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Students who are aiming for professions related to the clergy may be interested in pursuing degrees from online Bible schools. This guide covers important aspects of earning a theology degree such as choosing the type of program and a curriculum focus. Also included is advice for prospective online learners from a Christian ministry student. Armed with this information, students can select the online clergy school and degree that best meets their needs and lifestyle.

Overview of Traditional & Online Bible Study Degrees

Many denominations require clergy members to hold at least a bachelor’s degree in theology or a closely related area. An associate degree can provide a background in church history, missions, evangelism and how to live according to Biblical principles. In a bachelor’s program, students gain a more comprehensive understanding of the Bible and biblical languages. Graduates have a deeper comprehension of scriptures and the will and purpose of God for the individual. Students pursuing graduate degrees examine spirituality and historical studies of religions, and learn how to lead others on their journey with God.

Online Bible Study Degrees

Distance learning programs are an effective option for students who are juggling personal and professional responsibilities. In most cases, classes are asynchronous, meaning that students can download and view course requirements at their convenience. While some disciplines require interaction with instructors, peers and others, students of online Bible and clergy schools frequently schedule phone and Skype appointments on their own time. On the occasion that students need to participate in real-time observation and interaction, they can work with churches and other organizations to set up visits.

In addition to the telephone and Skype, many online Bible study schools use online discussion boards and content management systems, such as Blackboard. Additional technologies may include Adobe Flash Player and Adobe Connect, which allow students to view lectures and communicate with instructors. In addition, Bible study and clergy degree programs often require numerous reading and reflection assignments. The organization of an online program allows students extra time and flexibility to complete their readings and studies.

Program Highlight:
Online Bible School – Bachelor’s Degree

Designed to prepare graduates to provide Christian counseling, teach scriptures and explore the history of the church, many online Bachelor of Arts in Biblical Studies degree programs require 120 credit hours to complete. Motivation is key to success, as it takes a great deal of discipline and time management to balance an online clergy school along with professional and personal obligations.

During an online Bible degree program, students typically explore biblical applications in ministry, frameworks for Christian service, specific scriptures and pastoral counseling. Examples of courses may include the history of Christianity, Israel’s early history, psychology, spiritual formation, studying the Bible, Pauline literature, theology, biblical studies and Christine doctrine. Cross training is provided through general education and elective courses, such as research writing, oral communication and philosophy. Some online programs require students to complete apprenticeships or mentoring before graduating. Combined with specialized programs, such as Christian counseling or pastoral ministry, many online clergy degree programs could be used to prepare students to sit for ministry licensing exams.

SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW

Name: Barbara K.

Degree: Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Ministry

Mode:Online

What has been the biggest benefit of distance learning at your college?

The biggest benefit for me is being able to attend a Christian college and not have to depend on anyone to get me there. I am a disabled veteran and unable to drive due to low vision and other health issues. It’s a very unpredictable lifestyle, as I never know when my health will dictate the course of any given day. It also gives me a sense of independence, which is something I am often unable to experience. I feel grateful to have the opportunity to receive the same degree as someone who attends on campus. I feel blessed that I am able to develop meaningful relationships from the comforts of my home.

What role has technology played in your online program and courses?

It amazes me how group projects are pulled together with the many forums available to communicate, such as Skype. From textbooks to dictionaries, journals to encyclopedias, and Word documents to Power Points, it is all just a click away, and lectures can be viewed several times. With phone apps and wireless Internet, I am able to take my work everywhere I go, such as doctor visits or trips to the VA. Graduating high school in the 90s, when “technology” meant typewriter, I have found modern technology to be very beneficial.

How does your online program help prepare you for a career after graduation?

With the help of my advisor, I am able to take classes that will fulfill the requirements for my degree while also being useful in my ministry after I graduate. My online program has been helpful in developing my career path by suggesting electives that might otherwise be career-specific, which encourages me to keep an open mind and trust in God’s will for me. The online program also provides information regarding employment opportunities.

Associate Online Bible Study and Clergy Degree

An associate degree in Bible study and clergy can provide servant-leaders with a solid theological base, preparing them to lead, teach and minister a congregation. Many students complete the degree within two years, although part-time students may take longer to graduate. The first year of online Bible study school provides students with tools to master general education, biblical foundations and biblical doctrines. In the second year, students learn more about the history of the church as well as the reliability of the Bible. Below is a list of just a few possible courses in a Bible study or clergy associate degree program.

COURSE NAME overview
Life, Ministry and Teachings of Jesus Studies the Judeo-Christianity of the Apostolic Period and interprets Gospels through verse-by-verse analysis.
Acts and the Writings of Paul Explores early church history, focusing on the ministry of Apostle Paul.
Principles of Christian Living Discusses the purpose of human life, focusing on life choices, interpersonal relationships, health-related values and more.
Old Testament Survey Emphasizes the Hebrew Scriptures to give students a background in the New Testament.
Introduction to Biblical Doctrine Provides a broad understanding of the church’s beliefs on topics such as the Holy Bible, God, the Gospel, salvation, holy days and festivals, the Sabbath and more.

