Jill Firth writes about options for ministers who would like to refresh their ministry by further study.

A variety of options are available for those who hold a three year theological qualification, from enrolling in a Graduate Certificate to a PhD.

David has recently been appointed Vicar in his parish and is interested in upgrading his skills in Christian theology and leadership. Rachel is preparing a study series on Isaiah and wonders what has happened in Isaiah scholarship since she graduated a decade ago. Ian ministers in a remote location and wishes he could have more interaction on biblical and ministry topics to stimulate his thinking. Jan has long service leave coming up and wants to use it in a way that will refresh her ministry in the coming years.

David, Rachel, Ian and Jan are some of the people in ministry who have been attracted in the past few years to return to theological college for further study in biblical and ministry subjects.

David did some internet research and chose to enrol in an MA (Theology) within the ACT. He found he could attend intensives through his local college in Perth, Trinity College, and could choose 8 subjects from Old Testament, New Testament, Church History, Theology, Languages, Philosophy & Ethics, Evangelism & Mission, Developmental Ministry, Pastoral Church Focussed Ministry, and Integrative Studies. If he desired a shorter programme, he could exit with a Grad Dip after completing 4 subjects. If David lived in Adelaide, he could study a Grad Cert (2 subjects), Grad Dip (4 subjects) or MA (8 subjects) at BCSA. Similar options are found at ACT colleges throughout Australia, and David could travel to interstate ACT colleges to pick up topics of particular interest. At Moore College, the MA (Theology) is also offered, students must have achieved an adequate level of Greek exegesis. Ridley and other colleges also offer an MA in Ministry.

Rachel discovered that she could study for an MA in Theology or Ministry by attending a residential week-long intensive each year, in the Yarra Valley near Melbourne, in the Ridley MA Gold programme. She had the opportunity to hear recent scholarship from local and international faculty, as well as build up relationships and camaraderie with others with similar goals. Travel scholarships were available to attend from interstate. She also had the option of joining a study tour to Israel, Greece and Turkey, or Reformation Europe, with most of the costs covered by FEE-Help.

Ian realised that he could enrol online through MST in a Graduate Diploma to pick up subjects he had not previously covered in his degree, such as exegesis in Hebrews. He could also enrol through Ridley online to pick up subjects towards a Grad Cert, Grad Dip or MA. He could use his annual study leave to attend an MA intensive at an ACT college anywhere in Australia, or to join a study tour.

Jan was excited to find that she could enrol for a Graduate Certificate at the Mediterranean campus of Ridley College in Turkey. In one semester, she could complete subjects in Biblical Archaeology, the Book of Revelation and an Israel tour that would add insights to her sermons for years to come.

Australian Government rules allow for FEE-Help to be used for these tertiary degrees, including part of the costs of study tours. Students pay back their costs according to a schedule which considers their income level.

Clergy returning to study after a long period may like to get back into the study habit by some pre-reading related to the units they are looking forward to. Another useful idea is to offer a study group based on semester-long video courses designed for lay training from the Ridley Certificate or one of the on line Moore College courses such as Moore Access, PTC or ITS. These courses are presented by expert lecturers and will help bring you up to speed on recent thinking in your discipline. Members of your parish who attend the course will also benefit, and will be further equipped to discuss your learning with you while you are studying.

Research degrees including MTh, DMin and PhD are on the agenda for some clergy. The MTh is a shorter degree, offered at colleges including Trinity Perth, BCSA and Ridley. The PhD can be undertaken full time (3 years) or part time (6 years) through the ACT. Contact the research Coordinator of the college of your choice to find out more. Theological, ministry and Biblical topics can also be chosen for a PhD through other universities, such as BCQ.

Ministers who return to study generally find it refreshing and reinvigorating. Time for study is best negotiated with the parish council, as squeezing it into days off will not work in busy periods. Appropriate enrichment leads to more productive ministry.

Jill Firth has recently been awarded a PhD (ACT) on the Psalms. In the past 15 years she has graduated with MDiv, Grad Dip in Bible and Ministry, Grad Dip and MA in Spiritual Direction, and Grad Cert in Ignatian Spirituality. Jill served with CMS and is currently a lecturer in Hebrew and Old Testament at Ridley and an Associate Minister at St Paul’s Cathedral Melbourne.