By Elizabeth Oakes
This fall, 44 students from across the globe are enrolled in Union’s new online Master of Christian Studies degree program through partnership with the North American Mission Board.
The program provides biblical theological preparation for missionaries or people who may be missionaries someday. Every student is involved in a ministry somewhere, and this offers those who never had a chance to go to seminary an accessible and affordable way to earn a master’s degree.
“This gives them a convenient way to get a degree so they can stay in their ministry context … it’s almost like a second chance at training,” said Hayward Armstrong, professor of missions and director of online programming.
As of Aug. 29, enrollees represent six countries and 13 states.
One student traveled from Poland to start a Polish church in New York, while another student from Haiti traveled to South Florida to begin a Haitian ministry. Although the program was expected to bring in many missionaries, almost half of the enrolled students are pastors in the United States.
As a result of the North American Mission Board involvement in the online program, the university introduces questions that consider how missions play into every class.
For instance, the Old Testament class would look at what the Old Testament has to say about missions.
“A missionological thread runs through each course,” Armstrong said. “It is helping educate the students in biblical studies but we are also giving them a heavy dose of missions without actually teaching a missions course.”
The 33-hour, accelerated online program is a revision of the 42-hour in-class session.
“A lot of these students have a 40-hour a week job, their ministry and a family; and now they are studying, ” Armstrong said.
Although online courses can take more time than on-campus classes to complete, the program can be completed in one year if the students choose to take every course offered.
On-campus, 16-week courses are taught in eight weeks online, with every course being offered each year.
Professors teach courses using mini lecture videos as well as reading, discussion forums, quizzes and exams. The discussion forums serve as a place for interaction between the students and the professor.
“Every class has an additional forum that is non academic, giving students and faculty an opportunity to talk to each other,” Armstrong said.
Additionally, each class has a prayer wiki, which gives everyone the opportunity to post prayer requests or praise reports.