The Master of Arts in Ministry and Leadership Degree Program


Program Overview

The purpose of the Master of Arts (M.A.) in Ministry and Leadership program is to equip persons for ministry leadership in some form of specialized ministry in congregations and other ministry settings. It combines the core ministry and leadership skills with focused ministry specializations required in congregations and parachurch ministries today. For example, they may be seeking to serve as associate pastors on a church staff, in parachurch agencies, or in specialized areas of ministry (e.g. chaplaincy, coaching, mission and culture, pastoral care, evangelism, youth ministry, etc.). The program is not recommended for those preparing for a ministry where ordination is expected or required (e.g., the pastorate) or for those who anticipate subsequent doctor of ministry studies.

Students will take a common sequence of courses to build the core outcomes in Christian spirituality studies, biblical and theological studies, and ministry studies. As students proceed with their classroom studies, they are challenged to sharpen their ministry skills in a chosen place of ministry. Interaction between student, faculty advisor and ministry mentor will facilitate the refining of ministry effectiveness by identifying areas of strength to be honed and areas of critical weakness to be improved. Building on the core foundational areas, students will develop specialized ministry and leadership skills through their electives.

Program Goals and Student Learning Outcomes

The Master of Arts in Ministry and Leadership program goals include:

  • The capacity for critical and constructive theological reflection regarding the content and processes of the areas of specialized ministry
  • The skill in the design, implementation, and assessment of ministry in these specialized areas
  • An understanding of the various disciplines that undergird the area of specialized ministry
  • Growth in personal and spiritual maturity.

The Master of Arts in Ministry and Leadership program is designed to prepare graduates with the following learning outcomes:

  • Understand and integrate Scripture in decision making and problem solving
  • Effectively judge between competing ideas and apply theological truth
  • Exhibit a Christ-like integrity that encompasses their personal and public life
  • Committed to an ongoing process of spiritual formation that is clearly grounded in the Gospel Demonstrate cultural awareness in theological thinking and ministerial practice
  • Apply a biblical, missional, and transformational approach to ministry
  • Demonstrate mastery of the key principles of their chosen area of ministry through effective service in that area

Admission Requirements

In addition to the general requirements for admission to the Seminary, applicants for the MA in Ministry and Leadership program must possess a four-year baccalaureate degree or its educational equivalent from a college or university accredited by a United States association holding membership in one of the seven regional accrediting associations, membership in the Association of Universities and Colleges in Canada, membership in the Association for Biblical Higher Education, or from an institution which maintains similar academic requirements and standards. Additionally, MA applicants must present a GPA of 3.0 or higher, including a breadth of liberal arts. Applicants who do not meet these general academic requirements may petition the Admissions Committee for consideration. A recommendation from the applicant’s pastor and three personal recommendations regarding the applicant’s Christian character and leadership also are required.

Transfer Credit, Advanced Standing, and Residence Requirements

Upon approval by the registrar’s office, transfer of up to 26 hours credit is allowed toward the MA program from graduate institutions accredited by the Association of Theological Schools. Students must have earned a grade of B or higher for a course to be considered for transfer and coursework must have completed no more than five years prior to matriculation to Western Seminary. Transferability of credits earned at Western and transferred to another institution is at the discretion of the receiving institution.

Alternatively, students may receive advanced standing of up to 13 credit hours of the 26 credit hours of transfer credit allowed toward their program if they are able to demonstrate current competency in required coursework based on prior study (based on parallel undergraduate work or transfer credit that is ineligible for consideration based on age). Advanced standing is allowed for up to eight credits of the required BL courses (501, 502, 503) and eight credits of the required TH courses (501, 502, 503). They may qualify for four additional credits of advanced electives for the remaining credits in each of these required courses. Consult the registrar’s office for information on eligibility of transfer credit and advanced standing.

Residence requirements for Portland, San Jose and Sacramento Campuses: Of the 52 credit hours required for the Master of Arts in Ministry and Leadership program, a minimum of 26 credit hours must be completed through coursework completed at Western Seminary, with a minimum of 18 credit hours taken in resident study at one of Western Seminary’s physical campus locations.

Residence requirements for Online Campus only: Of the 52 credit hours required for the MA in Ministry and Leadership program, a minimum of 26 credit hours must be completed through coursework at Western Seminary, with a minimum of 6 credit hours taken in resident study through the following specific courses and program orientation (Approved exception to ATS Standards A.3.1.3 and B.3.1.3):

  • During October, February or June of a student's first academic year, the student must travel to Portland for one week to attend program orientation and two threshold courses, CS501 Learning to Love God and Others (2 credit hours) and MF501 Introduction to Theological Study and Ministry Formation. (2 credit hours).
  • During the student's final academic year, the student must return to Portland to attend the capstone course, TH504 Integrating Ministry and Theology (2 credit hours).

Degree Requirements

The MA in Ministry and Leadership program requires a common core 42 credits including of biblical, theological, Christian spirituality, and applied ministry studies. In addition, students select an elective track of 10 credits consisting either of a ministry specialization or a self-designed sequence of electives.

The Master of Arts in Ministry and Leadership degree is conferred upon the attainment of certain personal and academic requirements. In addition to the general seminary requirements, degree candidates must (1) give evidence of a genuine Christian character, orthodox belief, and conduct consistent with a God-given call to a position of leadership; (2) complete all courses in the prescribed MA curriculum with a minimum grade point average of 3.0.

Students may complete their MA studies in as few as four semesters. All work MA degree must be completed within five years from the time of matriculation. Permission to extend the five-year statute of limitation must be granted through submission of an academic petition. Reinstatement to the program after withdrawal requires Admissions Committee action and may subject the student to additional requirements for the degree. All credits applied toward the degree requirements must be earned within ten years of the awarding of the degree.

Master of Arts in Ministry and Leadership Curriculum Plan

Foundational Studies: 10 credits
BT501 Hermeneutics 2
BT502 Understanding Biblical Theology 2
CS501 Learning to Love God and Others 2
CS502 Growing in Prayer and Other Key Spiritual Disciplines 2
MF501 Introduction to Theological Study and Ministry Formation 2
Biblical Studies: 12 credits
BL501 Interpreting Genesis to Song of Solomon 4
BL502 Interpreting the Prophets and Gospel 4
BL503 Interpreting Acts to Revelation 4
Theological Studies: 14 credits
TH501 Knowing the Living God: Theology I 4
TH502 Glorifying the Word of Life: Theology II 4
TH503 Living as the Community of the Spirit: Theology III 4
TH504 Integrating Ministry and Theology 2
Ministerial Studies: 6 credits
ML501 Theology and Practice of Gospel-Centered Ministry 2
ML502 -or- Transformational Leadership 2
WL504 Women in Leadership 2
ML506 Ministerial Ethics 2
MF531-532 Ministry Leadership Formation (P/F graded, lab fee) 0
MF533-534 Ministry Leadership Formation (P/F graded, lab fee; as needed) 0
Restricted electives: 8 credits
Select from the courses below with advisor approval:
ML503 Nurturing Faithful Disciples 2
ML504 Taking the Gospel to Diverse Cultures 2
ML505 Applied Pastoral Counseling: Caring for People in a Broken World 2
ML507 Gospel Responses to Contemporary Challenges 2
ML508 Preaching Gospel-Centered Messages 2
Open Electives: 2 credits