The call to ministry is unique. It’s not just another change in major, it’s a calling on your life. Grace College has a place for this call. Our Blended Program in the School of Ministry allows you to work on your bachelor’s and master’s simultaneously, making it a fast theology degree.
Professor John Sloat, Director of the School of Ministry Blended Program, watches students go through this accelerated program every year. He sees their highs and lows and he knows how meaningful it is to pursue both a bachelor’s and a master’s in just four or five years. In this conversation, he reflects on his students, the benefits of the accelerated program, and how to decide if it’s right for you.
1. How do students benefit from being in the accelerated blended program?
Sloat: My bachelor’s degree took four years and my master’s degree took three. What took me seven years takes them five if they take advantage of this option to get a fast master’s of divinity degree. Or if they get a master of arts, it will take them four years instead of six. It also saves between $40,000 and $50,000.
Those are the surface-level benefits, but the fast theology degree has a deeper benefit, too. We have anywhere from seven to ten students join the program each year. They begin meeting together their first year, often become good friends, and build community alongside each other. I’m meeting with the first-year students right now and we’re building habits of checking in with each other and seeing how everyone is doing. We care about what’s going on in each other’s lives and that will hopefully lead to friendships that last decades beyond these five years.
2. How is the accelerated ministry program unique?
Sloat: This program has advanced standing. But the biggest difference is that we mentor and develop our students. Each of our faculty members has a mentoring group. They meet on campus or at their house and read a book or talk about life together. All of our students are a part of it, and I don’t know of any other program that does that.
3. What hesitations do students have when considering the program?
Sloat: Students often plan to be here for three years, so when we tell them it would be advantageous to be here for four or five years, it takes some time to adjust. But most of the time, the fast theology degree wins the day.
4. What are some of the common characteristics you see in students who decide to do the program?
Sloat: I see students who love people and want to see the church grow. We don’t tend to get a ton of students who just want to talk about theology all the time. Our students love theology, but they are ultimately passionate about working with people, preaching, and teaching.
5. As you work with students who are going through the program, what are some of the common obstacles they face?
Sloat: They face a lot of the same challenges that normal college students face — home life, academic reading, and language learning. All of my students have a story. Most students, if they are willing to put in the time and effort, practice good habits. They go to bed on time, study their Greek and Hebrew, and are completely capable of doing the coursework.
6. What advice would you give to students who don’t know which program to take?
Sloat: Keep your options open. If you’re a senior in high school and you’re considering several different schools, choose the school that’s going to give you the most flexibility. I can help students get into the fast theology degree program as late as year three.”
7. What year do students start working on master’s classes?
Sloat: They officially start in year three, but some of the classes they take in years one and two will count toward their master’s degree as well.
8. How have you seen the accelerated ministry program grow?
Sloat: This is my third year in this role, and we’ve seen the program go from six or seven students to over forty this year. It is awesome to see this growth, and we hope to see even more going forward as we continue to spread the word about this fast and affordable way to train for ministry. – from grace.edu