the here and now. At Westminster, students have the chance to wrestle with challenging theological concepts, engage in meaningful discussions with peers and professors, and explore how their faith intersects with various aspects of life. Whether they're pursuing careers in ministry or simply seeking to enhance their knowledge of the Lord, students discover a vibrant community and a wealth of resources to guide them through their educational endeavors, all in preparation for lifelong ministry.

Continuing Education for Professionals and Church Leaders

There is an ongoing need for professional development and growth among pastors, church leaders, and ministry practitioners. Pastors enduring decades of ongoing ministry benefit from continual and intentional spiritual refreshment and renewed training. That is why pastors ought to be continuing to sharpen and hone their theological knowledge while still in ministry to ensure that they are able to serve their flock well. We have a number of  programs that offer tailored opportunities for individuals already engaged in ministry to deepen their theological understanding, refine their leadership skills, and stay current with emerging trends and challenges in the field.

For lay church leaders who are wanting to strengthen their ministry in the church, or for pastors who already have a non-Westminster MDiv, the MATS and the Theological Studies Certificates are good options that offer a survey of theological topics. For the pastor who wants to expand upon his MDiv education with a greater degree of training, the DMin is perfect and offers rich fellowship opportunities as well as you’ll study alongside other seasoned pastors as well.

Ultimately, at Westminster, we believe that education should be a lifelong pursuit, and we are committed to supporting ministry leaders and non-ministry professionals in their ongoing journey of growth and development. By equipping them with the tools, resources, and community support they need, we empower them to thrive in their ministry contexts and make a lasting impact on the lives of those they serve.

Seminary for Retirees and Second-Career Seekers

Retirement doesn't have to mean the end of learning—it can be the beginning of a new chapter of theological education. At WTS, we welcome retirees and second-career seekers who are eager to engage in theological study and find renewed purpose in their later years.

For many retirees, theological education offers a unique opportunity to delve deeper into matters of faith and spirituality that may have been sidelined during the working years. Our programs provide a supportive and intellectually stimulating environment where individuals can explore theological concepts, engage in meaningful discussions, and connect with like-minded peers who share their passion for lifelong learning.

Similarly, for those embarking on a second career or transitioning into a new phase of life, theological education can offer a valuable foundation for personal and professional growth. Westminster offers flexible programs and resources to accommodate diverse needs and aspirations, whether individuals are considering ministry as a second vocation or simply seeking to deepen their understanding of religious principles.

Westminster celebrates the wealth of knowledge and experience retirees and second-career seekers bring to the table, embracing and affirming their continued contributions to the ongoing dialogue within theological education. Hear from Dr. Cobo on how the MATS blessed him after retiring from his career as a thoracic trauma surgeon.


Conclusion

The importance of theological education remains steadfast in a world marked by constant change and varied life stages. WTS has demonstrated its commitment to providing time-tested and proven Reformed theological education through accessible and transformative learning experiences for individuals at every stage of life. Our programs cater to a wide range of needs and aspirations, From young adults and new college graduates laying the foundation for their future time in ministry, to working professionals and church leaders seeking ongoing growth and development, to retirees and second-career seekers finding renewed purpose in lifelong learning.

Through flexible scheduling options, varied theological offerings, and a supported learning environment, we empower students to deepen their understanding of Scripture, refine their leadership skills, and discern their vocational callings. By embracing tradition while embracing innovation, we've created a dynamic educational experience that equips learners to navigate the complexities of faith in today's world.

As we look to the future, we remain committed to fostering a community of lifelong learners who are passionate about engaging with theological knowledge and practice. Whether you're just starting your journey or seeking to continue your educational pursuits, we invite you to join us at Westminster. Reach out to our Admissions Counselors for more information!

Does Seminary Prepare for Ordination?

February 22, 2024

Seeking theological education is a vital and foundational step in the journey towards becoming an ordained pastor. Westminster Theological Seminary strongly emphasizes this pursuit, and offers a distinctive approach to ministerial preparation that blends rigorous theological study with robust practical training. As we delve into the question, "Does seminary prepare for ordination?" we will explore Westminster’s unique perspective on equipping future ministers for the challenges and responsibilities of ordained ministry. In this article, we aim to outline Westminster’s position on ordination and our effectiveness in shaping individuals for the sacred vocation of ministry.

We will cover what ordination is, whether you need to be ordained for the ministry you plan to pursue, how Westminster prepares students for ordination, and whether or not Westminster, as an institution, ordains people.

What is Ordination?

Westminster believes ordination holds a profound significance rooted in the sovereignty of God and the authority of Scripture. Ordination is a solemn and sacred act where the church sets apart individuals for specific roles of leadership and service, according to the principles outlined in the Word of God.

Ordination emphasizes the priesthood of all believers as well as the calling of pastors to exercise ministerial functions within the context of the local church. Ordination does not bestow any inherent holiness or power. Instead, it is a recognition and affirmation of God's gifting and calling upon individuals for particular tasks within the body of Christ.

The reformed tradition emphasizes the principle of "good order" within the church, stemming from 1 Corinthians 14:40 (“all things should be done decently and in order”) where ordained ministers are authorized to preach the Word, administer the sacraments, and exercise oversight in accordance with the principles of biblical governance. Ordination reflects the accountability of ministers to both the church and the Word of God. This is intended to ensure faithful adherence to sound doctrine and the proper administration of the church.

In essence, ordination underscores the primacy of God's Word and the vital role of ordained ministers as servants of Christ and stewards of His gospel within the covenant community. It is a solemn affirmation of God's calling, the recognition of gifts, and a commitment to faithfully serve God's people in accordance with His revealed will.

Do I Need to be Ordained for Ministry?

This should raise the question, “Do I need to be ordained for the ministry role that I am seeking to pursue?” The answer to that question, of course, depends upon the type of ministry that you are seeking to enter. 

Pastoral Ministry

Pastoral ministry typically requires ordination, though some denominations and traditions forego that requirement. For more information on this topic, read this article [link the Should I go to seminary if I don’t need to be ordained article]. It’s safe to say that most pastoral positions will require some form of ordination in order to serve there.

Other Ministry Roles

Some Academic Faculty, Campus Ministers, and Missionaries

Other forms of full-time ministry may also require ordination. For instance, every full-time voting faculty member at Westminster is required to be ordained in a Reformed Presbyterian denomination. Additionally, in the OPC and the PCA, full-time missionaries are often required to be ordained. Another example is the official campus ministry of the PCA, Reformed University Fellowship, also requires their full-time campus ministers to be ordained.

However, that is not to say that every ministry position will require ordination.

Counseling, Lay Leadership, and Part-Time Ministry Positions

Many biblical counselors are not required to be ordained. Almost no lay leaders in the church will be required to be ordained and very few part-time ministry positions require it either. With that said, just because you may not be required to undergo ordination does not mean that you should neglect seminary. To understand why seminary is still a good choice for practically any form of ministry, read this article.

How Does Westminster Prepare Students for Ordination?

To answer the main question of this article: Yes, Westminster does prepare students for ordination. Westminster is dedicated to meticulously preparing students for ordination, ensuring they are thoroughly equipped to assume the responsibilities and privileges of ordained ministry.

Central to preparation for ordination at Westminster is a comprehensive theological education that delves deeply into the Scriptures, theology, and church history. Through rigorous study of biblical languages, systematic theology, and the distinctives of the Reformed tradition, students develop a robust theological framework that undergirds their ministry.

Westminster also places a particular emphasis on practical ministry training tailored specifically to the demands of ordained ministry. From homiletics and pastoral counseling, to leadership development and church administration, students engage in hands-on experiences that hone their skills and prepare them for the challenges of pastoral ministry.

On top of the academic and practical training, Westminster also provides invaluable mentorship and pastoral guidance to students as they navigate the path towards ordination. Through one-on-one mentorship relationships with experienced ministers and faculty members, students receive personalized support and encouragement as they discern their calling and prepare for the solemn responsibilities of ordained ministry.

Ultimately, Westminster’s holistic approach to theological education and practical ministry training ensures that students graduate fully equipped and prepared to faithfully serve as ordained ministers within the Reformed Presbyterian tradition and beyond.

Does Westminster Ordain People?

As stated above, ordination is a function and process of the church, not of the seminary. So, while Westmisnter students graduate with skills, knowledge, and abilities that uniquely situate them in a place to succeed in their ordination exams, as well as the day to day functions of ordained ministry, we as an institution are not endowed with any ecclesiastical ability to ordain. We have no formal connection to any specific denomination and our graduates serve in a wide array of denominations and theological traditions. That being said, we are a Reformed Presbyterian Seminary and those who attend Westminster from other traditions may need additional courses on their particular tradition in order to be considered for ordained ministry there.

Conclusion

Westminster graduates have gone on to serve as notable faculty, pastors, ministry leaders, missionaries, and scholars around the world. They tend to be very well set up for success in the ordination process of many denominations and traditions. We also prepare students for various ministry roles that don’t require ordination.

If you have any questions about the ordination process, the theology behind it, or whether you will need to be ordained, please reach out to one of our admissions counselors at admissions@wts.edu. They would love to talk through these issues with you. If you think that Westminster is a good fit for you and for the ministry that you are seeking to enter, we encourage you to apply now!

Should I Go to Seminary if I Don't Need to be Ordained?

February 22, 2024

One question that might come into consideration while thinking about attending seminary is whether it is worth the time and financial investment if ordination isn’t required in the context where you’ll be serving. Though there are a number of reasons why ordination might not be a firm requirement for some people in ministry, if you plan to serve in any full-time ministry position, the answer to the question “Should I go to seminary?” ought to be an emphatic “Yes!” At Westminster we believe that there is no arena of Christian ministry which would not benefit from Westminster’s training. For that reason, if even ordination is not required, seminary is a worthy investment.

In this article we’ll cover the different ministry contexts and professions in which ordination might not be required, and we’ll show how both situations will still benefit from a Westminster education. We’ll also talk about the different programs at Westminster and how they are uniquely suited for such ministry contexts.

Denominations That Don’t Require Seminary

There are a number of church denominations in which ordination is not a requirement for pastoral ministry, including many Baptist denominations and nondenominational churches. There are also a number of denominations in which there is no seminary requirement in order to be ordained. In such contexts, the temptation is sometimes to simply forgo seminary entirely in order to enter ministry quicker. However, entering the ministry without adequate preparation is something that should be avoided at all costs. A swift start to one’s ministry career is never worth the damage that an ill-equipped minister will inflict on their congregation.

The desire to simply enter ministry as quickly as possible is actually a reflection of a low view of the ministry. An illustration of this fact is that we tend to hold medical doctors to an incredibly high standard. They undergo a rigorous education process that lasts many years because the consequences of an ill-equipped doctor are devastating. When lives are at stake, a robust and rigorous education is non-negotiable. 

Likewise, to view pastoral ministry as something that we can enter without ample preparation is to say that the care of people’s souls is less important than the care of their physical bodies. When a doctor is ill-equipped, people’s lives and wellbeing are endangered. When a pastor is ill-equipped, people’s souls and eternal destinies are endangered. It is for this reason that, even when formal education isn’t technically required for a particular role, we still recommend undertaking a seminary education before entering formal ministry.

Pastors Already in Ministry

Some pastors who have found themselves in ministry without any formal education have come to understand the need for such education. If you are currently serving in ministry but want to enhance your training for this high calling, you may be interested in part-time seminary studies. Westminster’s online program offerings [link to that article] are uniquely suited to provide a formal theological education for just such situations. If you are a ministry professional looking for a comprehensive theological education, Westminster’s online MDiv is a great option for rigorous training, and is designed to be done part-time while continuing in your ministry role. If you already have a MDiv but are looking for a more robust education than the one you already received, our MATS and Certificates programs offer more concise, yet still robust, continuing education options.

Professions That Don’t Require Seminary

There are some ministry jobs that don’t require ordination. For example, most campus ministry, some missionary positions, christian counseling, and others often don’t require any formal education at all. While it is true that it may not be prudent to pursue a full MDiv for what may amount to a part-time ministry position, entering these types of roles without any theological training can also be less than ideal. Though a MDiv will certainly enhance a minister’s efficiency in these types of roles, Westminster also recognizes the need for theological education that is more realistically tailored for part-time and lay ministry roles. With that said, we’ll close by talking about the different programs that Westminster offers and how they are tailored for these different types of ministry contexts.

    

Different Programs for Different Contexts

The MDiv program [link to MDiv article] is designed to prepare pastors for all the rigors of full-time ministry work. Westminster’s MDiv Pastoral Fellows program is Westminster’s most academically and relationally rigorous program, intentionally designed to build the highest convictions, character, and competencies in the making of a pastor. The MDiv General Ministries is the most comprehensive course of study for men and women to become trained specialists in the Bible, combining robust, exegetical-theological studies and preparation of the heart to care for Christ’s church in a broad range of vocational callings.

The MAR program  is designed to prepare those whose aims are more towards the academic arena. It serves as a good stepping stone into further academic research, which also usually does not require any formal ordination process.

The MATS  is the perfect program for those who are seeking preparation for some part-time or lay ministry. It is designed for those who desire a deeper education but won’t be engaging in pastoral or other full-time ministry.

The MAC  is similar to the MATS but is more robust in its credit requirements, and is designed for those who would seek either full or part-time counseling ministry positions that often require no ordination process.

The TSC  is a graduate level theological certificate program that is built for those who would receive intense and robust theological education without necessarily committing to a full course of study in a graduate degree program. It is ideal for continuing education, or for those who lead Bible studies or other lay-level ministries in the church.

Conclusion

Theological education should be non-negotiable for anyone seeking pastoral ministry or other forms of full-time ministry. There is no such thing as a ministry that can’t benefit from theological education. With that in mind, we encourage anyone who is entering a field in which ordination is not required to pursue seminary, for the sake of those to whom you will be ministering, and for your own benefit.

If you have any other questions, please feel free to reach out to our admissions team at admissions@wts.edu or by calling 215-887-5511. Our admissions counselors are eager to connect with you and talk through these things with you. If you would like to pursue any of these degree options we would encourage you to apply now!

Should Biblical Counselors Be Licensed?

April 11, 2024

A common concern of those who pursue a Master of Arts in Counseling at Westminster is whether or not the degree program will prepare them for state licensure. We covered this question somewhat in another article, but it’s also important to examine the purpose of licensure and how this may impact your counseling practice. To address this topic we will cover the benefits as well as the challenges of licensure, and provide two perspectives from those with first-hand experiences operating as licensed and unlicensed counselors.

The Purpose of Licensure

The purpose of licensure, even stemming from secular state boards, is to establish training standards and ethical guidelines, to ensure professional competence, protect the public, and so on. These are good aims, but good intentions don’t necessarily mean good effects. The problem lies with secular governing authorities determining what constitutes adherence to these standards. Protecting the public is good until the public is being “protected” from biblical sexual ethics and orthodox theology.

This is not to say that there are no benefits of state licensure. It is, however, to say that any benefits of state licensure should be very carefully weighed against the drawbacks. 

Benefits of Licensure

The one benefit that most point to is that licensure grants a sense of legitimacy and trustworthiness to counselees who might be wary of seeing a counselor, and this can grant more missional opportunities, opening doors to counsel non-believers that would otherwise remain closed. In other words, a counselor must meet certain criteria to be considered “qualified” to practice. This requires significant investment to pursue formal training, which tends to weed out people with casual interest in helping others, guaranteeing that a licensed counselor will have met certain standards of training.

There are some additional benefits of licensure as well. Licensure can allow you to work in areas that would otherwise be inaccessible to non-licensed counselors. There are some Christians who are licensed counselors that work in mental health legislation, a clear blessing to the Biblical counseling movement. Additionally, licensure is almost essential for counselors who would work with children or in schools. 

In this way, licensure itself is not the problem. For instance, various denominational requirements of pastors, missionaries, and ministers are themselves forms of licensure. It is the strings that are attached to licensure that are often the problem.

Challenges of Licensure

Interestingly, there has been some movement in state licensing bodies towards a greater reception of Christian thought and expression. Seemingly paradoxically, as the state becomes more and more secular, they tend to view Christianity as just another worldview alongside Buddhism, Feminism, Islam, New Age thinkers, and other worldviews. In fact, the American psychological and psychiatric associations have recognized religion and spirituality as having legitimate use in counseling contexts. However, Though the importance of religion is recognized by state licensing bodies, they are still very much against any form of counseling that seeks to confront the live wires of sin and sexuality, labeling such efforts as “gay conversion therapy.” Opposition to the state increasingly carries tangible consequences that could even put some counselors out of business. For example, in 2022, the Biblical counseling center at Faith Church in West Lafayette, Indiana was targeted with legislation that would prohibit “any practices or treatments that seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity, including efforts to change gender expressions or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings towards individuals of the same gender.” The penalty for violations in this situation would be $1,000 per day, even for unlicensed counselors. However, since this legislation targets both licensed and unlicensed counselors, it should be noted that forgoing licensure isn’t a cure-all for the problems of government overreach in the mental health world. 

Licensure often comes with strings of compliance attached. The result can be that, in an attempt to maintain licensed status, counselors slowly start to shy away from addressing certain topics from a biblical perspective. Over time, the reticence to confront those topics turns into a habitual reflection of the world and culture as counselors gradually opt for the worldview and secular sensibilities of the licensing bodies. This means that our counselees won’t be getting full and unashamed presentations of the Gospel in the counseling room. This is a huge problem that should be avoided at all costs.

Conclusion

Licensure is neither a source of unquestionable legitimacy nor a death knell for Biblical counseling. There are costs and benefits associated with it. If you feel as if you need to pursue licensure, know that you will need additional coursework outside of the MAC at WTS, and that you should pursue licensure with the utmost care. You can also check out our article on what you can do with an MAC to see examples of careers our graduates have pursued. If you have any questions about licensure, or the MAC program specifically, our admissions counselors will be happy to speak with you. You can reach them at admissions@wts.edu

Westminster's Accreditation Status

August 28, 2023

Many theological institutions have diverse views on accreditation. Some view accreditation as a bad thing and something to be avoided while others celebrate their accreditation. Westminster, being an accredited institution, falls into the latter category. In this article we will discuss the reasons why Westminster is accredited, who our accreditors are, the history of our accreditation status, and how you can learn more about the accreditation process.

Reason for Accreditation

Some theological institutions, fearing that accreditors will apply pressure in an attempt to shape their curriculum, avoid accreditation. Were it the case that accreditation would come with such strings attached, Westminster would be firmly opposed to the oversight of such a organization. Our institution and its entire history is built upon absolute fidelity to the Holy Scriptures and the Westminster Standards. Anything that would threaten that fidelity is a non-starter for us.

Thankfully, we have found that the concern of accreditors accomplishing a hostile takeover of a theological institution’s curriculum is not a valid one. No school is forced to be accredited and can operate well without this status. By choosing to be accredited by a body of our peers, we are consenting to be held to standards that we have helped shape. Our peers in turn help keep us accountable to our mission. Any school can claim that they are achieving great things, but the accountability provided by the accrediting bodies help us articulate in specific ways the outcomes of our programs and offerings to ensure that we are living up to our own expectations and spurring us on to excellence in our programs and operations. In short, accreditation is one way that helps us remain above reproach. 

History of Accreditation at WTS

Westminster has been accredited since 1954. Prior to that accreditation was not available to theological institutions. As soon as it was available, Westminster applied and underwent a rigorous examination process. The Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools (now Middle States Commission on Higher Education) took account of the pledges that the faculty took and reported that

“It can easily be seen that the underlying purposes of the Seminary are unequivocally expressed, clearly understood and fully accepted by all who have any administrative or instructional voice in the procedures which are inaugurated, and results in an educational pattern in which great emphasis is put upon exposition and exegesis; which is of the conviction that depth is of far greater importance than breadth; and which insists upon a profoundly scholarly approach to the understanding of the Scriptures. So insistent, indeed, is this demand for integrity of scholarship that the men of the Faculty impressed the members of the visiting committee as possessed of notable erudition, and even the students—less erudite as they may well be—seemed to be so filled with the awareness of the need of the scholarly approach as to give to each one of them the highest possible respect for all the best attributes of a genuine scholar.”

They also commented on the grading process at the institution saying, “There is, however, plenty of evidence that the grading at the Seminary is a bit on the severe side, revealing, in the judgment of the committee, the faculty's sincere and consistent expectation of and insistence on a genuinely scholarly approach.” This comment can be attested to by many students, even to this day. What should be made plain by these comments is that the accreditation process is concerned not with the content of the teaching, but with the scholarly excellence and with fidelity to the mission of the institution. That was the purpose in 1954 and it remains so today.

Our Accreditors

Westminster is accredited by two accrediting bodies: the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) and the Commission on Accrediting of the Association of Theological Schools (ATS). These two accrediting bodies approach accreditation in slightly different ways. MSCHE is what is considered an institutional accreditor, in that it considers our institution as a whole as it evaluates us. The membership of this accrediting body is varied, as there are fewer restrictions on the types of schools accredited. ATS, however, is a professional accreditor, which means that it only accredits schools who are involved with theological education.

MSCHE Statement of Accreditation Status:

Westminster is an accredited institution and a member of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). Westminster’s accreditation status is a non-compliance warning. The Commission’s most recent action on the institution’s accreditation status on June 22, 2023 was to warn the institution. MSCHE is an institutional accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). The Middle States Commission on Higher Education can be contacted at 1007 North Orange Street, 4th Floor, MB #166, Wilmington, DE 19801, telephone: (267) 284-5011, website: www.msche.org.

ATS Statement of Accreditation Status: 

Westminster Theological Seminary has been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation (COA) of The Association of Theological Schools since 1986. 

The school's accreditation was last reaffirmed in winter 2023, based on an institutional self-study report and an onsite evaluation visit by a committee of peer and public reviewers. The school’s current period of accreditation expires March 31, 2033. 

