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If you are heading into pastoral ministry, you are going to be pastoring people. And if we believe what the Bible teaches about the doctrine of man, those people that God has called you to pastor are going to have problems. And if you love them and are involved in their lives, do you know where they’re going to turn? To you.
Your people will wrestle with grief, depression, and anxiety. They will face parenting issues, marital struggles, and vocational difficulties. They will come to you with all sorts of crises: addictions, pornography, spousal abuse, eating disorders, and suicidal thoughts, to name a few. How will you bring all that you know about the Scriptures and the Christian life to bear as you deal with God’s hurting people?
In the Master of Divinity program you will receive 17 hours in biblical languages, 24 hours in Old and New Testament, 23 hours in systematic theology, and 10 hours in preaching, but only 3 hours in counseling. The Counseling Emphasis in the MDIV program focuses your electives to add another 12 Counseling hours so that you will be better equipped as you pastor God’s people.
So much of pastoral ministry involves dealing with people. It’s not uncommon, after a couple years in ministry, for graduates to return and say, “I wish I had taken more counseling classes.” The counseling emphasis gives you vital categories for understanding people and why they think and do what they think and do. It will equip you with skills to listen carefully and to speak to their hearts. It will prepare you to understand how addiction works, to recognize the effects of abuse, and to minister to someone in crisis. It will teach you the limits of pastoral counseling and when you need to refer to a licensed counselor. It will give you categories for understanding the relationship between psychology and theology. At the end of the counseling emphasis you will understand people better, and that will benefit you and the people God has called you to serve.
For those who wish to pursue the Master of Arts in Marriage & Family Therapy and Counseling (MFTC) in addition to the MDIV degree, the two degrees can be done together in 147 credit hours. That’s an additional 41 hours over the 106-hour MDIV degree with a counseling emphasis. These two programs can be done together over the span of four years.
The addition of the MFTC degree enables you to hone your counseling skills—you complete 500 hours of actual face-to-face counseling and 100 hours of professional supervision of your counseling—and it also equips you to be licensed as a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT). Adding the MFTC degree provides a more thoroughgoing understanding of how people work and the opportunity to put that understanding into practice. These additional tools will give you greater confidence as you engage in counseling in pastoral ministry.
As a side benefit, we have found that our dual degree graduates are often our best preachers upon graduation. Why? They have spent 500 hours in clinic coming alongside the downcast and brokenhearted and gently and lovingly applying Scripture for growth in grace. It is a powerful environment for learning sermon application.