Individuals in a pastoral role as a chaplain or assistant chaplain with a large congregation will be in a leadership position. Some of the pastor’s responsibilities include preparing and conducting church services, delivering sermons, counseling parishioners, displaying leadership through the strength of character and Christian morals, being compassionate to those in need, praying for the sick, providing care to the grieving, and more.
The pastor, rabbi, or Imam (Islam) is the church’s, synagogue’s, or mosque’s chief executive officer. These leaders represent the place of worship as the CEO is the face and identifiable figure of the company or corporation. Their misbehavior and transgressions can quickly lead to dismissal by the other leaders. As with the CEO, the congregation’s leader will be called on to make difficult decisions about the church’s direction. Therefore, the qualities of leadership are imperative to the minister, rabbi, or Imam.
Do you need a separate leadership degree?
There are considerations to address to help answer this question. First of all, the average Master of Divinity (MDiv) is longer than the typical graduate program. Some of these have 80+ credit hours that result in a completion time of three to four years. By adding a degree in leadership or management to your education, you increase the years of study. The longer timeframe increases the cost when paying tuition per credit hour.
The Graduate School at Dallas Baptist University, for example, offers a 36-hour Master of Arts in Leadership (MAL). Graduates will be prepared to use their leadership skills in business, education, government, or ministry. The program emphasizes Biblical servant leadership as reflected in courses covering Christian Worldview Leadership, Leadership in Conflict, Great Leaders in History, and Cross-Cultural Leadership.
Dallas Baptist states that the MAL complements a second master’s degree or certificate. You could enroll in the dual M.A. in Christian Ministry and M.A. in Leadership, which has 60 credit hours. The combination degrees would be significantly less than most MDiv degrees. Some of the ministry degree courses are Foundations of Christian Ministry, Systematic Theology, Spiritual Formation, and Applied Hermeneutics (interpretation of biblical texts).
Examples of MDiv programs as illustrative of the hours required for completion are:
Wayland Baptist University – 81 hours
Liberty University – 75 hours
Asbury Theological Seminary – 96 hours
Knox Theological Seminary – 90 hours
Candler School of Theology at Emory University – 86 hours
As you see by these random examples, there are more than the average hours in an MDiv program versus most other graduate degrees. The Candler School also has a Master of Religious Leadership that is only 48 credit hours. Individuals seeking leadership in a church can specialize in Pastoral Care. The coursework provides training in pastoral counseling or theology. Another specialization is titled Wesleyan Leadership and Heritage, which prepares graduates for Wesleyan or Methodist ministry.
The Wesleyans are an Evangelical Protestant church founded by John Wesley in the mid-1700s. Wesleyans base their faith on the Bible verse in Galatians 3:28: There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. Today, the church adheres to the principle of equality and applies that to social issues.
The Wesleyan Leadership concentration is for individuals over 35 who want a second graduate degree and aspire to seek ordination as a Deacon in the Methodist church.
Before contemplating a second degree to complement an MDiv, you need to determine your career goals. If pastoral ministry is a possibility, choose a program that includes leadership classes in the MDiv curriculum. You may be able to avoid the time and expense of a separate degree in leadership. There are employment opportunities for pastors in prisons, hospitals, hospice facilities, and within the community. Prison chaplain, religious education, bereavement counselor, mission work, hospice chaplain, family counselor, and spiritual care counselor are examples of secular (non-religious) roles for graduates from an MDiv program.
It’s advisable to scroll through online employment sites to see the preferred qualifications for specific positions. For example, a hospice care facility in Tucson, Arizona, seeks a Chaplain/Bereavement coordinator. The education requirements are a bachelor’s degree or equivalent in theology. Many of the Senior Pastor listings at various churches require a Master of Divinity from an accredited seminary. There are exceptions, such as the posting for a Senior Pastor at a Fellowship Church in Elon, North Carolina. It states that applicants need an undergraduate or graduate Bible degree, and they must be an ordained minister at a sponsoring church. This example indicates that experience can take precedence over advanced education.