Posted on : Monday June 14, 2010

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is launching a new online Master of Arts in Theological Studies degree (MATS), following trustee approval and a recommendation from a focus visit team from the Higher Learning Commission, which is Midwestern’s regional accreditor. According to seminary leaders, the new degree program is a first-of-its-kind among Southern Baptist Convention seminaries.

Dr. Rodney Harrison, newly appointed Dean of Online Studies and Vice President for Institutional Effectiveness, is spearheading the project. “The purpose of the new MATS degree will be to offer a graduate-level education for vocational ministers and laypeople now serving in Christian organizations,” Harrison said. “This program is perfect for the many people who, for logistical reasons, may not be able to pursue graduate studies on the main seminary campus, including those serving in churches in rural areas and pioneer state conventions.”

Midwestern currently offers several online classes as part of its regular master’s degree programs. The difference in the MATS degree is that the entire degree can be earned online. The new master’s degree is designed as an “open-entry, open-exit” program, which means that a student can start the program and end at a pace suitable for each individual. Each class follows a compact eight-week format.

MBTS has also started the process of acquiring new staaff and equipment to support the technical needs that the online degree will require. Dr. Ted Davis has been hired as director of the MATS program and as an Associate Professor of Christian Education. Davis was instrumental in the distance learning program at the Kenyan Baptist Seminary, as an IMB team member.

Since the new program can be completed entirely online, a student, depending on the course load, can complete the online degree in 16-24 months. “MATS is designed to give prospective Christian workers an opportunity to confirm their calling to full-time service and to offer theological studies that will help develop the skills necessary for effective disciple making,” Harrison added.

Though the degree is not as in-depth as the Master’s of Divinity offered by Midwestern, the students who graduate from the MATS program will be able to demonstrate Biblical and theological knowledge, interpret and apply Scripture more effectively, initiate and maintain a practice of classical spiritual disciplines and develop a Great Commission perspective through evangelism and commitment to the local church.

The Midwestern administration looks forward to offering the MATS degree and will begin a pilot course in Apologetics starting July 1, with the full program starting Aug. 23. The degree program will be offered for a flat rate of $250 per credit hour plus books. Unique to this program is that there are no hidden registration, technology, or other fees that often raise the price of online programs significantly.

Dr. R. Philip Roberts, MBTS President, sees the new online degree program as a giant leap forward for the seminary. “The addition of the MATS to Midwestern’s degree line-up is an indicator of the continued growth and scope of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary,” he said. “This means that the Seminary is in better position to serve the church by training more ministers to reach the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”