The school’s current status of Accredited in Good Standing means the school meets all applicable COA Standards of Accreditation. The school demonstrates educational quality and financial stability and provides evidence that its student learning outcomes are appropriate, rigorous, and being achieved. The school has no public sanctions (notation/warning, probation, or show cause). 

The school is approved to offer the following degree(s): MDiv, MA (Religion), MA (Theological Studies), MA in Counseling, ThM, DMin, PhD 

The Board has granted approval for the school to offer distance (online) education at the following level: Comprehensive (Half or More of a Degree) 

The school does not have approval for any additional location(s) to offer half or more of a degree.

The Commission on Accrediting of the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada can be contacted at 10 Summit Park Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15275, telephone: (412) 788-6505, fax: (412) 788-6510, website: www.ats.edu.

Conclusion

Accreditation is a celebrated process that Westminster engages in both voluntarily and enthusiastically. It provides a great deal of accountability and reassurance that we are striving towards academic excellence and living up to the very lofty standards that we have set for ourselves. It is not an obstacle to our biblical and theological fidelity but is rather a safeguard against any deviation from that fidelity. If you have any questions about the accreditation process, you can reach out to Middle States and ATS at the links provided above. Our Student Success team is also more than happy to answer any questions you might have.

Nuances of Biblical Counseling

September 7, 2023

As one of Westminster’s core distinctives, Biblical counseling is a non-negotiable element of our curriculum. The discipline of Biblical counseling is very nuanced and is often confused for other Christian counseling theories. With that in mind, this article will cover Westminster’s deep history as the root and origin of Biblical counseling, the distinction between Biblical counseling and Integrationist Christian counseling, the distinction between Biblical counseling and Nouthetic counseling, and licensure versus non-licensed counseling.

Origins of Biblical Counseling

Westminster has a rich history of biblical counseling dating back to some of our earliest years. Jay Adams has long been considered the founder of the Biblical counseling movement, with figures like Dave Powlison being the “second generation.” Both men were educated at Westminster, but there is an earlier generation of Biblical counselors who predated Adams.

Edward Heerema graduated from WTS in 1937 and applied the covenantal apologetic method he learned from Cornelius Van Til to the secular psychology of his time, serving as the Spiritual Advisor at the Christian Sanatorium in Midland Park, NJ. Likewise, William Hiemstra graduated from WTS in 1942 and served as Spiritual Advisor for the Christian Sanatorium in Wyckoff, NJ. Hiemstra gave an address to the alumni association in 1951 titled “The Reformed Faith and Mental Health.” Christian and pastoral counseling has always been an integral part of ministry, but Westminster has sought to ensure that counseling ministry be as aligned with the principles of confessional reformed theology as possible. From Heerema in 1937, to Adams and the founding of CCEF, to Powlison and the present day, the result has been the development of the discipline of Biblical counseling.

Biblical vs. Integrationist

Another form of Christian counseling that is often juxtaposed with Biblical counseling is called Integrationist Christian counseling. Integrationist counseling is named as such because it seeks to integrate the findings of secular psychology with Christian theology, employed in the process of counseling. Integrationist counseling is not accurately conceived of as a single counseling theory but rather a number of counseling theories that are then integrated with Christian theology like tools in a tool belt.

Integrationist counselors typically take issue with Biblical counselors as not fully taking into account the “whole person” insofar as they are not as dependent upon the findings of secular psychology and neuroscience in their counseling methodology. While the criticism is untrue insofar as Biblical counseling does, in fact, critically appreciate the findings of secular psychology as the fruit of common grace, more concerning is the latent admission within the critique that secular psychology has a greater understanding of the complexities of the human mind than the author of Scripture, the creator of the human mind.

The reality is that Scripture is the greatest tool for ministry of any kind. It is living and active, it pierces to the division of soul and spirit and is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Heb 4:12). It is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and training in righteousness. By it, the Christian can be equipped for every good work (1 Tim 3:16-17). That doesn’t mean that we ignore the common grace findings of secular psychology, but it does mean that Scripture is to be the highest authority in any form of Christian counseling.

Biblical vs. Nouthetic

Yet another distinction among Christian counseling methodologies is the distinction between Biblical counseling and Nouthetic counseling. The name of Nouthetic counseling comes from the Greek word “noutheteo” which means to confront or admonish. The term was coined by Jay Adams who used “Nouthetic” and “Biblical” counseling interchangeably. The coterminous nature of these terms carried into the next generation of Biblical counselors like Powlison and Welch, who sometimes referred to their counseling methodology as “Biblical-nouthetic counseling.”

However, over time there has been something of a diversion from one another. It’s not a hard and fast rule, but most Nouthetic counselors consider themselves Biblical counselors, while not all Biblical counselors consider themselves Nouthetic counselors. So what is the difference? Generally speaking, Biblical counselors (as opposed to Nouthetic counselors) focus more on understanding and hearing their counselees, and approaching them with a softer confrontation.

Nouthetic counselors tend to have a heavier emphasis on confrontation and try to arrive there sooner than later in the counseling relationship. The result is that Nouthetic counselors are more focused on the people they are counseling as sinners, and their responsibility for that sin. Biblical counselors attempt to understand those they are counseling as simultaneously perpetrators of sin and victims of sin, sinners and sufferers.

Licensure vs. Non-Licensed Counseling

Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs) are mental health professionals that are licensed by the State. Different states have different requirements for licensure, most of which are not amenable to Christian counselors in general and Biblical counselors specifically. Most state licensure requirements are becoming increasingly hostile towards counselors who hold Biblical positions on marriage, homosexuality, abortion, and other topics.

However, that does not mean that employment opportunities are limited for Biblical counselors. Biblical counselors often work for Christian counseling centers, crisis pregnancy centers, adoption agencies, as well as at churches, and in campus ministry. Additionally, Biblical counseling is a vital aspect of any faithful pastoral ministry.

Conclusion

Biblical counseling is an integral part of the education you will receive at Westminster, and has been a vital focal point in our training programs since the earliest days of our seminary. If you have questions about our approach to Biblical counseling, our theological distinctives, or enrolling in a program at Westminster, you can connect with one of our Admissions counselors here and they would be happy to assist you.

Should I Go to Seminary?

August 25, 2023

The decision on which seminary to attend is an important one, but a deeper question that is often overlooked when weighing different seminaries is the question of whether you should even go to seminary in the first place. This is often taken for granted. The thought process is usually something like “I’m looking for seminaries– obviously I want to go to seminary.” However, jumping straight into the search for the right fit without deeply considering your motivation is to put the cart before the horse. 

In this article we’ll provide some guidance as to how to investigate and weigh those motivations by looking at the internal and external calls to ministry. We’ll also examine whether your season of life is conducive to undergoing seminary education, and whether seminary is necessary for your goals. Finally, we’ll cover which seminary degree program you should choose in light of those goals.

Internal Call

The internal call to ministry is a personal desire to serve God in some form of ministry along with the sense that God has placed this desire in your heart and chosen you for that task. The internal call is, in that sense, subjective because it is only felt by the individual. This internal call is referred to in 1 Timothy 3:1 as an aspiration, a desire, a goal after which to strive. However, this text also tells us that the internal call is not enough for someone to enter into ministry. There are other requirements. Verses 2-7 lay out the nature of those requirements. Thus, there needs to be some process of validating the internal call, ensuring that the candidate for ministry fulfills the requirements and has the necessary qualifications.

External Call

The general idea of “calling” is understood by the broader secular world to be a sense of purpose or a life defining ambition. “My calling in life is to…” fill in the blank. The problem is that there is no real secular mechanism for confirming this sense of calling. It is entirely subjective, defined only by the individual who experiences this alleged “calling.” This is where the biblical sense of calling is different from the world’s understanding of the word. Those who have the internal call as described above need to have that internal call authorized and confirmed by an external call before they can be fully called into the ministry. 

Typically, the internal call is confirmed by a pastor who recognizes the desire to enter the ministry and can confirm that the person called is not living in some kind of disqualifying sin. This step of the process requires you to be a member in good standing with your church, sitting under their guidance. You would then undergo theological/pastoral training usually while under the care of a presbytery, classis, or church. Once under care, you would then undergo a formal licensure and ordination process to confirm that you are theologically and spiritually sound enough to enter the pastoral ministry. Finally, the external call is completed when you are formally called by a congregation to serve as their pastor. This process is specifically for men who are seeking ordained full-time ministry and may look different for different denominations.

Season of Life

As we saw in the description of the external call above, theological education is one important step in the process toward the external call. It is a step that many denominations, and that we at Westminster, believe is essential. However, undertaking a seminary education is difficult and there are some prerequisites involved. At Westminster we see students from all different walks of life in all different seasons of life, so don’t think that everything needs to line up perfectly for you in order to attend Westminster. With that said, the most obvious “season of life” obstacle to attending seminary is that Westminster (and practically all seminaries) are graduate schools that require a previous bachelor’s degree. If you are in a season of life in which you have not yet completed a bachelor’s degree, you will need to do that before applying to study at Westminster.

Is Seminary Necessary?

Now that you have a framework in place by which you can think through your particular call to ministry, you can ask the question, “Is seminary necessary for the accomplishment of the goals to which I am called?” As mentioned above, the full process of authorizing and confirming an internal call leading up to an external call is required only for full-time ordained pastoral ministry. If your internal sense of calling is toward some part-time or otherwise non-pastoral ministry, you may not need a full MDiv level seminary education for that. So think carefully about what it is that you are wanting to achieve before applying for seminary and make sure that seminary is the right decision for you. With that being said, there is practically no area of ministry that would not benefit from a seminary education.

Which Degree Should I Choose?

If you have come this far and are confident in your internal calling to ministry, the next step in the process is to determine which degree program will best prepare you for your particular calling. If you desire full time ordained pastoral ministry, you will need to enroll in Westminster’s MDiv program, either the MDiv General or the MDiv Pastoral Fellows. If you feel called to more academic pursuits, you can either choose the MDiv General, or the MAR (for a more streamlined, slightly shorter program duration). If you want to serve the church in a deaconal, part-time, or lay leader capacity, the MATS would be a great choice to build a sound theological foundation. Finally, if you feel called to a counseling ministry, the MAC is specifically designed to equip you with the tools for biblical counseling.

Conclusion

The decision to enroll at Westminster is a big one with far-reaching implications. It is a decision that will change your life significantly, and should not be taken lightly. If you feel the internal call to ministry and are confident that such a life is what God has in store for you, seminary is a non-negotiable necessity for many vocational roles. It will prepare you for the process of confirming that internal call with an external call. If this is what you seek, please feel free to reach out to our admissions counselors or apply online.

Preparing For Seminary

August 25, 2023

“What should I be doing to get ready for seminary?” This question has probably crossed your mind, and it’s an important one to consider in order to adequately prepare for the challenges ahead. In this article, we'll provide you with a few tips which will help reduce the stress of the unknown.

Spend Time With God

This might feel like an obvious suggestion. Indeed, everyone should be spending time in prayer and in God’s Word. But developing this spiritual discipline is even more important if you are planning on attending seminary. Your time in seminary will consist of years of intense Bible study, so developing general biblical literacy in advance of your classes will aid your studies greatly. Become familiar with the whole Bible and the way that the story of redemption progresses from Genesis to Revelation. 

Prayer goes hand in hand with studying Scripture. As you read, ask the Lord to continue to grow your love for His Word. Seminary is not just gaining theological knowledge, or undergoing an intense period of absorbing information. Seminary is meant to grow your relationship with the Lord as well. In fact, at Westminster, we believe that true knowledge of God is necessarily going to have an effect on your worship in all aspects of life. You cannot truly know God and not worship him. So as you dive into the Word, take some time to pause and pray through what you are reading. Ask the Lord, by the Spirit, to apply the words of the Scriptures to your heart in a way that conforms you into the image of Christ.

Seminary will be a very busy time in your life, so being in the habit of reading Scripture and praying will be a lifeline for when you are in the thick of a semester and looking for time in your schedule to devote to the Lord.

Get Clear on Your Reasons for Attending

This might seem like taking a step backwards since you have already decided to attend seminary. However, it’s a good idea to understand the reasons why you are attending seminary before you start your journey in earnest. The main reason for this is because of the difficulty of the period you’re about to enter. If you are only enrolling to go through the motions and you aren’t really sure why you are here, the likelihood that you make it all the way through the program drops significantly. You will need a clear motivation to draw from if you want to endure.

So ask yourself, “Why am I going to seminary?” Is it so that you can be trained for ministry? Are you planning on pursuing post-graduate education? Do you desire to be equipped as a teacher? Take the time before beginning classes to clarify your answers to these questions. Prayer and reflection on the presence of an internal calling you may have received are vital to discerning your intentions. 

Talking with your mentors, whether a professor, spouse, friend, or parent, is also a great way to process. According to research done by Lifeway, 71% of pastors strongly agree that seminary has provided a lasting value to their ministry. So ask your pastor about his seminary experience and the ways that it informs and influences his ministry. Conversations like these may serve as strong guideposts for you as you prepare for your seminary journey ahead.

Dig Into Required Reading

This is hopefully starting to sound like a theme, but, when getting a head start on your reading for seminary you should start with the Bible. The Scriptures are the foundation of everything that we do at Westminster so familiarity with them will greatly help you as you complete your courses. Since seminary is a very difficult and busy time for students, getting a head start on the required reading is a great idea.

Beyond this, we have an article that suggests books to read before seminary, including some key works for each of the main disciplines in our curriculum. You can also connect with a customer service representative at the Westminster Bookstore for a personalized recommendation, as many of their staff are graduates of seminary themselves.

 

Get Active in Your Local Church

Indispensable to your preparation for seminary is participation in the local church. The Lord has told us in his Word to not forsake fellowshipping together, so it ought to be a priority for you to connect with your local congregation. Oftentimes, the most dangerous people are seminary students who are unmoored from the local church. All theology should be practiced in concert with the local church. There should be no such thing as a rogue theologian. So, as you are preparing for your theological studies, make sure that you are regularly sitting under faithful preaching of the Word, taking the sacraments, and worshiping with a community of believers.

The local church will also be a great platform from which you will be able to implement what you are learning in seminary. The relationships you develop there will provide you with plenty of opportunities to take what you are learning in the classroom and immediately apply it in everyday life.

Prepare for Ministry at Westminster Theological Seminary

There is nothing that you can do that will make seminary easy. However, if you spend time in the Word and in prayer, discern your purpose for attending, get a head start on your reading, and foster relationships in your local church, you will be well poised for the transition and for enduring your studies.

If you have any questions about these tips or guidance that is more specific to your situation, our admissions counselors would love to help you.

What Should I Read Before Seminary?

August 25, 2023

Many incoming students ask what they can do to prepare themselves for their time at seminary, and specifically what they should be reading before they attend Westminster. Knowing that attending seminary is a difficult endeavor, this is a prudent mindset to have.

My name is Brandon Smith, and I’m a Westminster MDiv alumnus who can speak from experience. With that in mind, I’ve assembled a suggested reading list in the disciplines of biblical studies, systematic theology, apologetics, church history, pastoral theology, and biblical counseling.

The Bible 

The most obvious thing that you should be reading before attending seminary is the Bible. “Read your Bible” may seem like a cliche panacea, but having a solid familiarity with Scripture is the best thing that will prepare you for a seminary education. The Scriptures are the foundation of everything that we do at Westminster. Herman Bavinck famously stated that “Mystery is the lifeblood of dogmatics.” Well, Scripture is the lifeblood of Westminster. So, being attuned with your Bible will make life as a Westminster student much easier. As far as translations go, The ESV and the NASB are great.

Biblical Studies

One of the most important works to read in preparation for a Westminster education is Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments by Gerhardus Vos. When I first started attending Westminster an older student saw that I had a copy of this book and told me something to the effect of, “Vos is like cheat codes for Westminster. Read and understand him and you’re guaranteed to get at least a C in every class.” That may not be entirely true, but it is hard to overstate just how informative this book is to the overall theological methodology at Westminster.

Another great book that is specifically focused on the Old Testament is Kingdom Prologue: Genesis Foundations for a Covenantal Worldview by Meredith Kline. Kline’s idiosyncratic writing style will become very familiar to you during your time at Westminster so it will serve you well to become acquainted with it ahead of time. If you read this book as well as Kline’s Images of the Spirit you will also have the added benefit of understanding many WTS inside jokes about his liberal usage of hyphenations.

For New Testament books, Paul: An Outline of His Theology by Herman Ridderbos and Pauline Eschatology by Gerhard’s Vos will be very informative and will give you a solid familiarity with the standard approach to the New Testament that you will see in your NT courses at Westminster. For an even more in depth work on the biblical theology of the New Testament you can check out G.K. Beale’s A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New. This book is a pretty massive tome, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t finish it before you start seminary.

Systematic Theology

The core of your Systematic Theology reading at Westminster is going to be made up of The Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin, Reformed Dogmatics by Herman Bavinck, and Institutes of Elenctic Theology by Francis Turretin. These are works that you almost definitely will be reading in seminary so it is to your advantage to get a head start if possible. They will be works that you will be revisiting in your ministry long after you have graduated and are well worth the investment, so they are worth the price tag.

Additionally, the Collected Writings of John Murray will also be very helpful. If you would prefer a single volume work that will give you some exposure to Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied would meet that need. Finally, An Introduction to Systematic Theology by Cornelius Van Til is also a book that will be helpful for Systematic Theology and as the groundwork for understanding Van Til’s apologetic methodology.

Apologetics

When it comes to apologetics at Westminster, the best book to read ahead of time is Covenantal Apologetics by K. Scott Oliphint. This book was written by Dr. Oliphint to take the apologetic method of Van Til and present it in an easily digestible and accessible way.

Dr. Oliphint’s work will get you acquainted with Van Til, but you will have to turn to the source eventually, so getting acquainted with Van Til first hand will be important, too. I’d recommend starting with Christian Apologetics by Cornelius Van Til and then moving to the more robust and difficult work Defense of the Faith, also by Van Til. Another great resource to become acquainted with Van Til would be Van Til’s Apologetic by Greg Bahnsen. This work contains long sections of Van Til’s work with explanatory sections by Bahnsen.

Church History

Starting with the ancient church, Henry Chadwick’s book The Early Church is a go-to text for that period of church history and is a fascinating read that does a great job of distilling hundreds of years of church history into an engaging and enriching read.

The Christian Tradition 1: The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition 100-600 by Jarislov Pelikan covers roughly the same time period of church history. When I took Westminster’s Ancient Church course, reading this book was described by the professor as “a bit like chewing gravel” because the writing style is pretty opaque. However, the content of the book is well worth the effort of reading it.

Moving further along in church history, The European Reformations by Carter Lindburg is a great book that covers the distinctions between the various reformation movements in Europe. In that regard, the pluralization in the title is not a typo. 

Moving past the reformation, Richard Muller’s Post Reformation Reformed Dogmatics is a huge multi-volume work on the period of the reformation from 1520 on to 1725. This is another 4 volume set, so it will be a bit expensive. However, this is another work that will serve as a resource for your future ministry for years to come.

Pastoral Theology

Called to the Ministry is a book that will definitely benefit you in the time leading up to seminary in that it will help you discern your particular call to ministry and give you an idea of what the call to ministry that you are entering into entails. Two other books by Clowney that will serve you well are Preaching and Biblical Theology and Preaching Christ in All of Scripture. Additionally, Herman Bavinck on Preaching and Preachers is a classic but recently translated work that will be a great help to you. Another classic work is Preaching and Preachers by Martin Lloyd Jones.

Biblical Counseling

You might think that if you aren’t planning on becoming a counselor, that counseling isn’t something that you need to worry about learning. Well, think again, because counseling is a vitally important part of practically every form of ministry. For that reason, biblical counseling is non-negotiable at Westminster. With that in mind, The Biblical Counseling Movement: History and Context by David Powlison will give you a great historical account of the development of Biblical counseling and give you a good understanding of the principles of biblical counseling in the process. How People Change by Tim Lane also helps readers build a basic understanding of biblical counseling. And if you want to go a bit deeper into the principles and practice of biblical counseling, Seeing With New Eyes, also by Powlison, is a great resource.

Conclusion

It’s a running joke that while welcoming new students during orientation at Westminster we say “Welcome to Westminster, you’re already two weeks behind.” So, do yourself a favor and read some of these works and maybe you’ll only be one week behind. 

Now, some words of encouragement in case you feel overwhelmed: don’t worry too much about reading every single book on this list. Most students come to Westminster having read none of the books on this list. So any reading that you do from this list will give you a leg up. 

If you have any questions about the books on this list or want more books that would be helpful, our admissions staff are more than willing to help. Get in touch with them here, or speak with a staff member at the Westminster Bookstore (most of whom are seminary trained as well).

Why Women Should Pursue a MDiv

March 11, 2024

If you’re a woman, you might be wondering, “Can I enroll in the MDiv, too?” Well, yes, you can! As a woman, you are free to participate in all that the MDiv General Studies track has to offer, which we will discuss a bit further (the only degree program that is not available for women at Westminster is the MDiv Pastoral Fellows track). We’ll cover the value of a Westminster MDiv from a female perspective, popular career paths for women after the MDiv, as well as other benefits of the program for women. 


The Value of a MDiv Degree for Women

The most invaluable benefit of Westminster’s Master of Divinity is that it will impart to you a level of biblical literacy that is unrivaled by its competitors. The church is in desperate need of women who are well versed in the Word of God and able to apply it in the context of their family, their church, and all they meet. While the MDiv is traditionally intended for men who are preparing for ordained pastoral ministry, it is designed to make students into biblical specialists and equally beneficial for those who seek personal edification or training for other applications.

The idea that such in-depth theological education is only reserved for men (and more specifically, men preparing to be pastors) is gravely mistaken. Truly, there is never an occasion in which having too much theological education is possible, and there is no such thing as knowing the Bible too well. 

