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Practical Theology

Classes in practical theology nurture students' faith and prepare them for God’s call.

Students pursuing an MA, dual MDiv/MA, or ThM degree may focus their studies in any of the three areas of study within practical theology—education and formation, pastoral care and specialized ministries, or preaching, worship, and speech communication.

Students in the MDiv program can take courses in each area of study (including a floating elective) for a total of 14 credits.

Areas of Study

Education and Formation
Courses in education and formation prepare students for leadership roles in youth ministry, congregations, and educational settings.

The two-year MA program prepares students for the ministry of education and formation in congregational and institutional settings and provides training for teaching. Students in the MA, dual MDiv/MA, or ThM programs can focus their studies in education and formation.

Pastoral Care and Specialized Ministries
Courses in pastoral care and specialized ministries prepare students to serve as pastors, counselors, chaplains, and leaders of nonprofit organizations. Students gain the skills for ministry—the capacity to listen with empathy, to think contextually, the ability to offer spiritual and moral guidance, and the skills to provide ethical leadership in a variety of contexts.

Students in the MA and ThM programs can specialize in the area of pastoral care. Students pursuing a ThM must complete one unit of clinical pastoral education or a course in pastoral care and counseling.

Preaching, Worship, and Speech Communication in Ministry
The mastery of preaching and leading worship is vital to proclaiming the word of God. Learning these skills is fundamental to the MDiv curriculum, and will allow students to combine critical theological reflection with hands-on experience. Courses in preaching, worship, and speech communication in ministry teach students to be effective communicators in the classroom, in the chapel, and in the nonprofit sector. 

Current Course Highlights

Laboratory for Sustainable Models of Ministry explores how millennial leaders—including young church leaders—view institutional structures as potential vehicles for social change. In contrast to some prior generations, however, millennials are especially attuned to the importance of emotional, social, spiritual, and financial sustainability in ministry. This course explores the relationship between ecclesiology, sustainability, social innovation and faith formation in a laboratory setting that helps students develop a process for taking a ministry innovation from concept to scale. Using case studies and theories of innovation, students will explore various social innovations’ implicit theological operating systems, leadership assumptions, use of social media, financial sustainability, and ecclesial impact.

Educational Psychology examines major theoretical perspectives, themes, and issues pertaining to the psychology of learning in practical theological perspective. Special attention is given to traditional developmental psychologies as well as to recent developments in the learning sciences.

Money and Generosity: Congregations and Nonprofits explores some of the ways leaders cultivate a culture of giving in the organizations they lead. It examines the biblical and theological foundations of stewardship and contemporary social science literature on generosity, the importance of relationships, and organizational leadership around planning budgets, running stewardship campaigns, and discerning persons’ motivations for giving. The course focuses on congregations and nonprofits and covers topics like cultivating donors and writing grants.

When Sundays Come Quicker Than Sermons prepares students for the weekly discipline of sermon preparation. Through lectures, class discussions, and a preaching laboratory, they will develop skill sets in exegeting both Scripture and congregations for sermon preparation, preaching the liturgical calendar, using a lectionary as a resource for sermon preparation, and developing a working method for series preaching and pastor’s choice scriptural selections. Students will prepare and preach a sermon each week of the class as a way of preparing them for the challenges involved in the crafting and delivery of sermons on a regular basis.

Complete Course Offerings

Educating faithful Christian leaders.

Pastor of Scottsboro Cumberland Presbyterian Church, Alabama

Micaiah Tanck, Class of 2015

“The friends, colleagues, and professors I’ve met will continue to be resources for me both personally and professionally. ”