Nestled on Lake Valentine in suburban St Paul, Minnesota, Bethel University stands out as not only one of the top seminary schools in the country, but also boasts a 75% freshman graduation rate within five years. Established in 1871 to “train pastors to serve Swedish Baptist immigrants fleeing persecution”, it was moved from its location in Chicago to its current locale in 1914 and then expanded to offer accredited four year degrees just after WWII. Now, the Converge sponsored Bethel offers not only seminary training, but degrees in over 100 fields, boasting a student body of 6000+ in four different schools, including graduate programs, all the while maintaining their dedication to the founder John Edgren’s vision of “rigorous academics, vibrant campus life, and Christ-centered spirituality”.
Their distance learning programs grew out of a realization that many undergrads are already working hard within the ministry and can’t relocate to St Paul to finish Master’s work in their field. To allow for this, while still giving them the ability to learn and grow, the InMinistry Distance Learning Program was established. Offering four Master’s degrees and a PhD program online, they are a melding of eight weeks of online courses, mixed with two weeks of on campus work with other online students in the middle of the fall and spring semesters. The resulting mix of online discussion, assignment, guidance, and encouragement work in concert with the intensive two weeks of campus time to produce fully rounded ministers, without robbing their congregations or uprooting their lives for three to five years.
Bethel Seminary’s online Master’s programs include a Master of Divinity degree and several Master of Arts degrees. The Divinity degree can be earned in a 5 year online program, following the system of four 10 week quarters, with a two week intensive course on campus coming twice per year (fall/spring). It works to prep seminary undergrads to further their ministry in the community, while strengthening their knowledge, and developing not just the religious aspects, but the person as a whole. Whether for ordained ministry or work in the more professional aspect of the ministry, Bethel’s online Ministry Master seeks “to develop the maturity, depth, and integrity to advance the Gospel in culturally sensitive ways.
Meanwhile, their online M.A. degrees can be achieved in just 3 years online, offering degrees in Children’s and Family Ministry, Christian Thought, and Transformational Leadership. Following the same four quarter system as the Divinity degree, the M.A. degrees are also meant to further the minister’s role in connecting and enriching the spiritual lives of those in their ministry. The Children’s/Family M.A. gives the student a stronger biblical base and develops skills to minister more fully to the families, helping strengthen the “head, heart, and hands” of the minister. Meanwhile, the Christian Thought program works to bring the religious teachings of the seminary and contemporary culture together to form a more cohesive message on the world today. Christian Thought M.A.’s prepare to fuse current ideas and technologies with the message of the ministry, keeping religion relevant and powerful. Finally, there’s the Transformational Leadership M.A., meant to train the minister to take his message to a broader flock, allowing the student to minister “wherever God is calling” and is meant to empower and strengthen the message.
In addition to this, the school’s Doctor of Ministry program is a PhD that’s “not interested in merely helping student put doctor in front of their name”, but has been working since 1975 to use research and innovation to bring lasting Biblical change to the world around them. The online PhD attracts 120+ students worldwide, with both a Self Directed program (tailoring their own learning between Church Leadership and Family Studies) and an Emerging Leaders Cohort program (a 3 year study with ministry peers).
Bethel University teaches both secular students and over 65 divinities of Christians, using its beautiful setting and current technologies to strengthen students in the seminary and beyond. Their Distance Learning is perfect for any looking to enrich their religious studies.