FORT WORTH, Texas – Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) will launch the shortest fully online master’s degree among Southern Baptist seminaries this summer with its brand new Master of Theological Studies (MTS). Trustees approved the 36-hour degree at their spring meeting, April 3.
“This finally makes it possible for people who are in their churches and preparing for ministry to go ahead and get their degree completely without having to leave the church to which they feel called and to which they’re committed,” said Mark Leeds, registrar at the seminary. “It makes access more possible for our local churches.”
Seminary administrators and trustees said the fully accredited degree combines the rigorous academic content that Southwestern is known for with the accessibility and affordability those in ministry often need. Leeds noted one unique aspect of the degree is that the courses are predominately taught by full-time faculty members.
“Most of our online courses are taught by our own faculty,” said Leeds. “There are other institutions where you have a whole cadre of adjuncts that are a part of teaching the courses. One of the strong points of our courses is that we haven’t farmed them out to 100 different adjuncts. They’re primarily taught by our own elected faculty members.”
Of the courses in the Master of Theological Studies, 92 percent of the online courses are taught by elected faculty and former full-time faculty members.
Leeds said the degree could also be beneficial for church members looking to strengthen their understanding of the Bible and to maximize their ministry in the local church.
“In Southern Baptist life, we have a strong laity—people who are not on staff but are committed to serving in different ways such as deacons and Sunday school teachers,” Leeds said. He added that the MTS makes it possible to get “solid, foundational knowledge in the basic disciplines you would want to have to be a better servant in the church.”
Twelve three-hour courses make up the MTS, including classes in hermeneutics, Old Testament, New Testament, church history, Baptist heritage, systematic theology, apologetics, and ethics. As an academic degree, the program is not meant to replace the comprehensive Master of Divinity and Master of Arts in Christian Education degrees, which provide further ministry training and still require a portion of credit hours to be completed on campus. These programs provide additional coursework in biblical languages, preaching, pastoral ministry, evangelism, missions, and electives.
Those interested in applying for the fully online Master of Theological Studies can complete the online application at www.swbts.edu/applynow or contact Southwestern’s office of admissions at 1-800-SWBTS-01. For a list of Frequently Asked Questions, visit www.swbts.edu/MTS.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Keith Collier is director of news and information for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.)