The Lasting Impact of Godly Women

There is a rich tradition of mothers throughout church history who prepared the way for the extensive theological impact of their sons. And behind some of the greatest theological minds are godly mothers who planted the seeds of faith in their children, virtuous and encouraging wives who navigated life’s challenges alongside their husbands, and female friends and sisters who stood as Christlike examples. Without such women, Westminster Seminary may never have existed, not to mention the countless other organizations focused on bringing the Gospel forth in a dark world that have been impacted, started, or aided by godly women. 

J. Gresham Machen, our founder, speaks about an occasion in which his mother was instrumental in his theological development and the preservation of his faith. 

“My mother spoke to me in those dark hours when the lamp burned dim, when I thought that faith was gone and shipwreck had been made of my soul. ‘Christ,’ she used to say, ‘keeps firmer hold on us than we keep on him.’ My mother’s word meant...that salvation by faith does not mean that we are saved because we keep ourselves at every moment in an ideally perfect attitude of confidence in Christ. No, we are saved because having once been united to Christ by faith, we are his forever.” 

This impartation of biblical truth and godly influence is a tradition that stems far into history before that of Machen and his mother. In fact, it is also true of Augustine of Hippo. His mother, Monica, raised her son in the faith. When he abandoned the faith for Manichaeism, a form of dualistic paganism, she prayed consistently that he would return to the faith of his youth, the faith that she had raised him in. Ultimately, her prayers were answered and Augustine returned to Christian faith and became one of the great theologians of all of Church history. On his mother’s grave stone the following words were recorded. 

“Here the most virtuous mother of a young man set her ashes, a second light to your merits, Augustine. As a priest, serving the heavenly laws of peace, you taught the people entrusted to you with your character. A glory greater than the praise of your accomplishments crowns you both – Mother of the Virtues, more fortunate because of her offspring.” 

A Vital Influence on the Church

Though the value of a biblically faithful motherhood cannot be overstated, there is also a clear biblical impetus for receiving rich training and being able to faithfully instruct those in one’s sphere of influence generally. Paul, in Titus 2:3-5, lays out this concept in exhorting older women to instruct younger women in the faith. He encourages them to teach the young women to love their husbands and their children, to be sensible, pure, kind, and otherwise model what it means to be Christian so that the Word is not maligned.

The church is desperate for biblically informed mothers, Sunday school teachers, Bible study leaders, counselors, wives, and friends with knowledge, advice, and discernment that can only come from knowing God’s Word thoroughly. Proper training in how to interpret and apply the Word of God is thus vital to the call of every Christian, and women bear a particular role in reaching others with this truth. Westminster’s MDiv will thus prepare you to meet these needs and have a greater impact on your family and community for the faith than would have otherwise been possible without formal training. 

Popular Career Paths for Women With a Westminster MDiv

The value we discussed above can be translated into a litany of practical career paths. 

Teacher

A Westminster MDiv is a great way to bolster your training for a career in education. Though teaching in secular public schools would require further education leading to a teaching certificate/license, most private Christian schools do not require government certification. This means that a Westminster MDiv would more than qualify you to teach at a Christian elementary or high school.

Professor/Academic Authority

Some female students seek out the MDiv because it is the most robust of our graduate degree programs, and, as such, is well suited for students who desire to continue their studies to the postgraduate level. The MDiv prepares students very well for the rigor of advanced degree programs like the ThM and the PhD, either here at Westminster or at other institutions of theological education. If you are a woman who desires a future in theological academia, the MDiv is a great way to get an academically rigorous and confessionally reformed education en route to a PhD. This would be a necessary step for women who desire a career in theological higher education either as a professor or independent academic researcher. 

Missionary

While the role of pastor is reserved for men, there is certainly still room for women in the gospel ministry of foreign missions. Westminster’s comprehensive theological curriculum will be a significant asset for any women who desire to promote the gospel in a global context. 

Author/Writer

Yet another application is that of an author or professional writer. There is a need for theological writing from the female perspective, and with a MDiv you will be able to bring robust reformed theological content to a broader audience. This might come in the form of blogging, either for an organization or for personal use, in writing whole books, or contributing to theological research. 

Counselor

Another option available to female MDiv alumni is biblical counseling, either in a church based counselor role or in an independent biblical counseling center. All students in the Westminster MDiv receive training in biblical counseling as it is a non-negotiable theological distinctive of Westminster Theological Seminary. Though the MAC is a more focused course of study that specializes in biblical counseling, the MDiv will give you many of the skills needed to be a competent biblical counselor with a deep ability to mine Scripture thanks to additional areas of training, like the original biblical languages. Additionally, being in the MDiv General program will give you flexibility in electives to take several counseling classes that are not available in the male-only MDiv Pastoral Fellows track.

Campus Ministry

Campus ministry is another parachurch arena in which theologically educated women can make a great generational impact. College aged young women would greatly benefit from exposure to seasoned women who have been educated in the theological richness of the reformed tradition. 

Parachurch Ministry

Parachurch ministries also greatly benefit from women with a MDiv education. These range from adoption agencies like Compassion International, to local crisis pregnancy centers around the world, and many other organizations which require the ability to bring biblical truth to challenging circumstances and various niches.

Seminary Programs for Women at Westminster

The Westminster MDiv is ideal for women who want to be trained for service in the church and for the kingdom of God. It will equip you for several areas of Christian service as well as prepare you for a number of potential career options. One thing to remember is that, while the role of pastor is reserved for men, female MDiv alumni have all the same career options available to them as men outside that of ordained pastoral ministry.

If you want to learn more about the MDiv program as a whole you can find more details here. Additionally, our admissions team is ready to help you decide which program is the best fit for you. They are happy to answer your questions and even connect you with current female students who can give first hand input on their time at Westminster. Connect with our admissions team here.

Why Study the Biblical Languages?

August 25, 2023

To undertake the study of the original languages of Scripture is a matter of utmost importance. Indeed, developing a facility in the original languages skillfully positions one to be an adept exegete. At Westminster Theological Seminary, we understand this to be central to the study of theology as well as to our mission to train specialists in the Bible. The languages of Greek and Hebrew are central to virtually everything that we do in our principal master's programs. In this article we’ll consider the importance of Greek and Hebrew for exegesis. We will also offer insight into the Greek and Hebrew courses offered at Westminster, as well as the study of those languages as prerequisite and thus important for further coursework. Finally, we’ll cover the role of Biblical languages in ministry. 

 

Importance of Biblical Languages for Exegesis

It is certainly true that, due to the diligent work of faithful Bible translators, there is no shortage of accurate English Bible translations. However, during the translation process, several decisions about the grammar, syntax, and thus meaning of the text are made with each translated passage. These decisions are based upon the translator’s interpretation of that particular text. So, in that sense, every translation is also an interpretation.

This means that all exegesis that is done without reference to the original languages carries with it the unstated interpretations of its translators. Because of this, Westminster is resolute in its conviction that exegesis must be conducted with recourse to the original languages, for this will ensure that any deductions from Scripture are ultimately derived from the text of the Word of God itself.  

The original authors of the text of Scripture conveyed their Divinely-inspired ideas by using the grammar and vocabulary of Greek and Hebrew. This indicates that the linguistic structures of these ancient languages and the common terms used by their speakers ought to factor into the exegete’s consideration of the text. Indeed, these factors influence the way in which the Divinely-inspired authors made their precise theological points. The flow of their logic is not always easily discernable when translated into another language that doesn’t communicate ideas in the same way. Likewise, the original authors also used popular phrases and figures of speech that pervaded their culture or were appropriated from other texts of Scripture.

Take for instance if I were to use the phrase “I’m all ears.” Taken out of context and translated into another language, the connotation of this phrase would lose its meaning. In the context of English, however, this colloquialism means, “you have my attention” or “I am listening.” In the same way, in order to fully understand the meaning of such phrases, we need to read the text in context and in the language it was written. The only way to do this is to devote the time and energy to learn Greek and Hebrew.

 

Biblical Languages Courses at WTS

Students in the MDiv and MAR are required to pass 3 courses of Greek and 3 courses of Hebrew. Greek and Hebrew 1 typically focus on vocabulary and grammar, which is the structure of the language itself and how it operates. In Greek and Hebrew 2 you will delve deeper into grammar and begin to cover syntax, which is the way that words combine to make sentences and convey ideas. You will also begin translating short passages of Scripture while building your vocabulary. Greek and Hebrew 3 focus on exegetical method and discourse analysis. This is where you will learn to interpret the text, discern its logical flow, and discover and identify main points and supporting points. In these courses you will begin to develop the language and exegetical skills that you will rely on in all subsequent coursework at Westminster.

 

Biblical Languages as Prerequisites

At many seminaries, the original languages are offered as a mere requirement that you need to fulfill by the end of your education, if they are even required at all. At Westminster, Greek and Hebrew classes are required at the outset of the MDiv and MAR coursework because these languages are logical prerequisites for completing advanced theological, biblical, apologetic, and hermeneutical coursework. We don’t have any courses called “Greek Exegesis” or “Hebrew Exegesis” because every one of our New and Old Testament courses are Greek and Hebrew Exegesis courses. More than that, Greek and Hebrew are prerequisites for our systematic theology and apologetics classes as well because our method of theology is rooted in Scripture.

 

Biblical Languages in Ministry

The exegetical method that is taught at WTS is not meant to stay locked in an ivory tower of academia. When you graduate from Westminster, we hope that you will take the language skills that you’ve learned and employ them in your ministry, particularly as you prepare your sermons and minister to your flock. Using discourse analysis, you will be able to discern the main point of the text on which you are preaching. Once you’ve found the original author’s main point and their supporting points, it should become clear what the main and supporting points of your sermon should be. In this way, the original languages are indispensable for ministry.

Our Founder, J. Gresham Machen, highlighted the importance of the biblical languages for ministry this way…


“We may sometimes be tempted to wish that the Holy Spirit had given us the Word of God in a language better suited to our particular race, in a language that we could easily understand; but in his mysterious wisdom he gave it to us in Hebrew and in Greek. Hence, if we want to know the Scriptures, to the study of Greek and Hebrew we must go… If, then, the students of our seminary can read the Bible not merely in translations, but as it was given by the Holy Spirit to the church, then they are prepared to deal intelligently with the question what the Bible means.” 

 

Conclusion

The task of learning Greek and Hebrew is an arduous one. Indeed, it is not easy, but it is worth it. At Westminster the language skills you acquire will serve as a tool that you can deploy to more deeply access the truth of Scripture in a way that is otherwise impossible. We require the original languages because exegeting Scripture from a translation is like kissing your bride through the veil. If you want access to the Bible in its original languages and learn a sound exegetical method to interpret the original Greek and Hebrew text, we encourage you to apply to a master’s program now.

Westminster Curriculum

What is Christ Centered Preaching?

August 25, 2023

Christ should be central to all preaching exactly because he is central to all of Scripture (Rom 1:1–4; Gal 3:1–9; 1 Pet 1:10–12). A sermon’s doctrine, application, organization, and delivery must rest upon the proclamation and explication of “Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2). What a great calamity it would be if we crafted beautiful sermons, but remained “foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the Prophets have spoken” (Luke 24:25).

At Westminster, we strive in our preaching to begin “with Moses and all the Prophets” (Luke 24:27), interpreting all of Scripture in relation to our Lord’s life, death, resurrection, and ascension. This christocentric approach to preaching does not ignore linguistic features, historical backgrounds, or any other exegetically relevant information. Rather, this approach places that information within the context of the redemptive work of God in history, which climaxes in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Dig Deeper

What is Reformed Historical Theology?

August 25, 2023

Ministry is never done in a vacuum. Understanding where the church has been in the past is vital to understanding where it is in the present. Thus, every pastor, teacher, or counselor for the church must have knowledge of the heritage passed down from generation to generation. This is not to say that the creeds and confessions of men are as authoritative as Scripture. Yet it is short-sighted and against biblical wisdom to neglect the great advances and tragedies the church has experienced through the ages. Christ’s presence with his people, guiding them in truth, did not begin yesterday.

Since this is the case, a mere survey of church history will not suffice in training future church leaders. Our understanding of church history must be thorough. Idolizing those who came before us is not beneficial to training for pastoral ministry; we must highlight the strengths and weaknesses of our heritage. Prideful hindsight must also be challenged when studying church history—many sacrificed more than will ever be asked of us. It is through the faith and witness of our church fathers that we shall continue to follow the patterns of sound words and guard the good deposit handed to us.

Dig Deeper

What is Biblico-Systematic Theology?

August 25, 2023

In-depth study of systematic theology demands in-depth exegesis of Scripture. Systematic theology is not the study of abstract principles, it is the study of a Person revealed in his Word. Systematic theology is not a survey of historical theology. It is not the art of integrating the Bible with a philosophical paradigm. Even though systematic theology focuses on specific topics, the understanding of those topics must be rooted in the unfolding self-witness of Scripture. This topical presentation of the history of special revelation in its overall unity finds its binding center and consummation in the redemption purposed, accomplished, and applied by the triune God in Christ.

Subjects such as sin, salvation, and the Trinity must first be perceived in the light of Scripture, and secondarily in light of our creeds and confessions. Although biblical theology and systematic theology are distinct disciplines, they can never be separated, and thus they must mutually condition each other. The church progresses in systematic theology only when she is increasingly reformed according to Scripture.

Dig Deeper

What is Redemptive Historical Hermeneutics?

August 25, 2023


How do we interpret the account of David and Goliath? Is it only information about the history of Israel? Is it just a picture of how God was gracious to David? Is it merely meant to stir up bravery for the underdog in us all? No. It is first and foremost a historical demonstration of a shepherd-king who delivers a deathblow to a worldly champion threatening the people of God, a mortal wound promised in Genesis 3:15 and now blossoming in this picture of David. This story points to Christ—the true shepherd-king—who delivers the final deathblow to the prince of this world. It is Christ who disarms the rulers and authorities of this age (Col 2). It is Christ to whom David looked forward (Acts 2:31). And it is only by faith in Christ that David did these things (Heb 11:33). The account of David and Goliath bears witness to Jesus Christ.

The Bible does not gradually become a Christian document from the Old Testament to the New Testament. The Bible is not two different plans for two different peoples of God (i.e., Jews and Christians). The Bible is not a reimagined myth dreamed up around the life of Christ. Redemptive-historical hermeneutics recognizes that the Bible throughout is Christian Scripture. All of Scripture, whether it is in the Old or New Testament, not only points to but also reveals and applies Jesus Christ. Just as the full tree is present in the acorn, so also is the gospel present in the Old Testament in embryonic form. Without this assumption, our understanding of any text in any part of the canon will be, at root, a misunderstanding (2 Cor 2:14).

Dig Deeper




What is Biblical Counseling?

August 25, 2023


Scripture knows man better than man knows himself. The Word of God speaks to every form of human sin and suffering. It accurately reveals our true problem: guilt before a holy God. And it accurately reveals the only solution: faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. No secular theory crafted by man—whether by Freud, or Skinner, or Frankl, or anyone else—has the piercing, diagnostic insight of Jesus Christ. Christ and his Word alone can pierce the depths of the human psyche. No matter how simple or complex the situation, confidence that we truly move toward people with wisdom comes only when we move toward them with Scripture and the gospel.

Biblical counseling is not the application of a step-by-step formula aimed at behavior modification, or a positive reinforcement model hoping to boost self-esteem. Biblical counseling is the application of a Person to the details of someone’s life. It is based on a relationship aimed at heart modification, in humility and esteem toward God. This relationship offers true sanity—that which dwells in Christ alone. The following pages demonstrate our unique approach to counseling. 

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What is Covenantal Apologetics?

August 25, 2023


Apologetics is not the foundation for Scripture; Scripture is the foundation for apologetics. A true apologetic is one that is built upon a philosophy according to Christ, rather than human tradition. Any defense of the Christian faith that is built upon Aristotle, Plato, Descartes, Kant, or any other philosopher is not a Christian apologetic. The power to convict us of our sin and give true understanding resides in the gospel alone. Therefore, no matter how articulately unbelief is presented, thorough knowledge of God’s Word is the best preparation to demonstrate the deceitfulness of human wisdom.

Covenantal apologetics is not a formula that is merely rehearsed when someone questions the truth of God’s existence. A covenantal apologetic brings the manifold wisdom of God to the many ways people suppress the truth in unrighteousness. It seeks to display how our suppression of the truth always reveals itself in both our words and deeds. Covenantal apologetics presents true wisdom—which is rooted in Christ. The following pages demonstrate Westminster’s unique approach to apologetics. 

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Choosing the Right Degree Program

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




Cohorts

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.

Conclusion

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? 

What Can I Do With a Master of Arts in Counseling?

November 30, 2023

 The Westminster Master of Arts in Counseling program prepares students for a variety of personal and vocational ministry opportunities by building comprehensive instruction in Biblical counseling on a strong foundation of Reformed theology. This article will explain the abilities and benefits that are fostered by the MAC program, ministry opportunities one might pursue after this training, and the difference between Westminster’s MAC and the Master of Arts in Theological Studies (MATS) degrees.

 

Skills of MAC Graduates

As a student in the MAC you can expect to develop a foundational knowledge of Scripture and theology which is the solid ground upon which the principles of Biblical counseling is built. This model frames our counseling within the narrative and themes of Scripture, seeing the person holistically as saint, sufferer, and sinner; prayerfully offering challenge, redirection, and compassion in the midst of the growing instability of culture. The MAC not only explores the wisdom and beauty of Scripture, but helps you take account of psychological diagnosis and disorders with your mind set on the truth that Christ's authority is over all creation, not excluding the DSM-5. This will all serve to teach you the specific practice of applying God’s Word in counseling ministry. 

All of this depends upon the most central skill that is fostered in the MAC, namely, growing in your love for God, his people, his Word, and allowing his truth to shape Christ-like humility in you. These skills are, of course, applicable in every area of life, but will be especially useful in a vast number of ministry contexts even beyond formal counseling sessions.

 

Benefits of the Master of Arts in Counseling 

Westminster’s MAC program is among the most robust programs in Biblical counseling, consisting of 61 credit hours completed over the course of 3-5 years in an online format while simultaneously among the most accessible. The counseling courses in our MAC also exclusively feature teaching from expert staff at the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation (CCEF), which has over 50 years of Biblical counseling and instructional experience.

CCEF’s long-standing relationship with Westminster began at the origin point of Biblical counseling, as Westminster alumni sought to apply Westminster’s unique apologetic method to secular psychology and counseling, ultimately culminating in the creation of the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation. Therefore in the MAC program you will be drinking from the original fountain of Biblical counseling practices and will learn to apply the truths of Scripture with confidence, knowing that the work of counseling is the application of the person and work of Christ to the details of a person’s life.

The MAC is also offered in an exclusively online format, allowing you to receive training wherever you are located without sacrificing the quality of Westminster’s renown curriculum or CCEF’s expertise of Biblically based counseling. We are also dedicated to continually improving course material, developing new courses, and upgrading the visual content to engage students more effectively and enhance the learning experience. Our online instructors are dedicated to ensuring your questions are answered, and each of your courses will also be supported by a team of course developers available to address technical concerns.

 

Ministry Opportunities With a MAC

Though the MAC does not prepare students for state counseling licensure, there will be a vast number of opportunities available to you as a MAC alumnus. The MAC has been used to great effect in campus ministry as ministers counsel college students in some of the most formative years of their life. Another area of potential application is that of Christian adoption services or crisis pregnancy centers.

Those serving on staff in churches have benefited from the MAC degree as well, with several churches starting dedicated counseling centers. You can also use your skills in Biblical counseling in standalone parachurch Biblical counseling centers. Additionally, a number of graduates have used their MAC to boost their previous medical or nursing training for service in a variety of missions and ministries. Military chaplaincy is also an option.

Don’t take our word for it. Hear from MAC grads about the impact of the program on their lives and ministries.

A Note About Licensure

The MAC does not fulfill state licensure requirements partially because each state has different requirements. Additionally, many states change their requirements yearly and are becoming increasingly more hostile to counselors who hold to Biblical positions on marriage, homosexuality, abortion, and other topics. As such, we cannot offer administrative support for students seeking licensure. With additional schooling though, state counseling licensure is still a possibility for MAC graduates. And if you are already a licensed counselor and are new to the principles of Biblical counseling, the MAC would be a great way to strengthen your solid theological foundation for an existing counseling ministry.   

         

Difference Between MAC and MATS

The MAC and the MATS are similar in many ways, most notably in that they share many of the same courses and are both delivered exclusively in the online format. The platforms used are the same, and the level of student support is the same. However, the MAC’s 61 credits make it a much larger program than the MATS which only has 36. Those 36 credits from the MATS actually make up the theological portion of the MAC. In that way, the MAC contains all of the advantages of the MATS plus more. If you are only interested in the theological foundation that the MAC provides, the MATS would be a much shorter, cost effective, option that would fill that need.

 

Conclusion

The MAC provides the best training in Biblical counseling available with deep ties to the origin of the discipline, an expert faculty, accessible curriculum, and unrivaled student support. It prepares students for a wide variety of potential ministry positions and opportunities. If such an education would suit your needs we would encourage you to learn more about the program and to reach out to our admissions office to begin the application process.

 

 

What Can I Do with a DMin?

August 25, 2023

Westminster’s Doctor of Ministry program offers ministry professionals a doctoral level education to sharpen not just their ministry comprehension and competence but also their convictions and character in order that they might be prepared to transmit the Gospel in a wide range of ministry contexts. As such, it is the highest professional degree offered by Westminster. In this article we’ll be taking a closer look at the skills that students will gain in the program, how it differs from the PhD, the structure of the program, tuition costs, and the benefits of the program.

 

Skills of DMin Graduates

The DMin is designed to sharpen and strengthen students for ministry in five disciplines:

  • Preaching
  • Leadership
  • Pastoral care & counseling
  • Evangelism and missions
  • Christian public witness

Each of these skills are fostered through a foundational course taught by our expert faculty, allowing for focused study in these vital areas.

