Master of Arts
The Master of Arts program is an academic Master’s degree accredited by the Association of Theological Schools. It is intended to prepare students for competent Christian theological engagement and leadership in a variety of settings. The 48 credit degree allows students to design personalized plans of study to match their academic backgrounds, the needs/expectations of the Church, and their vocational/professional goals.
The flexibility of this degree program serves a wide variety of lay or ordained people including those seeking to gain basic knowledge in theological studies and to explore vocational possibilities and those seeking to develop specific competence in preparation for further academic study and/or professional leadership in the church.
Three required courses and a distribution requirement ground all degree plans in theological reflection that is scriptural, historical, and contemporary. In consultation with an advisor, students identify an Area of Concentration that is congruent with their interests and supported by faculty strengths. Four areas of concentrations are offered:
• Theological Studies
• Christian Formation
• Religion and Culture (Interdisciplinary studies in religion)
• Biblical Interpretation
Required courses (12 credits) include: Introduction to Theological Research and Writing; Advanced Theological Research and Writing; Critical Methodology (may be fulfilled by taking 3 credits in scripture, church history, or one of the theological disciplines); and an Interdisciplinary Seminar (taken in the final year of study).
To meet the distribution requirement, students will take 6 credit hours in each of the following areas: All courses in these areas must be taken for a letter grade, except for the language courses.
1) Biblical Studies (Old Testament, New Testament, Hebrew, and Greek)
2) Christian Tradition (Church History, Theology, and Global Christianity)
3) Faith and Practice in Contemporary Society (Ethics, Religion and Culture, Christian Education, Spirituality, Music, Practical Theology)
(Note: Some existing courses may fit in more than one area, and others may not meet the distribution requirement criteria. Students will determine their exact courses for the distribution requirements in consultation with an advisor. Desired courses that do not meet the distribution criteria may be taken as electives.)
Individual advisors will assist students in choosing an Area of Concentration, identifying elective courses to support it, and in the determination of an appropriate concluding exercise or “capstone project” that allows for a summative evaluation of learning and demonstrates quality achievement of a degree plan. This exercise will be designed to best meet students’ vocational and professional goals and may be a research or project-based thesis in the Area of Concentration, a comprehensive examination, portfolio, publication or some combination of such.
The M.A. program will:
• equip individuals for thoughtful, skillful, faithful, and wise leadership in complex systems;
• challenge students to develop knowledge and wisdom through rigorous theological study, research, and practical engagement in the field of their choice;
• expose students to the richness and complexity of traditions, texts, contexts, languages, and practices informing and shaping Christian ministry; and
• integrate theological education and ministry for life, including the development of spiritual practices congruent with the identified field of work or ministry.
Graduates of the MA program will be able to:
• demonstrate fluency in engaging theological studies with a variety of intellectual disciplines (e.g. historical, cultural, and developmental);
• identify the challenges inherent in engaging disciplines critically, and demonstrate ability to meet those challenges constructively;
• demonstrate knowledge of texts, traditions, theories, and best practices in a chosen area of concentration;
• demonstrate an integrated understanding of different disciplinary approaches and how they mutually inform the chosen area of study and ministry in diverse contexts and life situations; and
• articulate their own spiritual development in relationship to their academic interests and vocational goals.
The M.A. can be earned through part-time study, full-time residency or any combination of the two. Summer terms will offer opportunities for short periods of residential study. The degree can be completed in a minimum of two years or a maximum of seven years. A minimum of 32 credits must be taken at VTS.