Online Bible Study and Clergy Degree – Bachelor’s

Classifications of a bachelor’s degree in Bible study varies from school to school. For example, some colleges grant Bachelor of Arts degrees, while others award Bachelor of Science degrees. However, the coursework and outcomes are fairly consistent. A bachelor’s degree in Bible study and clergy gives students a more advanced understanding of the church and its beliefs than two-year options in the same field. Full-time students can potentially complete the program in four years. This more in-depth, advanced curriculum of an online Bible study degree program includes some of the following classes.

COURSE NAME overview
Old Testament Survey II Explores the Prophets, including the background, content, teachings and meaning of each book.
Christian Leadership Focuses on foundations of leadership skills, challenges and case studies.
Introduction to Biblical Languages Provides an introduction to Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic, with an emphasis on the original languages.
Introduction to Church History Looks at the history of the church of God from apostolic times to present day.
Biblical Text Emphasizes translations of the Bible while discussing the authority, inspiration, canonization and criticism of the text.
Epistles of Paul Focuses on the Apostle Paul’s life and writings.
General Epistles and Revelation Teaches students to analyze, read, understand, explain and expound on biblical writings.
History of Christianity Discusses the history of Christianity from the first century to the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century.

Online Bible and Clergy Degree – Master’s Level

A master’s degree in Bible study and clergy can prepare the graduate for a leadership role in a church or ministry program. Those who already hold a bachelor’s degree usually complete the program in two years. Several types of programs are available to meet various personal and professional goals. In general, students who want to continue their education with a doctorate degree choose to enter a research-based master’s program, while those looking to enter the workforce pick a non-thesis program that requires them to pass a comprehensive assessment to graduate.

An enrollment counselor or academic advisor can assist new students in choosing a particular track or concentration. Most master’s programs are personalized to meet each student’s interests and goals. The list below represents just one possible combination of classes a master’s program might entail.

MASTER’S PROGRAM CORE COURSES OVERVIEW
Interpretation of the Old Testament Students learn about the Pentateuch and Former Prophets as well as the history and cultural context of ancient Israel. They also learn about the Latter Prophets and poetic literature.
Interpretation of the New Testament Explores and interprets the New Testament writings, with emphasis on the historical, literary and theological dimensions of the biblical books.
Christian Ethics Explains the nature and foundation of Christian ethics and how they relate to social issues.
The Church and Public Policy Focuses on lobbying skills and advocacy.
Non-Profit Leadership and Management Designed for students who plan to work in non-profit agencies and social service organizations.
Church and Community Leadership Teaches about church-community partnerships and visits various sites of people in need.
Nonviolent Strategies of Social Change Analyzes strategies to impact empowerment of the local church, organizations and individuals.
Community Ministries and Religious Education Seminar-style course discusses educational beliefs and the challenges of a holistic approach to religious education.

Online Bible and Clergy Degree – PhD Level

A doctorate in Bible study and clergy or a similar field gives practicing church and community leaders advanced skills to further their careers and professional activities. As the most advanced level of learning in the field, Bible doctorate programs are designed for experienced practitioners who already hold a master’s degree. Students frequently complete a PhD program in about three years, and may be required to make several on-campus visits throughout the course sequence.

PhD programs are similar to master’s programs in that doctorate students usually take a number of master’s classes to fulfill graduation requirements and can customize their curriculum to meet their individual goals and interests. Those specializing in Christian education focus on the history and methodology of teaching religious studies, while others may concentrate on the more research-based track of religious history. The primary difference between master’s and doctorate programs is the amount and depth of research required for each class.

What Can You Do with Online Bible and Clergy Degrees?

A degree in religious studies can be applied in many diverse career paths. Graduates of theology programs may choose to work as a minister or other church leader, youth educator, religious professor or counselor, or in a public service role. Theology graduates generally share a desire to help others and strengthen their communities.

Bible and clergy program graduates may wish to transition into the careers below, though these typically involve some additional training:

Counselor

Help others work through personal and professional challenges using the biblical principles learned in a clergy program. In this capacity, counselors are often affiliated with the church.

Educational director

Work in conjunction with the church to educate youth and young adults about ministry and the teachings of God.

Biblical/religious studies professor

Teach religious studies in a sectarian school or university.

Minister/chaplain

Teach the beliefs of a specific church or ministry to a congregation and provide spiritual guidance.

The careers listed above are only a few that those with a theology degree can pursue. Clergy and bible study is an ever-changing field, adapting to the needs of those in the community.