Though the DMin is a professional degree with particular emphasis on ministry practice, the unique nature of Westminster’s integrated curriculum views a robust knowledge and expression of various theological disciplines as an essential foundation for proper orthopraxy. The DMin curriculum engenders this integration of doctrine and application, the above skills will be integrated with further coursework to produce reflective ministry practitioners in both theory and in practice. The learning experience for DMin students also involves producing a doctoral level project that demonstrates a unique contribution to the understanding of the practice of ministry. 

 

How the DMin Differs from the PhD

While both the DMin and the PhD are doctoral degrees, the PhD focuses exclusively on advanced academic research whereas the DMin focuses on competence in the practice of ministry. In this way, the DMin is a professional doctoral degree that is more comparable to other professional doctorates like those awarded in medicine (M.D.) or in law (J.D.). The nature of the DMin as a professional degree is such that, as stated above, character and conviction are a main focus of the program, not just academic competence and intellectual comprehension. However, as a doctoral degree, DMin students are expected to pursue the highest standard of expertise in ministry reflection and practice. In this sense, the DMin is meant to be every bit as academically rigorous as the PhD, but focused on the areas of practical application as well as doctrine. 

 

Structure of the DMin 

The DMin consists of eight modular courses over 4-5 years and is available on campus only. The eight courses are made up of three foundational courses that are focused on biblical theology, the Westminster Confession of Faith, and covenantal apologetics respectively. The remaining five courses are the foundational courses mentioned above that focus on the skills of preaching, leadership, pastoral care and counseling, evangelism and missions, and Christian public witness. All of the coursework bears an emphasis on the practical application of Westminster’s theological distinctives. 

Courses are offered in a cohort based, modular format and take place over the span of one week each. This means that the eight courses of the DMin only require eight weeks of residential study on campus. The modules are designed to accommodate the schedules of those who are active in ministry by being offered over the summer in July and August and over the winter in January. Students will typically be required to complete an assignment before attending the module, as well as after the module.

 

Tuition Costs

When it comes to the total tuition costs of the program, the true-cost price is $34,000. However, this number can be greatly remediated through scholarships. Students can expect up to a 20% baseline scholarship that will reduce their out-of-pocket tuition responsibility by $6,800. If a student has a ministry partner (such as their church) providing up to $6,800, Westminster’s Ministry Partnership Match will match that financial support. This will reduce your out-of-pocket tuition responsibility by another $13,600. With these scholarships and matching programs a student’s total out-of-pocket tuition responsibility would be $13,600. This can be further reduced if ministry partner payments exceed the $6,800 that is matched by Westminster.

 

Benefits of the DMin 

The DMin is a flexible program that is designed to meet the needs of busy ministry practitioners who have responsibilities to their congregations. It allows ministry professionals to deepen their theological reflection and gives them the opportunity to sharpen their ministry skills through strengthening the relationship between doctrine and their unique practice of ministry alongside other men of God. Ministry can be a lonely career and this time of fellowship with other pastors and vocational ministers can be a significant source of personal and spiritual revitalization. It will also help further equip ministers to defend the Christian faith in a way that is in accordance with the Word of God. It will also help students apply the Scriptures in real-world situations personally and in their particular ministry setting. Students will also focus on the principles of godly biblical leadership in order to shepherd and serve the church effectively and with humility. 

 

John Muhlfield, a DMin alumnus, described his experience in the DMin this way…

“Class discussions with seasoned fellow laborers were tremendously stimulating and encouraging, and while challenging, the applied research project stretched me in healthy and lasting ways. I thank the Lord for the blessing the program was in my life and would do it again in a heartbeat.”

 

Rich Penix, a current DMin student, expressed his perspective on the program as follows…

“The shepherding disposition of the faculty combined with the camaraderie of fellow pastors affords a unique experience that sharpens and refines pastors in their ministry of God’s Word. My experience in the program has created lifelong friendships with fellow pastors, as well as needful improvement in my ability to rightly understand and live God’s truth before God’s people.” 

 

Conclusion

Westminster’s DMin program offers the highest professional degree available for ministers. It focuses on the practical application of doctrine for ministry and develops the ministry competencies, character, and conviction of pastors, ministers, and church leaders. It does this all while delving into Westminster’s theological distinctives, which provide a coherent framework for understanding the Word of God.  

Want to learn more? Our admissions team is composed of subject matter experts, alumni, and current students that are able to walk you through our theological distinctives, the nuances of our degree programs, and examine scholarship opportunities that may benefit you. Contact a counselor here

What Can I Do with a PhD?

August 25, 2023

Westminster’s PhD program offers the highest level of theological education available anywhere in the world, tailored to those who are seeking a career in vocational theological education, or teaching at the university or seminary level. As one of the only Reformed theological institutions in the United States that offers a PhD, there are few programs like Westminster’s doctoral program. In this article we’ll be taking a closer look at what makes the program so unique, namely, the skills that you will gain and the structure and benefits of the program.

 

Skills of PhD Graduates

The PhD is designed to create students who are the world’s foremost expert in their particular topic of research. You will demonstrate an ability to produce scholarly academic work that constitutes a unique contribution to your field of study. You will also be forced to engage with primary source material in their original languages. This requires you to demonstrate familiarity with two research languages (typically Latin, German, Dutch, and/or French).

This program is also committed to creating future professors who have the skills necessary to teach the next generation of pastors and professors. To do this the Westminster PhD exposes our post-graduate students to advanced degree coursework in key theological disciplines. As a theological educator, you will need to be able to field diverse questions and think on your feet. This program will prepare you to do just that. We endeavor not to produce mere theological researchers, but truly well-rounded theological educators as well.

 

Structure of the PhD 

The PhD consists of two phases. The first is the coursework phase. This phase consists of 10 courses, 4 core courses specific to your discipline, 3 directed reading courses, and 3 elective courses.

Once you have completed your coursework, you will then move on to your comprehensive exams and your dissertation proposal. The comprehensive exams consist of a written exam and an oral exam. They are comprehensive in that anything that appeared in your course work or that is relevant to your field is fair game for the exam. If you pass your comprehensive exams and your dissertation proposal is accepted, you become a PhD candidate and begin the second phase of your doctoral program, the research phase.

Once you become a candidate you will have an advisor assigned to you that will oversee and advise your dissertation research. Your dissertation must consist of a unique contribution to the knowledge of the subject. It must be worthy of peer reviewed publication and will be assessed by your primary advisor, a secondary WTS faculty reviewer, and a reviewer external to Westminster. Once submitted you will have an oral defense of your dissertation before your primary and secondary WTS reviewers. Once passed, you will then be conferred the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.

 

Benefits of the PhD 

 The PhD is an extremely competitive program with only a handful of accepted candidates each year. It also the most rigorous of all of Westminster’s degree offerings. As such, it is not for the faint of heart. With that said, there are a number of benefits that come with the PhD.

Faculty advising

The dissertation process will give you the tools necessary for a career of academic writing. You will sit under the guidance of one of our expert faculty members and receive personal instruction from some of the world’s foremost experts in theology. Your writing will be guided and critiqued before you submit your dissertation to the review process in which your work will be further dissected for improvement. This process provides indispensable guidance that will shape your academic writing for years to come.

Robust Coursework

The PhD also prepares you for a career as a theological educator. While independent researchers have their role, Westminster aims to empower those who would seek a role as educators who focus as much attention in the classroom as they do in their personal study. You will be prepared to shape the minds of the future pastors and educators of God’s church by being exposed to the highest level of theological coursework available. The courses tend to be small seminars with lots of discussion. This format allows you to direct the conversation which will all the more prepare you for a future career in the classroom.


 

Conclusion

Westminster’s PhD program offers the highest theological education available to anyone anywhere in the world. It prepares those who would serve God’s kingdom through teaching in the classroom and through research and writing. It is a competitive, robust, and rigorous program that has produced some of the world’s foremost experts in theology.

Want to learn more? Our admissions team is composed of subject matter experts, alumni, and current students that are able to walk you through our theological distinctives, the nuances of our degree programs, and examine scholarship opportunities. Contact a counselor here.  

 

 

 

What Can I Do with a Master of Arts in Religion?

August 25, 2023

Westminster’s Master of Arts in Religion program is tailored toward future postgraduate theological education in PhD programs or advanced degree programs like the ThM, making it a good first step towards a career teaching at the seminary or university level. The MAR does this by providing the rigorous studies of the MDiv program in a quicker, and therefore more financially accessible manner.

This article will lay out the skills you will acquire in the MAR program, the benefits of the MAR compared to other degree programs, the ministry opportunities available to you as an MAR alumnus, as well as the differences between the MAR and the MATS degree programs.

Skills of MAR Graduates

The MAR program fosters skills that are required for advanced theological study. As with Westminster’s Master’s of Divinity (MDiv), competency in the original biblical languages of Greek and Hebrew is foundational to our curriculum. Both languages are prerequisites for nearly all future coursework as they are vital in developing the ability to exegete Scripture. Together, these skills will undergird the entirety of your education in the MAR. You will also learn the system of doctrine contained in the Westminster Standards and become increasingly familiar with the key theological disciplines of biblical studies, systematic theology, church history, and apologetics. All of this is with the intention of developing a deeper love for God, his Word, and his church.

Benefits of the Master of Arts in Religion

The MAR provides a flexible and streamlined experience while retaining all of the rigor of Westminster’s MDiv program. In fact, the MAR features nearly all the same courses found in the MDiv program, and as an MAR student you will be sitting shoulder to shoulder with MDiv students in the same classes. The difference between the programs lies only in which and how many courses are required to complete the program.

Faster than a MDiv

The MAR consists of 74 credits completed over the course of 2-3 years in either online or residential format. There are also options to undertake the course in various modes. Online students are allowed to take residential courses and vice versa, with a few stipulations. Adding yet more flexibility is the fact that 25 of the 74 credits are fully elective, meaning nearly any of Westminster’s residential course offerings can be integrated into your program of study, including many PhD/ThM course offerings. This level of flexibility will allow you to begin to narrow your focus of study towards a more specific topic. This will be very important as you prepare for advanced thesis or dissertation work in the future.

Affordability

An additional benefit of the MAR is that, due to the lower credit requirement, the program can be completed more quickly and is thus less costly to complete than the Westminster MDiv program. So if your intention is to go on to postgraduate theological education, you will save time and money by undertaking the MAR without sacrificing the academic rigor that will ultimately prepare you for doctoral research.

Applicability

The MAR requires a “summative evaluation” at the end of your study in the program. The intention behind this requirement is that the student is provided the opportunity to integrate and apply the entirety of what they have learned in the program. The summative evaluation can take the form of a comprehensive exam, an integrative thesis, or a capstone project. Any of these three will be valuable for your future work or ministry, but the integrative thesis is especially helpful for those who are planning on applying for doctoral programs since many doctoral application committees like to see that an applicant is capable of sustained academic research.

Ministry Opportunities with an MAR

While the main intention of the MAR is to prepare students for further postgraduate academic study, the skills that are cultivated in the MAR will certainly benefit any future ministry that you might undertake. The MAR is more than adequate to prepare you for nearly any part-time ministry. While the MDiv is always recommended for any full-time vocational ministry, there are some ordaining bodies that will accept an MAR as preparatory for ordination to full-time pastoral ministry.

Difference Between MAR and Other Degrees

If you’re comparing degrees, there are a few things to consider depending on your goals.

MAR vs. Master’s of Divinity (MDiv)

Westminster’s MAR and MDiv are most often compared and contrasted due to their heavily overlapping features. The coursework of the MDiv is carefully calibrated to build upon itself in a logical sequence. Since the MAR is a streamlined version that you, as a student, are largely in control of, the flexibility of the program means that this carefully calibrated sequence will be interrupted to some extent. You will never find yourself in a class that you are unprepared for, but you cannot take every class that every department requires of the MDiv. So if you are desiring a holistic theological education that is built to competently equip you in all of the key disciplines of theology, the MDiv may be a better choice. If you are desiring a faster approach where you can focus more narrowly on a particular discipline or topic, the MAR could be right for you.

MAR vs. Master’s of Arts in Theological Studies (MATS)

Both the MAR and the Master’s of Arts in Theological Studies (MATS) can be used to prepare you for non-vocational ministry. The main distinction between the MAR and the MATS is that the MAR requires Greek and Hebrew while the MATS does not. The MAR’s 74 credits compared to the MATS’s 36 also makes the MAR a much more robust program, which carries a program length and cost difference as well. Additionally, the MAR is available in residential and online formats, while the MATS is only available online. Finally, the MATS is a terminal degree, meaning it will not qualify you for application to postgraduate degree programs, whereas the MAR is intentionally designed as a springboard to future doctoral study. If you are in the midst of a MATS and decide to switch to pursue a MAR, you are able to do so though.

Conclusion

The MAR is a degree program optimally designed for those who want to teach at a seminary or university level. It prepares students for the doctoral research programs that are needed for such a career, and in that sense may serve as a stepping stone degree that bears all of the academic rigor that a master’s program at Westminster can provide. However, the MAR does so in a shorter, more affordable, and more flexible format than an MDiv. Though not as comprehensive as the MDiv, nor as accessible as the MATS, the MAR excels at equipping the future academics of the church for the path of becoming some of the world’s foremost experts of theology.

If this degree program interests you, we encourage you to learn more about the program. Still have questions? Our admissions team is composed of subject matter experts, alumni, and current students that are able to walk you through our theological distinctives, the nuances of our degree programs, and examine scholarship opportunities. Get in touch with them here, or apply now to begin the conversation.

What Can I Do with a Master of Divinity?

August 25, 2023

Since 1929 Westminster Theological Seminary’s MDiv program has existed to train specialists in the Bible. The MDiv has facilitated this task for over 90 years with very little deviation from its core theological distinctives. No matter what your ministerial prospects are, Westminster’s MDiv will prepare you as it is one of the most robust and rigorous theological master’s programs in the world. It also serves as an unparalleled springboard into post-graduate theological education. What follows is an overview of the particular skills that the program fosters as well as some of the various ministry opportunities that would be available to you as a graduate. The differences between the MDiv and other master’s programs as well as the distinctions between the MDiv concentrations will also be covered.

Skills of MDiv Graduates

The MDiv program is built to foster an expertise in the key areas of theological study. Your studies will focus on the Old and New Testament, systematic theology, church history, apologetics, and pastoral theology. As a student in this program you will be equipped to translate and understand Greek and Hebrew, which serve as prerequisites for all subsequent coursework. This ensures that you will have the skills required to exegete the Scriptures in their original languages. You will also develop familiarity with the system of doctrine found in the Westminster Standards. The end result will be the development of the skills necessary to understand and apply these truths to the particular context of your area of ministry. Most importantly, love for God and his people will be fostered, that you might grow as a faithful shepherd of God’s church.

Ministry Opportunities with a Master of Divinity

Ministering in a broken and fallen world requires Spirit motivated care and Christ-centered theological insight. No matter what form your ministry takes, the MDiv will provide you with the tools necessary to minister the glorious Gospel of God’s Son to those who suffer the harsh realities of a sin-stained world.

Pastoral Ministry

The Westminster MDiv program was started with the goal of training men for pastoral ministry. In that sense, the MDiv is most suitable for those who desire to become pastors. Westminster’s MDiv will thus equip you with the knowledge and preparation needed to undergo the ordination process and other ecclesiastical requirements for ministry in most Reformed and Presbyterian church denominations.

Christian Counseling

The MDiv’s required Biblical Counseling courses will equip you for potential ministry at a parachurch Christian counseling center or as part of a counseling staff at a local church.

Missionary Work

The MDiv has historically seen many graduates pursue missions, with graduates serving all over the globe. Whether you are seeking to be sent to a foreign land to promote the Gospel or desire to be trained by Westminster to minister in your homeland, the MDiv is the best program for preparing for full-time missions.

Campus Ministry

Our alumni serve in ordained campus ministries such as Reformed University Fellowship, as well as parachurch campus ministries like Cru, InterVarsity, and YoungLife.

Education

Westminster graduates may also pursue the field of Christian education either at the university level after post-graduate education, or at the primary and secondary level directly after their MDiv.

Military Chaplaincy

The MDiv is also a great option for those who are desiring to engage in military chaplaincy.

Difference Between Pastoral Fellows and General Ministry

The MDiv has two distinct tracts to choose from: the Pastoral Fellows and the General Ministry track. The General Ministries track can be taken in both on-campus and online formats, whereas the Pastoral Fellows is only available on campus. While the Pastoral Fellows program and General Ministry track possess much of the same coursework, the key difference is that the Pastoral Fellows coursework is completed over the course of three years, culminating in a one year pastoral residency. Additionally, the Pastoral Fellows requires four preaching courses with up to 18 opportunities to preach in class whereas the General Ministry track is more flexible, allowing for eight electives compared to the Pastoral Fellows, which requires two. Additionally, the Pastoral Fellows track is reserved only for men. Women are encouraged to enroll in the General Ministry program.

Further Postgraduate Studies in Theology

The MDiv program serves as a remarkable stepping stone towards post-graduate doctoral programs. In order to pursue a PhD at Westminster or elsewhere, students are typically required to have undergone a theological master’s program with 74 credits or higher and with three semesters of Greek and Hebrew. Yet many theological master’s programs do not meet those requirements. Additionally, the profound rigor of the MDiv program prepares students for their advanced study exceptionally well. While Westminster offers its own advantageous PhD opportunities, many WTS MDiv students have gone on to PhD programs at renowned seminaries and universities with many of our alumni teaching across the globe.

What is the Difference Between the MDiv and MAR?

When directly comparing the MDiv vs MAR programs, the MAR and the MDiv share much of the same coursework but the MAR is focused on positioning students for post-graduate theological education. Thus, it is a more streamlined degree program with an academic focus. The primary difference between them is that while they share the same theological, biblical, and historical coursework, the MAR forgoes the Pastoral Theology coursework of the MDiv. In this way, the MAR is as preparatory for post-graduate advanced degree coursework as the MDiv, but provides that preparation in a more affordable and expeditious manner. Both of these programs can be distinguished from the MATS, which serves to equip students who are seeking part-time or non-vocational ministry, in that their credit requirements are more demanding, and therefore are able to provide deeper insight into certain topics due to their comparative length.

What Can You Do with a MDiv Degree?

The MDiv has been designed to prepare pastors and other leaders in full-time vocational ministry for nearly a century. Prepared for a lifetime of faithful ministry, our alumni exegete and communicate the Word of God in a number of ministerial contexts as experts in the Bible. Though the program is rigorous, robust, and challenging, there is no better theological education for full-time ministry. You should prepare to be stretched spiritually and intellectually. The task of vocational ministry is a difficult one, and as such so ought to be the preparation for said ministry. If you are keen to undertake such theological studies and would like to hear more about the MDiv Pastoral Fellows or the MDiv General Ministry Track we encourage you to reach out to our Admissions team and to apply now.

What Can I Do with a Theological Studies Certificate?

August 25, 2023

Westminster offers the Theological Studies Certificates (TSC) program to serve those who desire some level of formal theological education but are not ready or willing to commit to a full degree program. This article provides an overview of the skills that are developed in the TSC program, the type of student that would benefit most from the TSC program, the difference between the TSC and the Master’s of Arts in Theological Studies (MATS), and what transitioning from the TSC into the MATS program might look like if you want to use your TSC credits towards a full degree.

Skills Acquired Through Westminster’s TSC

The Theological Studies Certificates program is designed to instill a basic knowledge of Scripture, Reformed theology, biblical theology, and redemptive history in its graduates. Westminster offers three distinct and independent certificates that can also build upon each other to count towards a full MATS degree:

  • Foundations of Theology
  • Biblical Interpretation
  • History of Theology

Each certificate track distills the instruction of our renowned faculty into an accessible learning opportunity for those looking to become acquainted with theological topics at a deeper level, without requiring the deeper commitments of a full degree.

These certificates only require 9 credits to complete, and are taught in a fully online format by our world-class faculty. These certificates supply students with a logical, organized, and cohesive understanding of theology, Scripture, and church history that is difficult to attain through independent study (so say goodbye to endlessly Googling questions and hunting for doctrinally sound YouTube videos).

You will be given a taste of some of the best theological education in the world and you will develop an understanding of how to apply God’s unchanging word to a changing world. Whatever your context might be, the TSC will be a benefit to your and your ministry.

Who is the TSC for?

Those who cannot (or don’t want to) commit to a full master’s

The TSC is ideal for students who desire some formal theological education but, for whatever reason(s), might not be interested in or able to commit to a full master’s program.

While there are certainly a number of resources available for people who are interested in pursuing greater theological understanding, doing so in an unguided way can be challenging at best and theologically dangerous at worst. In this way, the TSC is a great alternative to self-study because your course of study will be guided by some of the world's foremost experts in theology.

Prospective students

If you are considering a full degree program at Westminster, the TSC allows you to get a taste for the seminary, its theological distinctives, and its student experience in a low-stakes manner. And if you decide to enroll in an MATS later, you can also use your TSC credits towards that degree (more on this below).  

Parents and non-ministry-related career professionals

Whether you are seeking theological development to better lead your family in the faith, to engage your friends or coworkers in sharing the Gospel, or to support your church ministry as a lay-leader, the TSC will bolster your ability to apply God’s Word to the situation at hand. *Note that for extensive non-vocational ministry, we always advise a full theological program like the MATS or MAC when it is possible for a student to undertake more extensive studies, but for those engaging in ministry in a non-official capacity, the TSC is more than adequate.

Continuing education and those new to Reformed theology

Additionally, the TSC can be a great form of continuing education for those who might already be in a ministry career. Even if you have already done a full master’s program, it may help keep your theological skills sharp without having to commit to a full course of study. The TSC can also serve as continuing education for those ministry professionals who may have only recently become exposed to Reformed theology.

