Seminary and Business: A Dual Degree with Many Benefits
Dual degrees in divinity and business could seem like oil and water at first thought. But on the contrary, having both skills can provide graduating ministers with much more opportunity to serve and administer at the same time. While larger churches have more professional staff, smaller ones can benefit greatly from a minister who also understands how to manage the church business.
Although rare, dual graduate programs are starting to surface in various parts of the country; and with the advent of online Christian degree programs they are definitely more accessible. According to a recent article for Inside Higher Ed, the combination of a master’s degree in divinity with a master’s in business administration is newer, but growing, says Dan Aleshire, executive director of the Association of Theological Schools.
Aleshire identifies two reasons for the growing interest in the dual degrees, “Leadership studies have become more common as an academic field, and Christian ministry has expanded beyond the church into nonprofit organizations and social entrepreneurship.”
At the forefront of this dual divinity-business partnership is North Park University, on the north side of Chicago. Students at North Park can earn either a master’s in business administration or a master’s in nonprofit administration along with their master of divinity, a master of arts in Christian formation, or a master of arts in Christian ministry. The unprecedented dual program continues to expand and improve by integrating the two subjects better and exploring the connection between business principles and theological topics, as well as issues between leadership and ministry.
A useful background
Once a skill that ministers learned “on the job”, business management is a very attractive background to many church organizations. Kristen Burdick, director of Seminary admissions, believes pastors today truly need this specialized training. She states, “The complexity of what’s expected of pastors—the integration of ministry in business preparation—is highly significant. Most pastors will likely have to deal with business matters.”
Alumni Rev. Trishia Kholodenko graduated from the North Park program in 2008 and used her training to start homeless shelters. To accomplish her calling she says, “I always had to reach out to CEOs and managers for sponsorship and funding, and I needed to be able to speak their language.” Now an associate pastor and director of a nonprofit corporation in Chicago, Kholodenko says, “Not every pastor needs dual degrees, but I can’t think of a pastor who would not benefit from it.”