Seminary Plans Expansion In Two Programs

Seminary degree goes online; counseling program offered at regional center

Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary

The 2012-13 academic school year will see two new opportunities available at Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary: a master of arts degree in ministry offered online and the marriage, family and children's counseling program offered at a Fresno Pacific University regional center. 

Online degree
Lynn Jost, FPU vice president and dean of Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary, is directing the creation of a two-step online program. First will come eight courses students can take for three units of credit each, or audit them. These courses will fulfill Mennonite Brethren denominational credentials for pastors. Part two will consist of making these courses part of a 39-unit master of arts degree in ministry.

All instruction will be geared to student needs.

 “The words that we’ve heard are that students want accessibility, affordability and accreditation,” Jost says. FPU is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. Plans are to offer the first two courses in fall 2012 and two more the following spring.

“Anabaptist” and “evangelical” are not just historical terms referring to particular Christian groups and traditions, according to Jost. The university is affiliated with the Mennonite Brethren Church, but courses are open to everyone interested in a focus on faith in action that brings people together—conversion leads to discipleship, which happens in community and leads Christians to make peace between enemies. 

“Christians work together to carry out God’s purpose,” Jost says. “Reconciliation is part of the evangelistic mission.”

The first group of classes—MB The Old Testament for Today, MB The New Testament  for Today, Confessing Our Faith, The Mennonite Brethren Story, Mission of the Church, The Gospel and the Modern World, Ecclesiology and Discipleship and Ethics—will have a Mennonite Brethren denominational focus. The second group will look at Christian spirituality, pastoral life, congregational dynamics, biblical interpretation and world religions.

A team of 16 university faculty, teachers of similar courses elsewhere and people involved in ministry are designing the curriculum. “Their role is to see that the assignments are immediately practicable,” Jost said. 

Both sets of courses are partly funded by $500,000 from MBBS Inc.

The new program will join the two seminary classes already online: "Church and God’s Mission in the World," by Tim Geddert, professor of New Testament, and "Discipleship and Ethics," by Mark Baker, associate professor of mission and theology.

Potential master’s students are people from anywhere who are involved in ministry but can’t come to campus. Tuition will be similar to seminary programs, and financial aid will be available.

Counseling program expands

The Marriage, Family and Children’s Counseling (MFCC) program from Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary is coming to Visalia in fall 2012—and the opportunities are wide open. 

“I’m excited,” says Program Director David Rose. “We’re going to do it well.”

“There has been a long history of demand for counseling the way we do it—Christ-centered—in the South Valley,” Rose says. 

Students from Visalia to Bakersfield already attend MFCC classes on the Fresno Pacific University main campus in Fresno, and the region has a shortage of mental health professionals.

In addition, several area agencies already offer FPU/FPBS students the practica and internships required for state licensing and are ready to do more, Rose said. Students must serve a total of 3,000 supervised hours; the practicum comes before graduation and takes care of 300-400 hours. The balance is served after graduation in the internship. 

“There are a lot of reasons to open a program in Visalia,” he adds.

MFCC is the first seminary program to be offered at one of FPU’s regional centers. In addition to Visalia, there are centers in North Fresno, Bakersfield and Merced.

The first group of 10 to15 students will start in August and one each year after that. Students wishing to finish the 65-unit program in 33 months, the shortest time possible, attend class two nights per week and take one or two weekend courses per semester as well as occasional online classes. Part-time options are also available.

Costs and financial aid are the same as at the Fresno program. Visalia students can take Fresno courses and vice versa, whatever best meets their schedules. 

“It is designed to interface well with our current program,” says Andy Johnson, director of seminary admissions.

A full-time program director will be located at the Visalia Center to advise students and teach some courses.

 Faculty will be a mix of those teaching in Fresno and Visalia-area professionals. 

“We’re able to be very particular about who our adjuncts are,” Rose says.

Students will come from everywhere: right out of college, beginning a second, or third, career and from many cultural and economic backgrounds. “We don’t have a typical student,” Rose says.

Successful MFCC candidates do share:

  • A commitment to become an excellent counselor. “If you’re going to counsel in Christ’s name, you’d better do it well,” Rose says.
  • A commitment to a Christ-centered education. “We integrate Jesus into our whole curriculum. He’s not just a unit on top,” he says.
  • A sense of calling. “That’s why people come here—they’re coming to serve Christ, not just have a career,” Rose says.
What can MFCC grads do? In addition to being therapists, alumni are ordained ministers in a variety of denominations, psychologists, researchers, writers, teachers/professors and agency administrators.