Difference Between TSC and MATS

Both the TSC and the MATS seek to provide formal education for those who want to engage in non-ordained ministry. Neither program requires the original biblical languages of Greek and Hebrew as part of its course material. The difference is that the MATS is a full course of study that culminates in an accredited master’s degree. The MATS takes 1.5-3 years to complete as opposed to just one year for the TSC. In terms of credits, the MATS degree requires 36, whereas each Theological Studies Certificate only requires 9 credits to complete.

Transitioning from TSC to MATS

Westminster’s certificate courses can be transferred into its MATS program. In fact, if you complete all three certificates, in order to convert your coursework into an MATS you would only need to complete 3 more elective courses and finish a summative evaluation which would consist of either a comprehensive exam, an integrative paper, or a capstone project. However, there are no scholarships available for the TSC while there are for the MATS, so if you are planning to transition to the MATS, you may want to consider making that transition sooner than later.

Conclusion

If you are seeking the benefit of a structured, formal, theological education without the heavier commitment of a full theological degree program, the Theological Studies Certificates are perfect for you. With no obligation to complete all three, you can choose which certificate most interests you, complete multiple, or press on to pursue a MATS down the road. In the TSC you will improve your preparedness for ministry, learn to more effectively shepherd your family from the truth of God’s Word, and grow in your love and faithfulness to the Lord. If this sounds like something you desire, we encourage you to learn more about the program and to apply now.

What Can I Do with a Master of Theology?

August 25, 2023

The ThM at Westminster is an advanced degree program that is built for those who are seeking a career in academia and desire a stepping stone toward further post-graduate doctoral education. Its focus is on developing research skills that will serve further academic work. In this article we will explore the skills that are cultivated through our ThM program, along with the benefits of this course of study. We’ll also cover the ministry opportunities that the ThM opens, as well as the differences between the ThM and other Westminster degrees.

Skills of ThM Graduates

The ThM is tailored to convey a number of academic and research skills. Chief among them are the research skills necessary to produce and publish scholarly work that is original in its contribution to your particular chosen theological discipline. To that end, you will develop a breadth of knowledge in your field as well as a working knowledge of related fields. You will also be required to acquire a research language that is relevant to your area of research (most often Latin, German, Dutch, or French.) All of this will inevitably also benefit any future pastoral or teaching ministry. The skills you gain in the program will also certainly carry over to any future doctoral research.

Benefits of the Master of Theology

The ThM has been used to suit several diverse purposes. The program was intentionally crafted to serve as a stop gap between graduate master’s programs and post-graduate doctoral research programs. However, some students have utilized it to serve other ends to great effect.

Preparation for Doctoral Research

The stated purpose of the ThM has been to prepare for future post-graduate education. While some students seek to pursue a full doctoral education immediately upon graduating from their graduate degree, there are many reasons why pursuing a ThM first can be a good idea. Doctoral programs are notoriously competitive, and some students may have a GPA in their master’s program that isn’t as strong as other applicants. Students like this can undertake the ThM in order to bolster their future PhD applications by proving they are up to the task of post-graduate research programs.

Additionally, some European doctoral programs don’t include any course work. There are definite benefits to that philosophy of post-graduate education, but one drawback is that students are exposed only to their own narrow topic at the post-graduate level. The result is that they may be the world’s foremost expert in their topic but have a graduate level education in everything else. To avoid this, some students choose the ThM for its post-graduate course work before attending a research-only PhD.

Continuing Education

The ThM also serves a number of students who are currently in some kind of pastoral or professional ministry looking back on their seminary education fondly and want to ‘scratch’ that academic ‘itch’ again. For them, the ThM is a perfect option to take their education further and deeper than their seminary education without committing to a longer, more competitive doctoral program. In this way, the ThM is a perfect opportunity to benefit your ministry by staying theologically sharp. Because there is no such thing as going too deep in theology and it is impossible to know God and his Word too well, studying theology at the post-graduate level can only help your ministry.

Terminal Degree

Finally, some students can use the ThM as a terminal qualifying degree. Most professional academic positions in U.S. or European higher education require a doctorate to qualify. However, if you are planning on teaching at the college or seminary level overseas or in less developed areas, the ThM might be enough to qualify. The ThM is also a good option for those who might want to teach at a private Christian high school.

Difference Between ThM and Other Degrees

If you’re comparing degrees, there are a few things to consider depending on your goals.

ThM vs. PhD

The ThM and the PhD are very similar courses of study. In fact, they share almost all of their courses. The only difference between the coursework components of the ThM and the PhD are how many courses are required. Any post-graduate level course can be slotted into the ThM or the PhD. However, the ThM only requires 6-8 courses whereas the PhD requires 10 courses. The PhD then has a research component of a full dissertation of roughly 100,000 words. When it comes to the ThM’s research component, you have two options. The first option is a 50,000-word advised thesis. The second option is two additional courses with 30-35 page major papers. Thus, the ThM is a shorter, less involved process than the PhD.

Master of Theology vs. Master’s of Arts in Theological Studies (MATS)

Judging by their titles alone, the Master of Theology and the Master’s of Arts in Theological Studies sound very similar. However, they are drastically different programs. The MATS is a graduate level program that doesn’t require Greek and Hebrew. The ThM is an advanced degree that requires a previous master’s degree that is equivalent to the MDiv or MAR as a prerequisite. In this way, the MATS would not qualify as a prerequisite for the ThM.

Conclusion

The ThM is a degree program optimally designed for those who want an academic career in Christian higher education. It serves those who would like additional theological and research preparation before undertaking a doctoral program and may thus serve as a stepping stone to further postgraduate study.

If this degree program interests you, we encourage you to learn more about the program. Want to discuss the details in more depth with a live person? Our admissions team is composed of subject matter experts, alumni, and current students that are able to walk you through our theological distinctives, the nuances of our degree programs, and examine scholarship opportunities. Connect with them here, or apply now.

What Can I Do with a Master of Arts in Theological Studies?

August 25, 2023

Westminster’s Master of Arts in Theological Studies program is unique among Reformed seminaries for several reasons. There are no other MA programs of this length that maintain a rich, deep, and accessible format as the Westminster MATS. Because of the combination of rigor and flexibility, MATS graduates develop a robust theological foundation to serve in a broad range of ministry and professional positions. Below is an overview of skills that you will acquire in the program, the job options that may be available to you, and distinctions between the MATS and other programs at Westminster.

Skills of MATS Graduates

Our MA in Theological Studies program is built to ground students’ theology in the Scriptures. This strong biblical foundation will allow you to serve boldly in your church and in non-professional ministry as you apply the truths of the Bible no matter your context. If you enroll in this program, you will develop an:

Increased knowledge and understanding of the Bible

Grasp the unfolding of God’s redemption in history from Genesis to Revelation through a deep study of Scripture

Increased knowledge and understanding of Christ

You can expect to know, understand, and love more deeply the person and work of Christ which is the culmination of God’s redemption.

Increased knowledge and understanding of the triune God

You will learn of the properties of the Triune God. You will also see how the Spirit has been active in the church, leading it in truth throughout the ages of history. This program will teach you about the nuances of God’s interaction and relation with his creation generally and with his people specifically.

This content will not remain mere academic head knowledge, however. You will be given the principles with which to take this rich theological information and relate it to the people you encounter in ministry, using confidence, gentleness, and respect. Since this program is designed with flexibility in mind, you will also be given tools to help you to apply this content in whatever field of ministry the Lord leads you.

Vocational Ministry Options with a MATS degree

The MATS program is designed to equip Christian leaders both within and outside of the church. MATS students and graduates serve in a wide variety of positions.

Diaconal or elder positions in your church

The program would suit you extremely well if you are seeking to serve in diaconal or elder positions in your church, as you will gain a theological foundation to both broaden and deepen your ministry.

Church ministry positions

The above also applies to various church ministry positions short of ordained pastoral roles.

Missionary work

Students have used their training in the MATS program to bolster their missionary work in cross-cultural and international contexts. While those seeking to engage in full-time ordained vocational missions would be best equipped and prepared by the MDiv, the MATS would be a great option if you are interested in conducting short-term missions or working for missions agencies.

Supplement a previous Christian education

The MATS can also provide a Reformed supplement to a previous Christian education. Specifically, pastors who have recently been exposed to Reformed Theology or who did not have Reformed teaching in their past theological training may benefit from the program.

Special Circumstances

There are some denominations that do not require a full MDiv for pastoral ministry. Additionally, sometimes life’s circumstances prevent students from endeavoring into lengthy schooling. While Westminster recommends the MDiv for those planning to enter full-time pastoral ministry, the MATS can serve as a quality alternative if the MDiv is not a realistic undertaking for you, or if your ministry context does not require it.

Non-Vocational Ministry Options with a MATS Degree

MATS alumni serve in a variety of non-vocational ministry positions. While the MATS is suitable for equipping those actively engaged in church ministry, the MATS can prepare you to apply the Gospel outside of a formal church setting as well.

Administrative Positions in a Variety of Organizations

Some graduates apply a biblical perspective to their work in the administration of non-profit organizations, NGOs, missionary agencies, campus ministries, and other parachurch or non-governmental organizations.

Personal Business or Medical Positions

Others utilize the biblical leadership principles acquired from the MATS in their secular business or medical jobs to serve with greater humility, excellence, and deeper insight on how to navigate complicated discussions concerning faith.

Governmental Positions and Law Enforcement

Alumni have benefited from our program as they serve in governmental jobs, law enforcement, and other fields.

Teachers at Christian Schools

A Westminster MATS can also equip you if you are seeking to teach in primary and/or secondary education, allowing you to instruct elementary and high school level theological classes at Christian schools. While our curriculum is of obvious benefit to students, observing our expert faculty may also impact prospective teachers seeking to cultivate their own skill sets in the classroom.

Personal Edification

Aside from the benefits of equipping yourself to bring biblical truth to the workplace, personal edification is another benefit of pursuing theological training in the MATS program. Many students have remarked that the MATS program changed the way that they approach their marriages, families, and friendships by allowing them to engage others with the truth of the Gospel in a deeper and more profound way. Bruce Wissinger, a current student in the MATS, put it this way,

    “I decided to pursue a degree in theological studies because I have 14 year old twins right now and an 11 year old that we adopted from Ethiopia. They’ve been in Christian school all their lives, and I always get bombarded with questions that I just could not answer. So now I’ve been equipped with the tools that I need to be able to answer questions that typical teenagers will come and ask.”

While you are shaped by growing in your knowledge and understanding of God’s Word, the impact is likely to have exponential effects on your circle of influence across the course of your lifetime.

What is the Difference Between the MATS vs. MAR and MDiv?

There are a few notable differences when comparing our Master’s of Divinity (MDiv) and Master’s of Arts in Religion (MAR) vs. our Master’s of Arts in Theological Studies (MATS). Much of this boils down to program format and course requirements.

Degree Format

The MATS degree is only available in a fully online format and is Westminster’s shortest degree (though short certainly doesn’t mean insubstantial). Our online Master’s of Arts in Theological Studies takes between 1.5 to 3 years to complete.

Our MDiv and MAR are offered in both online and on-campus formats, with a typical completion length of 2-4 years for the MAR, and 3 to 8 years for the MDiv.

Degree Length

The MATS consists of 36 credits of rigorous graduate-level theological coursework, while the MAR requires 74 credits, and the MDiv requires 111 (our heaviest credit load).

Biblical Language Requirements

Distinct from Westminster’s MDiv and MAR, the biblical languages of Greek and Hebrew are not required in the MATS. Though the degree program is a shorter experience than the MDiv, the individual courses are no less substantial. You can expect a deep, challenging educational experience, rather than surface level courses that do not stretch your intellect and your heart.

The MDiv, on the other hand, is designed to prepare students for full-time, ordained, vocational ministry. As such, it is a much larger, longer, and more robust program. The MAR is similar in its demands, though it is aimed at preparing students for further academic study (think pathway to PhD). Comparatively, the MDiv and MAR carry the drawback of being much less flexible than the MATS.

Flexibility

Westminster MATS students enjoy flexibility as they study, and many often enroll while maintaining full or part-time employment at their jobs, whereas MDiv students may more commonly opt to focus on seminary full-time due to the demands of coursework.

On average, MATS students spend 10-15 hours per course on classes and homework combined each week. The MDiv and the MAR both recommend spending 3 hours of reading and studying for every hour spent in the classroom. So MAR and MDiv students will spend 8-16 hours per course on classes and homework combined each week.

Prepare for Your Personal Ministry at Westminster

The MATS is a program optimally designed for those who are seeking to pursue training for non-vocational ministry and receive a sound theological foundation. It offers many applications in and outside of church walls, and is a great way to learn as you actively serve your home church and community.

Though the degree program is itself a shorter experience than the MDiv, all of the courses offer a clear view of Westminster’s distinctives. As such, students should expect an enriching experience that delves into God’s Word, packaged in a way that is suitable for those with relatively limited time, yet a hunger to grow in a structured learning environment centered around biblical fidelity.

If this kind of theological training interests you, we encourage you to learn more about the program and to apply now.

Financial Questions & Concerns

Using Military Benefits at Westminster

August 25, 2023

Using Your Military Benefits

Over the years, Westminster has trained many U.S. servicemen and veterans for both civilian pastoral ministry as well as military chaplaincy. Our appreciation is extended to those who have served. As with other academic institutions, military benefits apply for the majority of the programs at Westminster Theological Seminary. The only programs to which they do not apply at this time is to our Master of Arts in Counseling (MAC) degree program and our foreign language programs. In this article, we will cover the use of VA benefits as well as military tuition assistance as they may be applied to studying at Westminster.

VA Benefits

The first step in the process of using VA benefits is that students who are veterans should refer to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website for eligibility requirements and request their certificate of eligibility from the VA.

To receive benefit payments, eligible veterans should speak with their Educational Services Officer (ESO) or counselor within their military service prior to enrolling at Westminster. Westminster’s School Certifying Official (SCO) in the Financial Aid Office should also be contacted at financialaid@wts.edu. Students using Ch. 33 Post 9/11 GI Bill® Benefits or Ch. 31 Voc-Rehab benefits must produce the VA’s Certificate of Eligibility by the first day of class, as well as provide a written request to be certified in a given semester.

Westminster will not impose any penalty, including the assessment of late fees, the denial of access to classes, libraries, or other institutional facilities because of the student’s inability to meet his or her financial obligations to Westminster due to the delayed disbursement funding from VA under Chapter 31 or 33.

Note that students will only receive full allowance of VA benefits during the time they are classified as a full-time student, which the VA calculates on a day-to-day basis. If a student is enrolled in overlapping terms, the student may be classified by the VA as full-time for the period that the sessions overlap and part-time in the period the terms did not overlap. All benefits are applied at the discretion of the VA.

GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government website.

Military Tuition Assistance

To use your Military Tuition Assistance (MTA) benefit, you must receive approval from an Educational Services Officer (ESO) or counselor within the military services prior to enrolling. Visit your military service’s education portal for additional information. 

Once you have received approval for tuition assistance for a term, please send the approval to the Financial Aid Office at financialaid@wts.edu. If you intend to use VA Top Up, please let the Financial Aid Office know as well.

Conclusion

We know that navigating these official channels can be confusing and time consuming. Know that our Financial Aid Office is here to help explain any of the finer details of VA benefits as well as MTA, and guide you through the process. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us with your questions at financialaid@wts.edu.

How to Borrow Responsibly

August 25, 2023

In this article we will cover the two types of loans that are available for students and offer a step by step guide on how to apply for them.

Borrowing Responsibly

As you prepare for ministry, it isn’t always possible to pay out of pocket or raise the funds needed for tuition, books, and living expenses. While the goal should be to minimize the debt you take into ministry, sometimes a loan may be required to assist along the way. We encourage you to seek out other funding options as much as possible if this is your circumstance. Our article on overcoming financial barriers to seminary offers a good starting point for consideration. However, if a loan is necessary as a last resort, you will want to give careful consideration and only borrow what you need and only as you need it. 

Through the generosity of our donors, Westminster has been able to offer scholarships and matching grants to nearly every residential student. Thanks to these gifts, along with the fundraising efforts of our students, only 6% of our student body had to borrow a student loan in 2022, and the majority of students who did borrow only borrowed to cover tuition. This responsible borrowing has meant that our current loan cohort default rate is 0%. For reference, the national cohort default rate for federal student loans is currently 2.3%.

Two Types of Student Loans

There are two types of loans for students: federal loans and private student loans. Both types of loans have competitive rates and terms, so you are encouraged to look into both options to see what is best for you. The financial aid office is more than happy to walk through both options with you.

Applying for a Private Student Loan

It is up to the student to choose their lender when choosing private school loans. Westminster does not have a preferred lender and will work with the lender of your choice. Loans have different terms and payment options and most likely will be dependent on a credit check. You will want to check out interest rates, fees, deferment options and payback options to make sure these loans will work for you. Visit ElmSelect’s website to see what lenders our students have used recently.

Applying for a Federal Loan

Because Westminster is a graduate school and does not offer an undergraduate degree, the only Title IV aid that a WTS student is eligible for is a federal loan. Applying for student loans may seem daunting. However, with our step-by-step guide, you won't miss a beat– and you'll have the process done before you know it!  

Turn around times on loan applications are relatively quick when applying for a loan at the start of a term. However,  once everything is submitted it can take up to a week for the FAFSA and Loan information to be transmitted to us electronically and for us to turn it around with a loan amount on your account for you to accept. Please plan accordingly with invoice due dates. 

If you are borrowing a federal loan, you will need to be at least half-time in your program. Please note that the MAC is not eligible for federal student loans at this time.

Applying for Federal Loans, Step by Step

Be sure to complete EACH step below to apply for a loan.

Step 1: Please review the Department of Education’s website to learn about the different types of loans, how much to borrow, how to manage your loan and repay successfully, and the consequences of default.

Step 2: Complete the Westminster Theological Seminary Loan Request Form online. Students can receive a maximum of $20,500 per academic year in direct unsubsidized loans from the government. While $20,500 is the maximum the student can borrow in an academic year, it will be up to the student to determine how much they borrow and submit a loan request form with this amount. 

As you prepare for ministry, it is good to keep in mind that you will want to take as little debt into ministry as possible. What you borrow today may become a shackle tomorrow. With that in mind, it may be helpful to use an online loan calculator as you consider how much to borrow. These calculators help estimate your payment after you are done with school so you understand the implications of your loan request on your post school budget.

2023-2024 Loan Request

Step 3: Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid online.

Please note that you will use tax information for two years prior to the academic year you are applying for (for the 2023-24 FAFSA, use your 2021 tax data) at present.

Step 4: Submit tax information in one of three ways:

Electronically transfer your filed Federal Tax Return information to the FAFSA using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool online;

OR

Submit a Tax Return Transcript obtainable from the IRS’ Get Transcript website;

OR

If you did not file taxes for that appropriate year, please submit a Verification of Non-Tax Filing to the Financial Aid Office (obtainable on the same website).

Step 5: If this is your first time receiving or applying for a loan with Westminster, please complete a Master Promissory Note for your specific loan:

  1. Direct Unsubsidized Loan: Complete the Master Promissory Note for Direct Loans.
  2. GraduatePLUS Loan borrowers: Complete the Master Promissory Note for GraduatePLUS Loans if you are seeking additional loan funds in excess of the total amount allowable from a Direct Unsubsidized loan.  Graduate PLUS Loans also require a PLUS Loan application and a credit check.   

Step 6: If this is your first time receiving or applying for a loan with Westminster, please complete Entrance Counseling online.

Step 7: Complete the Annual Student Loan Acknowledgement (helpful but not mandatory)

Step 8: After completing all of the steps above, Westminster’s financial aid team will process your request and notify you to visit your Populi financial page to view the loan(s) offered and accept or change the amount.

Conclusion

While debt is ideally to be avoided and Westminster has gone to great lengths to alleviate the need for loans through scholarships and fundraising, if you do need to borrow to attend seminary, doing so carefully and responsibly is a must. We encourage you to exhaust all options to avoid borrowing before pursuing a loan. However, when it is necessary, deciding what type of loan you are going to take and following the step by step guide above will allow you to navigate these issues with wisdom and care. If you have any questions about loans, the process of applying for them, or further inquiries, our financial aid team is happy to discuss these things with you.

General Scholarships

February 16, 2024

“Can I afford Seminary?” and “What scholarships are available to me?” are commonly asked questions when considering whether to attend seminary.

At Westminster, we tend to encourage prospective students to first think about the quality of the training that they are going to receive, and the content of the education into which they are investing their tuition dollars. However, that is not to say that finances aren’t important. We understand that while finances aren’t the sole factor to consider when pursuing a seminary education, they are a significant one, and often a major hindrance to entering or remaining in ministry.

In this article we will be overviewing the contours of Westminster’s financial aid offerings by covering the internal scholarships available, our Match to Zero scholarship, and some external scholarships that may be available to you.

Westminster Scholarships

Westminster offers two traditional scholarships to residential students at the time of publishing this post. 

‍The first scholarship is need-based/academic scholarship that is available for these residential programs: MDiv General, MDiv Pastoral Fellows program and MAR programs. Every student who is admitted into either of these programs is automatically considered for the scholarship. The MDiv General Ministry program and the MAR  scholarship covers 66% of the annual tuition costs. This decreases the tuition per year from just over $34,000 down to just under $12,000 per year. The MDiv Pastoral Fellows program scholarship covers 90% of the yearly tuition costs. This decreases tuition from just under $50,000 dollars per year down to just under $5,000 per year.

What this means is that, though Westminster’s tuition cost of $1,230 per credit for the residential MDiv General and $1800 for the MDiv Pastoral is quite high compared to our competitors, the actual maximum tuition burden that falls to the student is minimal.

Match to Zero

This minimal tuition burden can be further decreased by utilizing Westminster’s Match to Zero scholarship. This scholarship is designed such that any ministry partners that desire to come alongside you and help provide for your tuition costs will be matched by Westminster dollar for dollar. If a church, friend, non-spousal family member, or any other ministry partner decides to financially partner with you to cover the tuition cost that remains after scholarships, Westminster will match whatever they contribute down to zero. That means that with this program, you can whittle your tuition costs down to zero leaving you with nothing to pay in tuition each year.

