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How to Choose the Right MDiv Program

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Maybe you’ve recently graduated with a degree in Bible or religious studies, wanting to pursue further theological study. Maybe you’re a working professional who feels called to become a pastor. Or maybe you’re already serving in the church and want to pursue a Master of Divinity to be fully equipped for pastoral ministry.

Whatever the case may be, it’s important to choose a reputable MDiv program that will help prepare you for ministry and challenge you both intellectually and spiritually.

Choosing the right MDiv program can be difficult and tedious. While there are some obvious factors to consider—such as cost, location, and accreditation—there are other critical components to look for when choosing an MDiv program.

Read the Statement of Faith

Look for a statement of faith that is centered on Jesus Christ and the Word of God. Choose a program that declares God as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and holds to the belief that Scripture is the inspired Word of God. Make sure the school’s statement of faith aligns with your own spiritual beliefs and convictions.

Some programs and schools are affiliated with a particular denomination or Christian tradition. For some schools, it is evident which viewpoints they teach by the name of the school (for example, Reformed Theological Seminary teaches from a Reformed perspective). For others, you may have to research the website or even call an admissions representative to find out their theological and doctrinal views.

Check for the quality of education

Each MDiv program is different. While most MDiv programs are around three years and cover similar topics, different programs have different focuses. Choose a program that covers a variety of topics and subjects, and see how the course requirements overlap with your interests (e.g. theology, Old and New Testament, ancient languages, church history, pastoral care, and homiletics). You might now want to be a part of a program that focuses so much on one topic that it neglects others.

As you examine the curriculum, ask yourself some questions about the quality of the education. Are there required credits in Bible? Theology? Languages? Do you recognize the books on the syllabi? Is there coursework in applied theology (for example, pastoral leadership or spiritual formation)? Make sure that the program covers a breadth of Bible-centered teaching and is academically and spiritually stimulating.

Research the faculty

Another helpful factor when considering an MDiv program is to examine the school’s faculty. Who will be teaching the classes? What are their educational backgrounds? Do they have ministry experience as pastors?

Your professors will help shape your theological views and ministry philosophy. Make sure that you find faculty members who are passionate about God and His Word. In the words of preacher and author John Piper, “look for a faculty [member] who reveres the Bible as God’s inerrant Word.”

Look for faculty members who are not only scholars or professors, but are also believers with godly character. Find faculty members who are passionate about their subjects. Seek after faculty who have a love for the church and want to equip you to lead a gospel-centered ministry.

Talk to your church leaders

Talk to your pastor and church members who have graduated from an MDiv program. Learn the distinctives of the programs that they went through, and find out their likes and dislikes with the schools or programs. This can help you know what to look for.

Make sure to ask them plenty of questions about their experiences regarding the spiritual climate, academics and coursework, and faculty. Are there some things they wish they would have known before enrolling in your MDiv program? Do they feel like the school prepared them academically and spiritually for ministry? Would they recommend their program?

Whether or not you choose to follow in your pastor’s or church leaders’ footsteps, the conversations will provide you with valuable insight on choosing and assessing an MDiv program.

Finally, spend time discussing the options with family, friends, and mentors, and cover this decision in prayer. Pursuing an MDiv is a serious decision—it will prepare you for biblical training and shape your beliefs and ministry philosophy. It isn’t so much about the name of the school, but about the values that the school espouses and its commitment to helping you develop a biblical worldview and godly character.

Choose a program that is committed to Christ. Choose a program that equips you—not just for pastoral ministry, but for life.

For more info about our own MDiv program, check out Cairn’s School of Divinity here.

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