Though this scholarship requires work on your part, to cultivate and build a support network that will partner with you financially, the result can be that your theological education is essentially free, and you are surrounded by people that have invested in you with care and prayer. This scholarship also only applies to residential students. For more information, read this article on Understanding Match to Zero.

External Scholarships

As you have hopefully seen so far, Westminster desires to make your seminary education as affordable as possible. So if you are unable to build a network such that your tuition costs are reduced to zero but are still facing financial uncertainty regarding your tuition costs, we encourage you to seek support in various places.

Check your local community and research online for additional scholarship options that may be available– you might be surprised at what opportunities present themselves.

Some external scholarships include The Dana Kull Memorial Scholarship which is a special fund at Ocean City Tabernacle awarding scholarship funds to individuals pursuing education leading to vocations of Christian service. The fund supports the education of students at the undergraduate, graduate, or seminary level, based on the Committee’s evaluation of the application. Learn more here, or to apply, go here

Another external scholarship is the Bethel Scholarship Program which is a scholarship opportunity for students in seminary, offered by Bethel Korean Presbytertian Church. Learn more here

The Marguerite Young Endowment Fund is a scholarship that was established at The Pittsburgh Foundation to provide scholarships for students who plan to study theology. Learn more here

There are many more options available. A more complete (though certainly not extensive) list of external scholarships can be found online here. It should also be noted that none of these organizations are necessarily endorsed by Westminster, but simply serve as a resource for looking for outside aid.

Conclusion

Westminster is committed to theological education that is uncompromising in its biblical fidelity, Reformed and confessional distinctives, and affordability. Because of that we have offset the tuition costs for students by utilizing traditional scholarships, ministry partner matching scholarships, and external scholarships. The result is that no diligent student should be excluded from a Westminster education or hampered in their future ministry due to finances.

If you have any questions about these scholarships or would like to discuss your personal financial barriers to seminary, read more about overcoming financial barriers here or speak to an admissions counselor here.

Understanding Match to Zero

August 25, 2023

We at Westminster recognize that theological education is an investment. It is an investment meant to yield lasting spiritual riches rather than earthly financial rewards, and one whose benefits also reach as far as the Gospel is heard. Its eternal significance demands rigorous preparation. And because of the depth and breadth of education necessary to produce biblical specialists, a significant cost is incurred to offer this training to students. 

However, at Westminster, we have taken this into account and have built a unique system to offset the costs of what is sure to be one of the most important investments of your life. This system is our Ministry Partnership Match Scholarship, otherwise known as “Match to Zero”. Through it, you have the opportunity to pay zero dollars in tuition on our residential programs allowing you to enter ministry without taking on crippling student debt, which often shackles graduates for a lifetime.

In this article we will explain how this scholarship works in detail by covering the general scholarships that we offer, how they pair with the Matching scholarship, and how building a support network is central to limiting your cost burden.

General and Need-Based Scholarships

Our Match to Zero scholarship is intentionally designed to be paired with our general scholarships. Thanks to our generous donors, every applicant applying to Westminster’s residential MDiv programs receives a general scholarship that covers 65% to 90% of the overall tuition costs (65% for the MDiv General and 90% for the MDiv Pastoral Fellows). On top of those scholarships there are also a limited number of need-based scholarships available (10 for the MDiv Pastoral Fellows and 20 for the MDiv General). These scholarships alone offer you a dramatic decrease in annual tuition costs.

To put this into perspective, the overall annual tuition cost of the MDiv General, before scholarships, is just over $34,000. The general program scholarship reduces that down to just under $12,000 per year. For the MDiv Pastoral Fellows, the annual tuition, before scholarships, is just under $50,000. After scholarships, that drops down to just under $5,000 per year.

Ministry Partnership Match Scholarship (“Match to Zero”)

Once general and need-based scholarships have been applied to your tuition costs, the Match to Zero scholarship can then potentially reduce your tuition costs down to zero dollars.

This is accomplished by Westminster matching any funds raised in support for your tuition. For example, if your church is able to support you with a financial contribution towards your education, Westminster will meet that contribution dollar for dollar. If you have family members who are willing to support you financially, Westminster will also match those contributions dollar for dollar. If you have ministry partners of practically any kind that are willing to support you financially, Westminster will match those contributions dollar for dollar until your tuition costs are fully provided for, leaving you to pay zero of your tuition out of pocket. The idea is to build a support network of people who are invested in your future ministry and kingdom work, so not only are you fully funded but also maintaining vital connections that will help sustain you during your time in seminary.

Building a Support Network

The added benefit of this scholarship is that the financial support network that you build can and should double as a spiritual support and prayer network. The people that contribute to your ministry training will almost certainly be the same people that will support your ministry efforts in some way after seminary. This means that when you leave seminary, you will already have a support network in place to assist you, to pray for you, and to encourage you in your continued service to the Lord.

Most seminary students who are entering ministry positions for the first time have to build these networks while undertaking the difficult work of gospel ministry, which often proves time consuming and challenging to juggle amid other demands. The Ministry Partnership Match Scholarship puts you in a position where, upon leaving seminary and entering the ministry, you are able to focus your attention solely on the work of ministry, supported by a pre-existing network that has already walked alongside you, seen you grow, and cares deeply.

Conclusion

Though seminary is expensive, Westminster has continually structured its business model to ensure that every student who attends is shielded from the full true cost of the high quality education they receive at WTS. We do that by providing general and need based scholarships, matching outside contributions, and encouraging students to proactively build a support network that will remain alongside them through their formal studies and beyond.

If you have any questions about the financial aid model that Westminster employs, our admissions counselors are ready to talk you through these issues and help discuss the best path for you to attend seminary without incurring a lasting financial burden like student debt.

How To Overcome Financial Barriers To Seminary

February 29, 2024

When entertaining the idea of seminary education, one of the questions that looms the largest in a prospective student’s mind tends to be, “How am I going to pay for this?” We understand that costs can seem prohibitive and that “sticker shock” is a real thing. We also know that nearly everyone has these concerns. Ultimately, finances will be a concern no matter where you decide to go for your theological education. So making your decision on the basis of finances rather than on the content of the education you will be receiving can be reductive.

With that said, knowing that financial barriers are very real, we strive to provide ways to soften the potential financial burden created by tuition costs, and work with you to make sure that the cost of your seminary education is as low as possible. In this article we will take a closer look at these efforts by examining the biblical basis for fundraising, the residential program costs, the online program costs, and a breakdown of tuition and financial aid for each program.

 

Biblical Background to Fundraising

As we will elaborate upon later, an important tool in our arsenal for remediating the financial barriers to seminary education is fundraising. Westminster will come alongside you as you raise funds for tuition. In our modern context, the idea of raising funds may seem off-putting, but it is a concept that is deeply rooted in Scripture. All throughout the history of redemption, the proclamation of the Gospel has been empowered through financial partnerships.

In Numbers 18:23-24 we see that the tribe of Levi was not given an inheritance because they were dedicated to the service of the Lord. Rather, the rest of the tribes supported them with financial tithes. Their ministry was funded by the people of Israel financially partnering alongside them. Likewise, in the New Testament, Paul often makes note of his financial partners and is not shy about requesting financial assistance from his Gospel partners. In Romans 15:24 Paul asks the church in Rome to assist him on his way to Spain. He is asking for financial assistance to ensure that the Gospel is able to be preached in Spain.

To be successful in seminary, and further, in ministry, you need partnership. Partners who will come alongside you both in prayer and financially are vital. And, like the people of Israel supporting the Levites and the church in Rome supporting Paul, your supporters will be investing in the kingdom of God going forth through you.

 

Residential Costs

The overall cost of your education depends upon on the modality through which you will be undertaking your education. Residential education and online education have different costs associated with them and different hurdles that you will have to clear.

Residential students need to plan for the cost of tuition, as well as the costs associated with relocating to the Northeastern region of the United States. The cost of moving, finding housing, and finding work are also key factors. The cost of living in the Philadelphia area is also significantly higher than regions like the South or the Midwest and should be accounted for in your calculations.

 

Online Costs

Westminster’s online programs have fewer financial obstacles to overcome and also have a lower tuition rate ($675 per credit hour). You don’t have to worry about any of the costs associated with relocating to the Northeast and you can typically count on maintaining your current employment. Additionally, you won’t need to worry about money spent on commuting to campus, or the cost of maintaining a source of transportation (personal vehicle, ride share service, etc.). However, as you will see below, there are less scholarship options available when compared to Westminster’s residential programs.

 

Breakdown by Degree Program

When it comes to tuition and financial aid, the figures vary based upon the program in which you are seeking to enroll. With that in mind we will go program by program and explain the costs and the ways in which we have sought to remediate those costs.

Residential MDiv/MAR

The residential MDiv and MAR have a tuition cost of $1,025 per credit hour. The entire 111 credits of the MDiv would thus account for $113,775 total or $28,444 per year over 4 years. The 74 credits of the MAR would account for $75,850 total. The MDiv Pastoral Fellows program has a higher tuition rate of $1,500 per credit hour which accounts for $166,500 or $41,625 per year.

Now these may be some pretty scary numbers if you are wondering how to afford seminary. However, with scholarships, you won’t even need to pay a fraction of this. Each student is offered two scholarships. The first scholarship is merit-based, starts at 50%, and can scale up to 90%. Since the average student’s tuition is roughly $28K per year, you can expect to absorb no more than $14k per year in tuition costs.

There is another scholarship opportunity to further alleviate the financial burden of the residential program, too— a dollar for dollar matching scholarship in which Westminster will match any funds you raise from financial partners down to $0. So, if you have $14k in tuition per year and raise $7k in yearly financial support, Westminster will match that $7k and you will pay nothing in tuition.

 

Online MDiv/MAR and MAC/MATS

Our online programs are all billed at $675 per credit hour. This means that the MDiv, at 111 credits, is $74,925 total or $18,731 per year for 4 years. The MAR, at 74 credits, is $49,950 total. The MAC, at 63 credits, is $42,525 total. The MATS, at 36 credits, is $24,300 total.

While significantly cheaper than our residential offerings, there are less scholarships available to alleviate the full financial burden. The scholarship available for our online offerings is currently a dollar for dollar matching scholarship of $675 per term ($2,025 per year). The stipulations for this scholarship is that you must be enrolled in at least two courses and maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher.

ThM

The tuition costs of the ThM are billed on a per course basis rather than a per credit basis. Each ThM course is $3,900 dollars. The ThM Requires 6-8 courses to fulfill. Therefore, the ThM is roughly $23,400-$31,200 total. The ThM also has a dollar for dollar matching scholarship in which Westminster will match up to 20% of the overall tuition cost.

 

PhD

The PhD is also billed on a per course basis like the ThM. The cost of each PhD course is $4,800 per course. The PhD requires 10 courses to fulfill and tuition is thus $48,000 total. Scholarships for the PhD are very limited and are entirely merit based. Every PhD applicant is automatically considered for scholarship. The scholarships account for full funding and cover all tuition costs as well as fees.

 

Conclusion

When it comes to the tuition costs at Westminster, you have the same objective that we do. We want you to get scholarships and we want to partner with you to develop a network that will support you in your theological education and come alongside you into your Gospel ministry after seminary.

If you have more questions about tuition and financial aid, we encourage you to reach out to one of our admissions counselors. Our admissions team is composed of subject matter experts, alumni, and current students who are available to understand and address your specific financial burdens and obstacles. They would also be more than happy to walk you through our theological distinctives, the nuances of our degree programs, or any other logistical issues that you might have. Feel free to reach out to them here.

Can I Keep My Job While Studying at WTS? 

August 25, 2023

Theological education can be a major expense. Choosing to attend seminary is a decision that comes with significant financial implications that should not be considered carelessly. While balancing work and study can be very difficult, having a form of income while studying can be a great way to soften the financial load of your tuition costs. Because of this, many students are interested in the question of how feasible it is to maintain their employment while undergoing the rigorous theological education found in Westminster’s degree programs. In this article that question will be answered by taking a closer look at the options available for online students as well as for residential students.

Considerations for Online Students

The options for maintaining employment are typically significantly more plentiful for online students than for residential students. This is because the nature of our online programs is much more flexible than their residential counterparts. For instance, since lecture content is available in an on-demand format, you can expect fewer scheduling conflicts than if you needed to be mindful of set times required for attending lectures on campus. This allows you to structure your schedule more conveniently as you adjust your study schedule to your working hours.

The online program is also built to fit just about any work schedule at nearly any pace from the start. Worried about an important life event or work responsibility dictating when you can start the program? Our trimester system allows you more options to begin the program in accordance with your life schedule.

Wondering about the ideal pace for completing a program? If you are planning to continue working full-time, you can set up your study schedule to meet your needs by allocating time for lectures, reading, and homework during mornings, nights, or on weekends. If you are able to operate on a part-time work schedule, you can also maximize your course load per term to complete the program more quickly. Or, if you are content to work at a slower pace, you have the freedom to take fewer courses per term and extend your program finish date. Either option is viable, depending on your goals. Whichever route you take, our online support team is ready to help you through our programs in a way that makes the most sense for you and your particular situation.

Considerations for Residential Students

As mentioned above, there are fewer options for maintaining employment in the residential program than in the online program. This is especially true if you are relocating to the area. However, it is not uncommon for residential students to work while they complete their degree.    

Finding a Job in the Area

Many students, upon moving to Philadelphia, will find some form of part-time work. We typically don’t advise full-time students to work more than 20 hours per week. However, if you would prefer to drop below full-time status in order to work more hours, you are free to balance your schedule that way. The drawback to this course of action is that part-time students are not eligible for Westminster scholarships (though you can seek additional external scholarship support). Another option that some students pursue is working on campus. There are a limited number of on-campus jobs, but this can be a suitable option for some students.

Remote Work

In a post-Covid world, many jobs are now available in a remote work environment, allowing employees to experience increased levels of lifestyle and scheduling flexibility. In light of this, it might be worth discussing with your current (or potential) employer about pursuing your employment in a work from home modality.

Another benefit of the proliferation of remote jobs is that you can broaden your job search beyond the limitations of jobs in Philadelphia, expanding your options for securing primary or supplementary income.

This pursuit should be weighed carefully though, particularly if you are thinking about enrolling in online studies. In this case, factors like screen fatigue can make studying in front of a computer challenging if your job already requires you to work in front of a screen for long periods of time. While this situation can be managed through taking frequent breaks to allow your eyes to rest, as well as other stress-reducing techniques like going for light walks and stretching, it is important to consider what circumstances will allow you to thrive overall.

Maintaining Balance

With that being said, Westminster is aware of the difficulty that comes with balancing work and study. And though balancing the two can be challenging, it is certainly not impossible. MDiv alumnus and current ThM student Brian Selby describes balancing his work and study schedule this way:

    “Working while being a student at Westminster is feasible, but it does take a great amount of discipline and self-awareness in order to do both well. Westminster does a great deal to accommodate working students with no classes on Monday and classes ending no later than 3:30 PM on the other weekdays.”

Joel Richards, a recent graduate, worked full-time while studying and had this to say about Westminster’s willingness to accommodate him.

    “Professors who knew I worked were very understanding. The balancing act was very difficult, but WTS worked with me; I felt appreciated and understood.”

Scholarships

Knowing that balancing work and study can be very difficult, WTS offers two scholarships for all students with the hope that no residential student will have to work if they don’t want to during their studies. The scholarships consist of one merit based scholarship that starts at 50% of tuition cost and can scale up to 90%. The other scholarship is a dollar for dollar matching scholarship that can cover the rest of your tuition down to $0 if you raise enough funds. You can find more information on our scholarships here.

Conclusion

Working while studying at Westminster is a great way to ease the financial load of seminary, but it can come with some drawbacks. In light of this, our programs are designed to be flexible enough to accommodate your needs, and there are several ways that you can organize your schedule to make sure that financial obstacles don’t keep you from pursuing the theological education that you might desire.

Still have questions? Our admissions team is ready to hear and discuss your specific situation and evaluate your best options for financial security while at seminary. They are also more than happy to discuss our theological distinctives, the nuances of our degree programs, and examine scholarship opportunities, in order to help you decide whether Westminster is right for you. Connect with our team here.

Student Life at Westminster

Community and Fellowship: The Importance of Building Relationships in Seminary

May 17, 2024

Though Westminster Theological Seminary is committed to exceptional theological scholarship, the pursuit of academic excellence is not the sole aim of our students. Here, amidst the rigorous study of Scripture and theology, we recognize that community and fellowship are indispensable facets of a holistic seminary education. In the halls between classes and in the serene study spaces of our institution, relationships flourish, fostering an environment where intellectual inquiry and spiritual growth work together. As we delve into the depths of theological discourse, we do so not in isolation, but in communion with one another. In this article, we explore the profound significance of building relationships within the context of Westminster Theological Seminary, illuminating how these bonds shape not only our academic endeavors but also our spiritual formation and lifelong ministry.

We will start looking at the biblical foundations for fellowship and community. From there we will examine the academic benefits of community as well as the practical aspects of building relationships. We will also look at the challenges that arise which might block community and fellowship and present some possible solutions.

The Biblical Foundation of Community

In understanding the importance of community and fellowship at Westminster, it is essential to recognize the biblical basis for such relational emphasis. Throughout the Scriptures, from the narratives of the Old Testament to the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels and the epistles of the New Testament, the theme of community permeates Scripture.

In Genesis, we witness the creation of humanity in the image of God, designed for relationship both with their Creator and with one another. The injunction to love one's neighbor as oneself, reiterated by Jesus in the Gospels, underscores the fundamental importance of relationality in the Christian faith. Moreover, the early Christian communities, as depicted in the book of Acts and the epistles of Paul, provide a model of vibrant fellowship marked by mutual support, shared resources, and spiritual encouragement.

These biblical principles affirm the inherent value of community within the life of the believer and lay a solid foundation for understanding its significance within the context of seminary education. At Westminster, we uphold these biblical teachings as foundational to our approach to education, recognizing that our pursuit of theological knowledge is enriched and enlivened by our commitment to communal engagement and mutual edification.

Academic Benefits of Community

Within the halls of Westminster, community extends beyond mere social interaction; it becomes a conduit for academic enrichment and intellectual growth. The collaborative nature of community fosters an environment where students engage in robust dialogue, exchange diverse perspectives, and collectively wrestle with the profound theological questions that lie at the heart of their studies. Many students quip that they sometimes learn as much outside of the classroom talking through the material as they do in the lectures themselves. In the crucible of communal learning, individual insights are refined through communal learning, individual insights are refined through debate and constructive feedback, leading to a deeper understanding of Scripture and theology.

Moreover, the support networks that emerge within the seminary community provide invaluable resources for navigating the challenges of academic life. Whether grappling with complex theological concepts, preparing for exams, or undertaking research projects, students find solace and strength in the companionship of their peers and mentors. This collaborative ethos not only enhances the quality of education received but also cultivates a spirit of humility and teachability, essential virtues for lifelong learners committed to the pursuit of faithful gospel ministry. At Westminster, we recognize that academic excellence is not pursued in isolation but flourishes within the fertile soil of community, where minds are sharpened, and hearts are expanded through shared inquiry and mutual encouragement.

Spiritual Formation and Accountability

Beyond its academic benefits, community plays a vital role in the spiritual formation of students at Westminster. As specialists in the Bible, we understand that theological knowledge must be accompanied by spiritual maturity and personal transformation. In the context of a vibrant community, students are not only challenged intellectually, but also nurtured spiritually as they walk alongside fellow aspirants toward Christian ministry. The bonds forged within the seminary community provide a framework for accountability, fostering an environment where students are encouraged to live out the values they profess and to uphold the ethical standards of Christian discipleship.

Within this framework of accountability, students find support and encouragement in their spiritual disciplines, whether through prayer groups, accountability, or mentorship relationships. These intentional practices of spiritual accountability serve to deepen one's commitment to Christ and to cultivate a life of integrity and authenticity. Moreover, the diversity of experiences and perspectives within the seminary community enriches the spiritual formation process, as students learn from one another's journeys, wrestle with issues and uncertainty together, and bear one another's burdens in love.

At Westminster, we recognize that spiritual formation is not a solitary endeavor but a communal pursuit, where individuals are shaped and sharpened through their interactions with one another. In the context of community, character is refined, virtues are cultivated, and disciples are made. Thus, we embrace the call to walk together in the footsteps of Christ, supporting and challenging one another as we strive to embody the values of the kingdom of God in our lives and ministries.

Practical Aspects of Building Relationships

At Westminster, the cultivation of community is not left to chance but is intentionally fostered through a variety of practical initiatives and opportunities for relational engagement. Recognizing the importance of informal interactions in building meaningful connections, the seminary provides ample space for students to gather outside of the classroom setting. Whether through coffee breaks between lectures, shared community lunches every Wednesday, or informal study groups, students are encouraged to connect with one another on a personal level, forging bonds that extend beyond the realm of academia. However, even with all of the methods Westminster employs to prioritize relationships and community, it is still largely up to the individual to ensure that those bonds are formed. We provide the opportunities, but it is on the student to take them.

Challenges and Solutions

While the benefits of community at Westminster are manifold, they are not without challenges. Any community will face obstacles that threaten to undermine the bonds of fellowship and hinder collective pursuit of academic excellence and spiritual growth. From the pressures of academic deadlines to the demands of ministry and family responsibilities, students often find themselves stretched thin, struggling to balance competing priorities and find time for meaningful engagement with their peers.

Moreover, the diverse backgrounds, theological perspectives, and personal experiences represented within the seminary community can sometimes lead to tension and disagreement, as students wrestle with complex theological issues and navigate the complexities of faith and practice. In such moments, the temptation may arise to retreat into isolation or let rigorous debate turn into divisive rhetoric, rather than seeking common ground and mutual understanding.

As we seek to further emulate Christ, it is a priority for us to be peacemakers and lean on each other for support, recognizing that ultimately, our goals are in alignment. We seek theological education for the furtherance of the Kingdom of God, of which we are ambassadors. We are united to the same Christ, members of the same glorious body. As we mine the Scripture’s theological truth, we are transformed more and more into the image of Christ. This understanding is what Westminster seeks to foster in our community.

In this way, Westminster remains committed to the vision of community and fellowship that lies at the heart of our seminary's mission, recognizing that our shared journey of faith and learning is enriched and enlivened by our commitment to one another. As we face the challenges of the present and the uncertainties of the future, may we continue to walk together in the footsteps of Christ, embodying the values of love, grace, and reconciliation that lie at the heart of the gospel.

Conclusion

At Westminster Theological Seminary, community and fellowship serve as fundamental pillars, offering strength, unity, and mutual support. From the academic corridors to the spaces of spiritual formation, the bonds formed among our seminary community testify to the transformative power of relational engagement and shared mission. Reflecting on the importance of cultivating relationships within the context of Westminster, we recognize that our pursuit of theological knowledge is not an individual endeavor but a journey shared in community, where hearts are united in love and minds are sharpened through dialogue and debate.

Throughout Scripture, we encounter narratives and teachings that underscore the significance of community in shaping our understanding of God and our relationships with others. From the creation narrative to the early Christian church, the importance of community and relationship is evident. At Westminster, we embrace this biblical understanding of community, acknowledging that our pursuit of academic excellence must be accompanied by a commitment to spiritual growth, mutual edification, and the development of character and virtue.

Looking ahead, we will continue to value and nurture the bonds of fellowship that bind us as members of the Westminster community and remain steadfast in our support of one another, both challenging and encouraging as we seek to embody the values of God's kingdom in our lives and ministries. And may we always remember that true connection and growth occur in community, amidst the different voices and experiences that enrich our collective journey.

In closing, may we take to heart the words of the psalmist: "Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!" (Psalm 133:1). Indeed, may the unity and fellowship we share within the Westminster community reflect the unity and harmony of God's kingdom, where all divisions are reconciled, all wounds are healed, and all things are made new.

If you would like to hear more about community life at Westminster and our approach to fostering fellowship among our students, faculty, and staff, feel free to reach out to our admissions counselors.

A Parent’s Guide to Balancing Seminary & Family Life

May 10, 2024

Embarking on the path of theological education is a transformative journey, one that enriches the mind, deepens faith, and equips individuals for meaningful service in the Church and the world. For many, this journey intersects with the profound responsibilities of parenthood, adding layers of complexity and depth to the pursuit of knowledge and spiritual growth. At Westminster, we recognize the unique challenges and blessings that come with balancing seminary studies and family life, and we are committed to supporting parents as they navigate this dynamic terrain.

The decision to pursue theological education while raising a family is not one made lightly. Seminary is difficult as is. When you add a family, it requires a delicate balancing act, a harmonization of academic pursuits with the demands of nurturing and providing for loved ones. Time becomes a precious commodity, stretched between lectures and bedtime stories, theological debates and soccer games, research papers and diaper changes. Financial considerations weigh heavily, with tuition costs competing against the needs of growing children and the responsibilities of maintaining a household.

Yet, amidst these challenges, there is a profound sense of purpose and calling that drives parents forward. The desire to grow in knowledge and understanding of God's Word, to better serve His kingdom, and to instill a love for learning and faith in the next generation fuels the journey through seminary and family life. It is a journey marked by sacrifice, resilience, and unwavering commitment.

In this article, we aim to provide something of a guide for parents navigating the intricate balance between seminary and family life. Drawing upon our experience and commitment to equipping students for holistic ministry, we will explore practical strategies, share personal insights, and highlight the supportive community available to seminary parents at Westminster. We will start by detailing some of the common challenges parents face. Then we will talk about some strategies for balancing seminary and family life. We’ll give some practical tips for seminary parents. Finally, you will hear some real life insights from a parent who has gone through seminary with children.

Understanding the Challenges

Time

Navigating the intersection of seminary studies and family life presents a myriad of challenges that demand careful consideration and intentional strategies. One of the most significant hurdles faced by seminary parents is the issue of time management. Balancing the demands of coursework, theological reflection, and academic research with the responsibilities of parenthood requires a balanced and disciplined approach. Seminary parents often find themselves stretched thin, seeking to fulfill academic obligations while also being present and engaged with their families.

Finances

Financial strain is another prevalent challenge that weighs heavily on seminary parents. The pursuit of theological education comes with a financial cost, including tuition fees, textbooks, and other academic expenses. For parents already navigating the financial responsibilities of raising a family, these additional expenses can pose significant challenges. Many seminary parents have to grapple with difficult decisions regarding budgeting, prioritizing expenses, and seeking financial assistance to alleviate the burden.

Emotional Dynamics

Furthermore, the emotional toll of balancing seminary and family life should not be underestimated. The stress of academic deadlines, theological discernment, and pastoral formation can often collide with the demands of parenting, leading to feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and exhausted. Seminary parents also have to navigate the emotional complexities of managing competing priorities while also striving to nurture healthy relationships with their spouses and children. In the face of these challenges, it is essential for seminary parents to cultivate resilience, seek support, and prioritize self-care to sustain themselves through the journey.

Strategies for Balancing Seminary and Family Life

To navigate this balance between seminary studies and family responsibilities, seminary parents can implement various strategies aimed at fostering harmony and effectiveness in both spheres of life.

First and foremost, establishing clear priorities is key. Seminary parents must discern what matters most in their academic pursuits and family life, aligning their commitments accordingly. This may involve identifying core values, setting overarching goals, and making intentional choices about how to allocate time and energy.

Effective time management techniques are indispensable for seminary parents. This includes diligent planning, scheduling, and prioritizing tasks to optimize productivity and ensure that both academic and family obligations are met. Seminary parents can benefit from utilizing what may seem like obvious tools such as calendars and to-do lists. Time-blocking strategies to structure their days and allocate sufficient time for studying, family activities, and personal rest are also great.

Furthermore, seminary parents should leverage support systems available to them. This may involve seeking assistance from spouses, family members, friends, or fellow seminary students to share the responsibilities of childcare, household chores, or emotional support. Additionally, building relationships within the church can offer practical assistance and a sense of belonging, as fellow believers come alongside seminary parents to navigate the challenges of balancing multiple roles.

By implementing these strategies and embracing a holistic approach to time management and support, seminary parents can cultivate a sense of equilibrium and fulfillment in both their academic and family endeavors.

Practical Tips for Seminary Parents

  • Create a Dedicated Study Space: Establish a specific area at home conducive to focused academic work, minimizing distractions for efficient studying.
  • Involve Children in Seminary Life: Encourage children's participation in seminary-related activities when appropriate, fostering understanding and inclusion within the family dynamic.
  • Set Realistic Expectations: Establish achievable academic goals while prioritizing quality family time, striking a balance between scholarly pursuits and parental responsibilities.
  • Consider Flexible Course Options: Explore online or part-time programs to accommodate family commitments while pursuing academic goals effectively.

Implementing these practical tips empowers seminary parents to navigate the complexities of their dual roles with greater ease and effectiveness.

Testimonials from a Seminary Parent

We aim to uplift fellow parents who are navigating similar challenges, fostering a sense of solidarity and support within the seminary community. Below is a testimonial from a graduate of Westminster regarding his time in the MDiv while parenting.

Timothy Brindle:

“The household is a microcosm of the household of God (the Church). My personal character growth as a husband and father within my home was crucial for preparing and confirming my calling as a pastor of Christ's Church. Therefore, starting the MDiv with 4 children, completing it with 6, and finishing the ThM with 8, was God's wise way of preparing my wife and I for lifelong ministry with a family. I learned how to prioritize my marriage and parenting with the rigors of seminary studies and employment, which has carried over to fruitful pastoral ministry as a family of ten. The Lord can help you do it, too!”

Conclusion

In the dynamic intersection of theological education and family life, seminary parents embark on a journey marked by sacrifice, resilience, and profound purpose. As we conclude our exploration of balancing these roles, it's crucial to acknowledge the transformative potential of this journey.

Through clear priorities, effective time management, and support from local church communities, seminary parents can navigate their dual roles with grace and resilience. Practical tips, like creating study spaces and involving children in seminary life, empower parents to thrive amidst challenges.

Westminster remains steadfast in supporting seminary parents. As we draw from shared experiences and wisdom, we find strength and encouragement to press forward in both our theological education and parenting journey.

In this shared endeavor, let us uphold one another, leaning on faith, community, and mutual support. Seminary parents, you are not alone. Together, may we continue serving God and His kingdom with unwavering dedication and joy. If you have any questions about the details of parenting while at seminary or about our program offerings, please feel free to reach out to our admissions counselors.

What Every Seminary Wife Should Know

March 27, 2024

The journey of a seminary wife is filled with both privileges and challenges—profound moments of growth, support, and self-discovery as well as difficult labors and burdens. As your spouse delves into the rigors of theological education, it's a sobering reminder of the things you will need to consider to navigate this unique season of life. Beyond merely supporting your spouse's academic pursuits, you will also be called to intentionally reflect on how to foster your own faith, find support, and maintain equilibrium amidst the demands of seminary life.

At Westminster, nestled in the heart of theological education, this journey takes on a distinct character. Here, within the context of deep Reformed theology and the vibrant community of scholars and students, the role of a seminary wife is cherished. This article should serve as a compass, guiding you through the wilderness that seminary life can sometimes feel like. We hope to offer insights, practical advice, and encouragement to you by focusing on the role of a seminary spouse, navigating academic life, how to embrace community, nurturing family life, and we’ll end with some practical tips. 

The Role Of a Seminary Spouse

Embarking on this journey requires a deep understanding of the multifaceted nature of your role. Beyond just being a supportive partner, it entails embracing a pivotal role in the seminary community, where your contributions can be invaluable. This section delves into the core components of this role and serves as a foundation for navigating the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

Defining Expectations

As a seminary wife, you will be tasked with providing near unwavering support to your spouse amidst the academic rigors and spiritual growth inherent in seminary life. Understanding and communicating expectations—both yours and your spouse's—will lay the groundwork for relational harmony. Seminary is difficult, especially here at Westminster. If your family enters into these potentially rough waters blind, without having a plan in place, you may find the weight to be too much to bear. So make sure your expectations are clear and understood. It will also be important to keep those lines of communication open. Your expectations of what seminary is like at the outset might not perfectly align with what seminary is actually like once the program is underway and your expectations may need to adjust accordingly.

Personal Growth

While supporting your spouse is paramount, it's equally, or maybe even more, essential to nurture your own faith journey. This involves carving out space for personal reflection, spiritual growth, and seeking support when needed. Recognizing the symbiotic relationship between supporting your spouse and fostering your own faith ensures a balanced and fulfilling seminary experience.

Navigating Academic Life

When we think of seminary, we often (and rightly) think first of rigorous academic pursuits, demanding schedules, and intellectual stimulation. As a seminary wife, navigating this environment requires strategic planning, steady support, and a commitment to personal growth. This section offers practical insights and strategies to effectively navigate the academic aspects of seminary life.

Time Management

Balancing the demands of family, work, and supporting your spouse's studies can be daunting. Implementing effective time management techniques, such as creating schedules, setting priorities, and communicating openly with your spouse, is crucial for maintaining balance and will ultimately help you avoid a lot of unnecessary stress.

Cultivating Supportive Environments

Seminary is certainly a place of intellectual inquiry but it is also a community where personal and spiritual growth can flourish. Actively cultivating a supportive environment within your home as well as among the seminary community will foster an atmosphere that is conducive to learning, reflection, and even mutual encouragement.

Continuing Education

While your spouse engages in formal theological studies, it's essential to prioritize your own personal and spiritual enrichment. Whether through attending seminars, joining study groups, or pursuing independent study, finding avenues for continuing education ensures your growth alongside your spouse's academic journey. By embracing opportunities for intellectual and spiritual growth, you not only support your spouse but also deepen your own understanding of faith and theology. One helpful study strategy is to talk through the material. If you encourage your spouse to walk you through what they are learning, you can benefit from that material as well as help them learn it better. It can be a win-win.

Embracing Community

Building a robust support network within and without the seminary community is essential for navigating the challenges and celebrating the joys of seminary life. 

To get a foot in the door with other wives on campus, you can check out the Wives of Westminster (link to their page).

Genuine connections within the seminary community is a great way to enrich your seminary experience and navigate its challenges, but you definitely shouldn’t neglect to build community within your local church too.

Building Relationships

Engage actively with fellow seminary wives, faculty, staff, and other seminary families. These relationships can take time and discernment to forge, but can provide invaluable support, encouragement, and camaraderie during your seminary journey.

Seeking personal mentorship from other Christian women, and walking alongside peers is biblical and can provide helpful guideposts as you experience seasons of trial, stretching, need, questioning, and also triumphs. 

Seeking Support

It can’t be stated strongly enough that seeking support when facing challenges or uncertainties is imperative. Whether through counseling, bible studies, friend groups, etc. don't hesitate to reach out for assistance when needed. Embracing community support fosters resilience and strengthens your capacity to navigate the complexities of seminary life. It also requires humility and sharpens our character as we journey alongside life with other Christians.

Engaging with the Local Church

As said above, you should be intentionally investing in building community within your local church as well as among the seminary community. Participating in church activities, connecting with fellow believers, and seeking opportunities for service and fellowship will help to balance out your spiritual life.

The local church can also provide a stable anchor amidst the transient nature of seminary life, offering spiritual nourishment, accountability, and a sense of belonging beyond the seminary walls. Embracing community within the local church strengthens your faith, enriches your seminary experience and, most importantly, fosters deeper connections with the body of Christ.

Angela Suh, the wife of a recent graduate and a Westminster MDiv graduate herself, had this to say about her time amongst the seminary community.

"Our husbands are not the only people going into ministry after they graduate. We, as their helper, have the privilege of joining them in God's holy call to serve his kingdom and his people. So, know that there is a community of wives waiting for you if your husband comes to WTS! There are sisters from all different parts of the world and life experiences, who will be able to meet you where you are and walk with you!"

Nurturing Family Life

Maintaining harmony within your family unit amidst the demands of seminary life is crucial for both personal well-being and academic success. The following strategies will help foster a supportive and nurturing environment within your family

Balancing Responsibilities

Establish a balance between family commitments and supporting your spouse's academic endeavors, ensuring that neither aspect is neglected.

Creating a Sanctuary

Cultivate a home environment that fosters study, relaxation, and spiritual growth, providing a sanctuary for both academic pursuits and family bonding.

Open Communication

Foster transparent communication with your spouse, discussing expectations, needs, and challenges openly to navigate seminary life together effectively.

Practical tips

Navigating the complexities of seminary life requires practical strategies to ensure your well-being and success. Here are some tips for thriving as a seminary wife:

  1. Establish Routines: Create organized routines for managing household tasks, childcare responsibilities, and personal commitments to maintain a sense of order and balance.
  2. Decompress: Prioritize setting aside time for relaxation, hobbies, and activities that rejuvenate and replenish your energy reserves.
  3. Focus on Each Other: Remember to set aside time to continue to pour into your marriage and to enjoy times of rest and fun together. If needed, arrange for childcare through a friend or church member to preserve date night.
  4. Don’t Neglect Prayer And Devotions: These fundamental spiritual disciplines help shape our hearts after God's, and allow us a safe space to process the challenges of life. If you are in a season as a new parent, or do not have much free time to yourself, consider how you might integrate simple times of worship into your daily routine. Folding laundry? Use this time to meditate on a Bible verse, go to the Lord in prayer, or uplift praise through song.

Remember that your relationship with the Lord will not always look like your spouse's. It may be tempting to weigh your time in the Word or your understanding of Scripture against your spouse's. It may also feel frustrating at times, as their knowledge continues to grow in bounds with a more singular focus on studying, while your own duties and the demands of life in this season require you to focus attention elsewhere. However, it is not a competition of who can learn the most, or who can spend the most time in study mode. Be encouraged that the Lord has tasked you with different responsibilities, and knows your heart as you desire to be faithful in your own calling as a spouse.

Angela Suh, the wife of a recent graduate, had this to say about her time amongst the seminary community.

"Our husbands are not the only people going into ministry after they graduate. We, as their helper, have the privilege of joining them in God's holy call to serve his kingdom and his people. So, know that there is a community of wives waiting for you if your husband comes to WTS! There are sisters from all different parts of the world and life experiences, who will be able to meet you where you are and walk with you!"

Conclusion

As you have hopefully recognized, in the complexities of seminary life it's crucial to reflect on the significance of your role as a seminary wife and the impact you can have within the Westminster community. Through intentional support, personal growth, and fostering genuine connections, you will not only support your spouse's academic pursuits but also contribute to the rich tapestry of seminary life and God’s kingdom more broadly.

As you move forward, remember that your journey as a seminary wife will be one of ongoing growth. Embrace each new challenge as an opportunity for growth, drawing upon the lessons learned and the relationships cultivated during your time at Westminster. Whether you are just beginning to explore this path or are on the brink of making the decision to join us at Westminster, know that we are here to answer any questions you may have. Our admissions counselors stand at the ready to talk with you about these issues or any others you have in mind.

Life in Glenside

September 14, 2023

Westminster Theological Seminary is located in Glenside Pennsylvania, a suburb just northwest of Philadelphia. There are a lot of considerations to take into account when considering seminary, and location is an important factor to consider. You might ask yourself any number of questions: Will I be comfortable with the location I’m living in? Will there be places to enjoy recreation and entertainment? Will there be places to study? What will the cost of living be like compared to where I am located now? The questions go on, but this article will focus on those listed previously.

Diverse Options for Living

When considering a move to the East Coast, some students might feel some trepidation. If you aren’t used to living in a “big city”, moving to Philadelphia might seem like a tall order. The good news is that our location is ideal in that the full spectrum of living situations are available within a driveable radius to campus. 

Westminster is about 30-45 minutes from Center City, Philadelphia, and about 30-45 minutes from rural farmland, with many suburban neighborhoods options in between. If you desire an urban environment, rich with walkable destinations and a range of culturally diverse ministry opportunities that may differ from your home context, this is available to you at a commutable distance from campus. And if you come from a smaller town, rural area, or suburb, and want to maintain that rhythm of life, similar options exist within a short range from campus.

Places to Hang

There are a number of fun neighborhoods that contain all sorts of great recreation, restaurants, shopping, and entertainment near Glenside. 

The closest to campus is probably Chestnut Hill. Only 10 minutes from campus, it is a quaint little neighborhood known as Philadelphia’s Garden District and Urban Village. The area features tree lined streets with great restaurants and specialty shops. Some local favorites include McNally’s Tavern, an Irish pub with incredible pub fare food, and El Poquito, a Mexican cantina with excellent tacos. Finally, Morris Arboretum, the official arboretum of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, is located in Chestnut Hill. 

If you’re looking for recommendations in Philadelphia, there are a number of vibrant neighborhoods to visit as well. Old City is the birthplace of American Independence. There you can visit a number of Colonial-era sites, including Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, the Betsy Ross House, and more. Some locations to hang out in this section include City Tavern, a restaurant established in 1773 where the Founding Fathers dined and drank, and Morgan’s Pier, a restaurant with a river deck beer garden overlooking the Delaware River. You’ll also want to visit Independence National Historic Park, which includes attractions like The Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and the Ben Franklin Museum. 

Center City is Philadelphia’s downtown section. Oriented around City Hall, this neighborhood includes the theater district, Rittenhouse Row shopping district, and a number of beautiful parks. Rittenhouse Square is a one square block park that was built by the city’s founder William Penn. It often features festivals, farmers markets, and fairs.

If you’re looking for a more gritty experience, Fishtown is where Philly’s culinary, art, and music trends take off. Catch some live music at Johnny Brenda’s, a lauded gastropub, or head across the street to the open air German beer hall-style Frankford Hall. You can also find coffee shops, street murals, and thrift stores here.

Finally, Wissahickon Valley Park is a 2,000+ acre park about 10 minutes away from Westminster’s campus. It contains 57 miles of trails that wind through a lush, forested gorge and meadows following the waters of the Wissahickon Creek. Forbidden Drive is a well traveled biking, walking, and bridle trail that follows the creek. The Valley Green Inn, built in 1850, offers exceptional dining in what was originally a roadside inn along Forbidden Drive.

Places to Study

While recreation and entertainment are important, you’ll be coming to Westminster to study. With that in mind, finding changes of scenery from the library can be important. With that in mind, here are some great study spot recommendations.

Chestnut Hill Coffee Co. is 10 minutes from campus and is a favorite spot for many Westminster students. It’s not unusual to make your way to their upstairs seating section to find half a dozen Westminster students reading and studying together. They also roast their own beans in a room connected to the seating section which makes for great smells and a cozy atmosphere. Down the street from Chestnut Hill Coffee is an unusually quaint Starbucks, that also happens to come with the added bonus of staying open a bit later than Chestnut Hill Coffee. Typically students will grab some food in the area and then migrate together to the Starbucks when Chestnut Hill Coffee closes.  

A bit further down the road from Chestnut Hill Coffee Co. is the Lovett Memorial Library. A historic building that was first opened in 1887, it has an outdoor garden area that makes for a great reading spot when weather cooperates. Elcy’s Cafe is about a mile from campus and is attached to the Glenside Regional Rail train station (part of the SEPTA system, which connects the Philly region). Being so close by, it’s a great pitstop to stop for the hours between classes if you’re looking to sip some coffee, secure some food, and do some reading.

If you have the time to venture into the city there are several outstanding coffee shops. Perhaps the most grand spectacle of a coffee shop is the massive flagship location of the national coffee roasters La Colombe. With an unassuming facade, La Colombe in Fishtown is a stunning 11,000 square foot coffee shop on the main strip of Fishtown’s Frankford Ave, just down the street from Frankford Hall and Johnny Brenda’s. One thing to keep in mind however, is that La Colombe doesn’t have wifi in an effort to encourage conversation. This is where a wifi hotspot from your phone or another device might come in handy.

Another great Philadelphia coffee shop is ReAnimator. This one has two locations, one in Fishtown and one in Kensington. Both are in hip, young neighborhoods on the north side of Philly. They are about 30 minutes from campus but are worth the trip if you have an afternoon open. ReAnimator is a bit more on the “underground” side of things, so it’s rare to find their shops overly crowded.

Cost of Living

The one drawback of living in the North East is that the cost of living is going to be higher than some other locations in the country. To be sure, living in Center City will be much more expensive than living in a more rural or suburban location as well. This is something that should be taken account of in your decision to come to Westminster and when deciding where in the area you want to settle.

Cultural Experience and Shifting Populations

Philly is without a doubt a culturally diverse environment where you’ll find people from all walks of life. Westminster’s proximity to this major city affords students the ability to apply their studies to encounters with a myriad of people and subcultures in real time, allowing you to be shaped by experiences you may not typically receive at home. 

If you are someone hailing from the Bible Belt or another more culturally homogeneous, conservative environment, you may find studying in the northeast advantageous as your training here will expose you to the type of people who may even be migrating to traditionally “red” states in the future. States like Texas, Florida, and Arizona, and North Carolina have seen a major influx of new residents migrating from northern states since 2020, which will inevitably change the fabric of their communities and church congregations.

Conclusion

Glenside is situated in a location that makes it possible for you to decide where and how you want to live. You can take advantage of a vast array of entertainment and recreation options in a safe and comfortable environment. With easy access to the city of Philadelphia as well as more rural locales, there is something for everyone here. If you have any questions about what was covered here, or other questions about Glenside and the surrounding areas, our admissions counselors would be happy to speak with you. Feel free to email us at admissions@wts.edu.

Navigating the Pitfalls of Online Education

August 30, 2023

Many people, when thinking of online education, might envision an isolated experience of studying alone in a dark room without any fellowship or interpersonal communication from their professors or classmates. This is a very real concern for a lot of people who are considering online education. It’s often true that opportunities for fellowship are harder to come by in the online modality, whereas they can occur more organically with the opportunity to brush shoulders with classmates in person. After all, there are strengths and weaknesses of both online and in-person education.

However, Westminster has engineered a number of ways to ensure that our online students enjoy a rich time of fellowship woven into their course of study. You can read more about our online experience broadly speaking here. In this article, we will be examining some challenges of online education, the need for hands-on Spiritual formation and fellowship in the online space, and how our online programs help to facilitate these vital components to ministry preparation.

Challenges of Online Education

The concerns stated above find their validity in the fact that online education has indeed been quite isolating in the past. Fellowship was practically non-existent in the case of asynchronous, mail-based educational programs, where tapes or DVDs of lectures were mailed to students with the students then sending their assignments back to the institution. A modern approach, where students essentially watch YouTube videos from their couch and then fill out online quizzes, offers little improvement, though students may progress through the course material at a faster pace without having to wait on the postal system. If an institution isn’t thinking deeply about fellowship and intentionally providing ways to bridge that gap, then the educational experience is going to suffer, even with ongoing technological improvements available. Any online program that doesn’t take this into account will essentially provide intellectual training alone. It will be a mere graduate school of theology, not a theological seminary. 

The distinction may seem inconsequential, but a seminary, properly conceived, is concerned not just with intellection formation, but with spiritual formation as well. Character is most effectively formed and developed through interpersonal relationship, not only through the typical academic channels of lectures, readings, and assignments. Again, any online Christian education that is not taking these things into account is going to set its students up for failure.    

The Need for Spiritual Formation

With these challenges in mind, Westminster has endeavored to incorporate spiritual formation as a key component of our online programs. Westminster’s Pastoral Theology department is deeply concerned with ensuring that our students can connect the intellectual material that they are learning with the work of the Spirit that happens in the hearts of believers. The ultimate aim is to then be able to communicate that melding of head and heart knowledge. This could be described as the theory of spiritual formation. In the history of the Reformed Tradition, this concept has been known as “divinity” and is where the term “Master of Divinity” comes from.

However, with the distinction between theology and divinity, a further distinction needs to be made. You will not find a course anywhere in Westminster’s curriculum entitled “Spiritual Formation.” This is because knowing the theory of spiritual formation and actually being formed by the work of the Holy Spirit applying the Gospel to your heart through progressive sanctification are different things. The last thing a seminary student needs is a resume that shows they got an A in Spiritual Formation.

The Need for Fellowship

An important source of spiritual formation is fellowship with other believers. The Spirit works through our friendships with other believers, as iron sharpens iron (Prov 27:17). Through Christian fellowship we learn to practice what we preach. We see how the Gospel works in others and also how it is working in us. The school of Christ is in session at Westminster before and after the lectures have finished.

Fellowship is a major priority at Westminster, not as a mere respite from the brain fatigue that results from hard hours of study, but as an intentional way to grow in grace, assuming that Jesus is with us and will work in and through us together.

Coffee Houses

So how does Westminster do this? What are the mechanisms in place to instill spiritual formation and fellowship? To start with, our Dean of Online Students, Jerry McFarland, is available for meetings and loves to shepherd our online students as a voice of encouragement. He is also not alone. He is surrounded by six to eight current students and alumni that make up the Core Advisory Team. These students actively and continually think of ways to improve the online community, strengthen relationships, and increase fellowship amongst the student body.

One of the fruits of the Dean of Online Students and the Core Advisory Team is the online “coffee houses” which meet monthly at four different times to accommodate busy schedules and various time zones. These Zoom gatherings are rich times of fellowship for the students to practice the fellowship and spiritual formation discussed above. The Core Advisory Team has also recently begun implementing regional, in-person gatherings for students that live within a close enough proximity to one another. 

An important aspect of the coffee houses, in-person gatherings, and conversations with Jerry is that none of these things are required. There is no pressure to participate nor is there a grade that depends on these events. They are fully for the benefit of the student. In that sense, what you put in, is what you get out.

Students and alumni have also reported developing personal friendships which they maintain apart from formal seminary events as a result of the connections they’ve made in class and via coffee houses.

Don’t take our word for it, hear these testimonials of current students and alumni.

Conclusion

Online education doesn’t need to be a lonely and isolated experience. At Westminster, it can be one in which your Spiritual formation blossoms in the context of rich fellowship with your fellow students. The Spirit is at work among our student body and we celebrate that, through technology and intentionality, many of the struggles of online education have been overcome.

Again, if you would like to know more about online education at Westminster take a look at this article. Our Admissions team would also be happy to speak with you about any of our online programs. You can reach out to them at admissions@wts.edu.

How Long Does Seminary Take?

August 25, 2023

Most people are aware that a seminary education requires a considerable financial investment. What is often overlooked and underappreciated is that it is also a considerable time investment as well. We at Westminster have gone to great lengths to alleviate the financial obstacles to your seminary education. Unfortunately, there isn’t much that can be done to shorten the time that it takes to complete your seminary education. Ministry is a high calling that requires robust training which should not be shortcutted. In order to know what you would be getting yourself into, this article will provide a breakdown of the time requirements for each of our degree programs and will also cover full-time study compared to part-time study. 

MDiv General Ministries

The MDiv program takes a minimum of three years to complete when enrolled full-time. However, the 3-year track is quite grueling and requires students to undergo coursework every summer. This means that there are few breaks and will be three years of nearly continuous study. With that in mind, most students opt for the four year track. The exception to this is if you have credits that can be transferred in from another graduate seminary program or if you have advanced placement in either Greek or Hebrew. You can see the recommended course schedule for the residential MDiv General Ministries here and the online MDiv General Ministries here

MDiv Pastoral Fellows

The time commitment of the MDiv Pastoral Fellows program can be thought of as the three year MDiv track with a pastoral residency and some courses in the fourth year. This means that it is a rather grueling program, but it comes with the benefit of a closer-knit residential community and increased access to the faculty among other perks. The recommended course schedule can be found here.

MAR

The MAR is a shorter degree program that shares much of the coursework of the MDiv. It is meant to be a more streamlined program that serves students preparing for further academic degree programs. To this end, the pastoral theology courses are omitted. It can be completed in a minimum of two years of full-time study. You can find recommended course schedules for the residential MAR here and the online MAR here.

MAC

The MAC is only offered online, and can be completed in as few as 2.5 years of full-time study. However, it is designed with flexibility in mind and can be undertaken in 3-5 years. The maximum amount of time in which the MAC must be completed is 10 years.

MATS

The MATS is another exclusively online degree. It can be completed in one to two years of full-time study. Like the MAC, it is also designed with flexibility in mind and can be completed in a total of three years. Westminster allows a maximum of 10 years for students to complete this degree.


ThM

The ThM can be completed in two and a half to three years with a maximum time limit of six years. The ThM requires a capstone project which can take the form of either a two-course capstone where students take two additional courses and write major papers, or a thesis capstone where students research and write a thesis which serves as a miniature dissertation. In both instances the core courses are completed in one and a half years. For the two course capstone, the additional courses take another year to complete resulting in a two and a half year program. For the thesis capstone, students typically take another one and a half years to complete, resulting in a three year program.

PhD

The maximum time limit of the PhD is seven years. The program is split into two phases: the coursework phase and the dissertation phase. The coursework phase must be completed in three years and the dissertation phase must be completed in four years. Students can appeal for a program extension of one year if necessary. 

DMin

The DMin can be completed in as few as three years with a maximum time limit of six years. Most students finish in five years. Like the PhD, the DMin is broken into two phases: a coursework phase, which should be completed within the first four years, and a post-coursework phase, which should be completed in the remaining two years. 

TSC

The theological Studies Certificates are offered entirely online and are designed for maximum flexibility. They are made up of three certificates, each composed of three courses. The maximum time to complete the Theological Studies Certificates is 10 years.

Full Time vs Part Time

All of the above programs have allotments for students to undertake them in either full or part-time capacity. However, some are more flexible than others, with the most rigid being the ThM, DMin, and PhD. For the rest of the programs, we typically advise students to devote themselves to their studies in a full-time capacity, but recognize that that is not always possible. Sometimes unforeseen circumstances will force students into unexpected delays. That is understandable and our programs can allow for such delays. Our online programs are especially flexible in that regard. 

Conclusion

While seminary is an investment of both money and time, the investment is one that is not without returns. We encourage you to use this information to help you soberly assess your approach to attending seminary, and whether the time commitment matches the season of life you are in, along with your ministry goals. If you have more questions about these programs, the length of time needed for them, or anything else, our admissions team is happy to discuss these things with you. Contact them here.

Study Tips for Seminary

August 25, 2023

Westminster’s degree programs are some of the most rigorous theological programs available anywhere in the world. Because of this, our students are stretched by the heavy workload that our degree programs entail. However, our programs are not rigorous merely for the sake of being rigorous, but because the calling of serving the church, whether as a pastor or another type of ministry leader, is a difficult one. This calling necessitates a high degree of preparation, so a high degree of preparation is what we seek to provide. This means that students have a lot on their plate, which can feel overwhelming at times. However, with discipline, care, and planning, the challenge before our students is by no means insurmountable. In this article we will cover tips that will help you complete the mountain of required reading, write quality papers efficiently, and study for the various quizzes, tests, and exams that you will be required to take.

 

Reading Tips

 

One of the most difficult aspects of seminary is balancing the required reading with your other obligations. It may sometimes feel like the pile of books and articles that you are required to read is unscalable and the time it takes to read them eats into the time you need to write papers or prepare for exams. It doesn’t help that a lot of the reading feels like a slow, difficult trod. 16th century systematic theology doesn’t exactly read like a fiction novel page-turner. So, what can you do to get yourself some breathing room?

 

The first thing you should do is make a plan. Each class will have different requirements for their reading. Some classes may have the required reading broken up into groups with each section having a different due date. Some will merely require that you have the reading done by the end of the semester. Some classes may have quizzes on the reading while others require written summaries of the reading. With that in mind, you should look at all the reading you have for the semester, find out which readings are due when, and structure your reading plan accordingly.

 

The next thing you will need to do is to stick to your reading plan. Consistency is vital here. Setting aside time to read daily will prevent you from experiencing a situation where procrastination results in you having hundreds of pages to read in the last couple days of the semester when you should instead be studying for finals. 

Another key is to always have your books with you, which will allow you to utilize all the time you can to read. If you have a few minutes between classes, you should be reading. If you’re sitting in the waiting room while getting your oil changed you can knock out some of your reading. If you take this approach, your mountain of reading will start to seem more like a molehill in time.

 

Writing Tips

 

Writing papers, sermons, and projects is a skill that needs to be honed. Some people may think that they are naturally gifted writers, and that may be true. However, resting on your ability to turn a phrase on paper will only get you so far. Writing papers in seminary is more about processing and communicating information accurately and efficiently than it is about producing beautiful prose. However, if you can communicate that information accurately, efficiently, and beautifully, then that will be an added plus.

 

As with reading, a good paper will require a good plan. You will need to make sure that you understand the assignment well before you even begin your research. Once you understand the directions of the assignment you should begin your research process.

Reading relevant articles is a good starting point. As you read, make sure that you pay attention to the footnotes. The temptation will be to gloss over them, but you should be making note of the other papers and articles the author cites, finding these resources, and reading them as well. Be sure to annotate the articles as you read them, as this will save you time when you refer back to these sources later for guidance, quotes, and citations.

Once you have completed a solid base of research, you can then begin to outline your paper, which will bring structure to your writing process. A completed outline will then allow you to flesh out the body of the paper using your annotated research.

 

If you feel like you need additional help in developing your writing, the Center for Theological Writing is a great resource available to WTS students.

 

Exam Tips

 

The key to doing well on exams is–you guessed it– studying. The famous quote, “The more I practice, the luckier I get,” can be modified to apply to exams as well. The harder you study the more prepared you’ll be on exam day. However, just telling someone to study isn’t exactly a study tip. So what can you do to improve the quality of your studying for exams?
 

Well, quality study begins in the classroom. If you take extensive notes during lectures, you will have a larger pool of study materials from which to pull. Recent research has shown that taking notes by hand, rather than by computer, improves information retention drastically. This also applies to taking notes while reading. If you have notes on the reading, you can use those as study aids as well.

Another way to help retain information and recall it on exam day is to transcribe your own notes over again, as the repetition and the action of writing what you are reading helps you to retain that information. Reformatting your notes and transcribing them on a whiteboard or a vertical surface can also be of benefit, as the change in orientation helps your brain to focus on that information and retain it better.

 

Conclusion

 

If you are nervous about how you might manage the extensive workload of a seminary program at Westminster, we hope these tips have allayed some of those anxieties. If you are diligent in your study, preparation, planning, and reading, you should be able to make it through. Westminster’s programs are not known to be easy, and there is no foolproof way to make them such; even with these tips, the program will be quite taxing. However, the programs at Westminster, though difficult, are very doable. If you feel that you are up to the task and would like to hear more about the degree programs at Westminster we encourage you to reach out to our Admissions team and apply today.

Westminster's Online Educational Experience

August 25, 2023

What's it like to be an online student at Westminster?

Online education often carries a reputation of neglect– needs that feel forgotten, coursework that slips through the cracks, or impersonal classes where students simply feel like a number. Our aim at Westminster is to eliminate these common concerns by offering personalized support, pliable online programs, and opportunities for community, all designed with the unique needs of fully online students in mind. So whether you work a full-time job, are parenting kids, have entered retirement, are re-entering academic pursuits after a long time away from school, or have found yourself in an uncharted season of life, we strive to make our courses manageable, organized, and engaging. 


Global Accessibility

In light of this, we’ve repackaged Westminster’s renown curriculum into a fully online format that is designed to be accessible wherever you are, allowing you to stay rooted in your community as you pursue rich theological training. You will receive lecture content from our world-class faculty and have access to our highly qualified online instructors, a majority of whom are also seasoned pastors. This dedicated team of online instructors offers a more intimate learning experience as they relay and explain lecture content, and are available to provide subject matter expertise in response to your questions.

User-Friendly Course Design

Since the logistical details of each course are designed by professional course developers with input from full-time Westminster faculty, our online instructors are dedicated to engaging with you and provide substantive feedback in a timely manner. This also means that each course is supported by a dedicated support team and is designed for your ease of use as a student. So no matter what course you enroll in, you will know just what to expect regarding format. This translates to a better experience since you can focus on the task of learning without wasting time navigating various different course structures.

Our online courses are not just video lectures, discussion boards, reading, and papers, though. Apart from engaging with other classmates (more below), you’ll also have the ongoing opportunity to connect with our friendly Dean of Online Students, Jerry McFarland, for personal pastoral care, prayer support, and counsel through any stress or spiritual needs. Jerry also hosts several live “coffee houses” over Zoom each month to foster fellowship and care for one another. This provides students with a chance to talk through different topics in a casual environment oriented around socializing together and applying the Word of God. Should you encounter any academic or administrative concerns, our steadfast student support team is also always just an email away. 

Curtis Patrick, a student in the online program, described his experience this way:

 “I live almost 3,000 miles away from campus, so Westminster Online is a dream come true for me! Not only do I get to take courses with the level of depth and rigor that WTS is renowned for, I am also connected to brothers and sisters in Christ from around the globe. Course small groups give me the opportunity to meet other aspiring pastors, counselors, and theologians as we pray and study together. Virtual coffee houses are the perfect venue for me to engage with students and alumni outside of the classroom. I would highly recommend WTS Online to anyone who desires a flexible, high-quality seminary education with a vibrant community of students, faculty, and staff.” 

Lisa Huck, a student in Australia, described her experience this way:

“My experience to date has been a glimpse of Heaven — brothers and sisters around the world joining to worship, confess, learn, and care for one another, with sincere love, in covenant community.

Precept upon precept, together we’re learning to watch our lives and doctrine closely and to persevere in them both. And with the comfort with which we’re comforted, we’re able to comfort others. What joy!... 

With just a few clicks, I’m there in the classroom with godly and endearing faculty, exchanging ideas in a small group from across the globe, grounded in a weekly chapel service, casually connecting with new friends and old at Coffeehouse, being inspired at a CCEF conference... My life has never been this relationally full and multi-faceted with so many iron-sharpening iron friendships.”

 

How much coursework should I expect each week?

We classify the workload of each course as either light, moderate, or heavy. A light course might look like 0-70 pages of reading per week with 0-3 hours of assignments per week and 0-30 mins of lecture content per week. A moderate course might look like 40-90 pages of reading per week with 3-6 hours of assignments per week and 1-2 hours of lecture content per week. A heavy course might be 100-150 pages of reading per week, 6-8 hours of assignments per week, and 2-3 hours of lecture content per week. Of course, all of these timelines will vary from student to student.

 

What platforms are used?

  • Canvas – This is where you will spend the majority of your time. Here you’ll find your course syllabi, watch recorded lectures, submit assignments, etc. 
  • Workplace –  Engage with your classmates and your online instructors. This is where most of your social interaction will be fostered. The interface feels familiar and easy to navigate for most people given it is akin to Facebook’s layout. 
  • Populi – We also use a platform called Populi. This is where your student records are found and where you can pay tuition. 
  • Cerego & Anki – These are quizzing apps. They are mostly used for Greek and Hebrew courses and are not relevant for programs like the MATS and MAC where language classes are not required.

 

Will I be able to talk with my professors or my classmates in real time?

Students in each course are divided into small groups that are organized by time zone to ensure that you can engage with each other as easily as possible. You will have pre-recorded lecture content that you watch each week and your online instructor will provide you with discussion prompts to talk over as a small group. Your small groups will be accessible on Workplace, where you will find a time to meet as a group. Most groups meet via Zoom, but some groups have been geographically close enough to meet in person. No matter the format of your meeting, you will typically submit your discussion question answers to your online instructor for feedback. There are also coursewide forums and chats on Workplace of which you can take advantage.

Additionally there are monthly “Coffee Houses” with Jerry McFarland, the Dean of Online Students where you are encouraged to meet with Jerry, additional faculty, as well as your fellow classmates. We also occasionally attend conferences with special student and alumni events and host regional meetups across the US in places like Nashville with additional locations hopefully coming soon.

 

What advantages might an online experience offer me?

Our online format offers many advantages to those wishing to remain rooted where they are while they study. A few key benefits include:

  • Continue to work while you study. No need to look for a new job, or postpone your current career path. 
  • Avoid the logistics of relocating yourself and/or your family.
  • Take classes wherever you go— near or far. Online studies allow you to remain flexible with your schedule, whether that means killing time in the airport, visiting a new place, or simply being able to listen to lectures on a walk.  
  • The majority of lectures are pre-recorded, meaning you can pause, rewind, and review lectures with ease. This allows you to study at your own pace without having to worry about taking copious notes during a teaching session. 
  • Remain nearby friends, family, church community, mentors, and others in your support network as you undergo this intense season of training. 
  • Experience unique pedagogical opportunities and chances for direct life application as you remain in your home or ministry context. This is of particular benefit for many of our students who are already ministers, counselors and elders, since they can directly implement, test, and apply what they are studying in an immediate and practical sense. In this way, your ministry can shape your education, and your education can shape your ministry in a fruitful and exciting way.
  • Save time and money by eliminating a commute to campus.


Conclusion

The online student experience at Westminster is one that is carefully crafted to overcome the typical pitfalls of online education. Our goal is that in entering an online class at Westminster you feel that you are entering an active community of brothers and sisters around the globe that are desiring to grow in their knowledge and understanding of Christ and his Word. You will have a dedicated student support team ready and eager to assist you, expert faculty willing to serve you, and likeminded classmates learning alongside you. You will be welcomed into the Westminster family and receive an unparalleled theological education. If you think that online education might be the right choice for you, or have questions about what it might look to enroll as an online student with us, we encourage you to learn more about our online student experience and to apply to one of our online programs.

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