Tim Sensing, Associate Dean of Graduate School of Theology
ACU Box 29422
Abilene, Texas 79699-9422
Onstead-Packer Biblical Studies Building, Room 313
Frederick Aquino, Professor
Jeff Childers, Professor
Wes Crawford, Assistant Professor
Kenneth Cukrowski, Associate Professor
Chris Flanders, Associate Professor
Douglas Foster, Professor Emeritus, Scholar in Residence
Kelli Bryant Gibson, Assistant Professor
Mark Hamilton, Professor
Mason Lee, Assistant Professor
Carson E. Reed, Associate Professor
Tim Sensing, Professor
James Thompson, Professor Emeritus, Scholar in Residence
Melinda Thompson, Associate Professor
Richard Wright, Professor
Faculty from other departments who teach in this program:
Houston Heflin, Associate Professor, DBMM
Stephen Johnson, Associate Professor, ACU Dallas
David Kneip, Assistant Professor, DBMM
Vic McCracken, Professor, DBMM
Curt Niccum, Professor, DBMM
Jerry Taylor, Associate Professor, DBMM
David Wray, Faculty Emeritus, CBS
Craig Churchill, Associate Professor of Library Science and Theological Librarian
The Graduate School of Theology at Abilene Christian University offers a variety of degrees and programs designed to meet the complex needs of its students. Its goal is to be both academically rigorous and practical in equipping students for effective ministry.
The faculty view their work as integral to the university’s mission: to educate students for Christian service and leadership throughout the world. All programs attempt to instill in students the heart and nature of Christ, opportunities for service and spiritual growth, and educational and ministry opportunities in the U.S. and abroad.
The Graduate School of Theology is located in the College of Biblical Studies and is vitally engaged in its goals and tasks. The stated mission of the college is to provide leadership preparation and resources for effective worldwide ministry in the cause of Christ.
The mission of the Graduate School of Theology is to equip men and women for effective missional leadership for ministry in all its forms and to provide strong academic foundations for theological inquiry. It is within this framework that the Graduate School of Theology has set its purposes:
- to prepare men and women for effective work in a variety of ministry settings;
- to provide specific ministry skills in the areas of preaching, teaching, worship, missions, pastoral counseling, congregational ministry, youth and family ministry, children’s ministry, church leadership, spiritual formation, and program development;
- to provide adequate academic foundations to students in the various theological disciplines including textual studies, biblical languages, church history, and historical theology;
- to provide an academic and interpersonal environment by which the theological disciplines can be integrated one with another as well as with the students’ ministry skills and their personal spiritual development;
- to equip adequately those students who desire advanced academic work including doctoral studies in schools of religion, seminaries, or universities.
The Graduate School of Theology is accredited by the Association of Theological Schools (ATS). This accreditation guarantees that programs and faculty are of the highest quality. Students must complete all master’s degree requirements within ten years and doctoral degree requirements within six years. The degree requirements are the same for both residential and online students.
The Doctor of Ministry (DMin) degree is a 33-hour degree oriented toward ministerial leadership. It requires a project/thesis and includes tracks in Christian Spiritual Formation, Leadership for Missional Renewal, and Preaching for Community Transformation.
The Master of Arts (MA) degree, a 48-hour thesis program, includes tracks in New Testament, Old Testament, Theology, Ancient and Oriental Christianity, and Modern and American Christianity.
The Master of Arts in Christian Ministry (MACM) a 48-hour degree, for specialized ministry.
In cooperation with the School of Social Work and the Department of Marriage and Family Studies, the Graduate School of Theology has developed plans whereby students can pursue the MACM concurrently with the MSSW, MMFT, or MBA degrees.
The Master of Arts in Global Service (MAGS) is a 48-hour program that provides an innovative, real-world curriculum that will equip Christian leaders for service in global contexts.
The Master of Arts in Theological Studies (MATS) is a 36-hour program for those who desire advanced study of theological disciplines but whose career goals are not those of professional ministry.
The Master of Divinity (MDiv) is a 72-hour comprehensive degree, which integrates the various theological disciplines with the practice of ministry and personal spiritual formation. A mission track is also available.
The Master of Arts in Christian Ministry, Master of Arts in Global Service, and Master of Divinity degrees integrate writing and research skills with the practice of ministry. Opportunities for contextual education in ministry are integral to these degree programs. Students are required to participate in a first and final review prior to graduation.
The departmental faculty combines the finest academic preparation from some of the world’s outstanding universities with intense interest in the effective practice of ministry.
Admission requirements for the Masters of Arts and Master of Divinity are as follows:
- A completed application for admission with a nonrefundable application fee;
- An official transcript(s) in English (or translated to English) of all previous colleges attended. The transcript must indicate an earned bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university or equivalent;
- A cumulative undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. For doctoral programs, a minimum cumulative graduate GPA of 3.0 on a 4-point scale;
- Two letters of recommendation; and
- A reflective essay, three to five pages in length (typed, double-spaced) following the guidelines on the GST website, www.acu.edu/gst.
- An academic writing sample following the guidelines on the GST website, www.acu.edu/gst.
Registration for courses begins in April (for fall) and October (for spring and summer). Students are therefore urged to submit all admission materials before registration begins.
The Graduate School of Theology offers online options for the MDiv, MACM, MAGS, and MATS degrees. Students may take a combination of online and residential classes, allowing them to remain in their local ministry context while pursuing advanced theological education. Online courses are taught by GST faculty and qualified adjuncts. Residential classes may be offered as week-long intensives, two-weekend courses, or over the full semester for those within driving distance of Abilene. Intensive classes are offered on the ACU campus and at approved course offering sites in Accra, Ghana; and Manzini, Eswatini.
The Association of Theological Schools requires all vocational ministry students to earn a certain percentage of their degree in a face-to-face setting. The GST has special permissions (ATS-approved exceptions to Degree Program Standard A, section A.3.1.3. and Standard B, section B.3.1.3.) which only require our students to take four classes (12 credit hours) in residence, regardless of their degree program. Students should consult with their advisor to determine which classes may be taken online and which should be taken in residence.
The Master of Arts in Christian Ministry (MACM), Master of Arts in Global Service (MAGS), and the Master of Divinity (MDiv) are formational degrees that require students to make progress in their academic, personal, and professional development. Students will be granted candidacy when the First Review is passed (after completing 21 hours for MACM and MAGS; 27 hours for MDiv).
Scholarships and Assistantships
The Graduate School of Theology awards scholarships that cover part of a student’s tuition. Most Graduate School of Theology students receive scholarships each year. To be eligible, a student must be planning to do full-time ministry after graduation. In addition, the Graduate School of Theology awards many graduate assistantships each year. The deadline for applying for scholarships and assistantships is June 1 for fall and November 1 for spring. Scholarship applications received after these dates will be considered only if funds are available.
Students enrolled simultaneously or sequentially in two master’s programs in the Graduate School of Theology may overlap some courses in both degrees. However, no more than 24 hours can be shared, and all requirements for both degrees must be met.
Courses numbered 700 or above in the Graduate School of Theology may be taken by doctoral students only.
The Department of Bible, Missions, and Ministry offers several integrated program options, which shorten the time it takes to complete both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Bible at ACU. In these programs, high-performing undergraduate students count a specified number of graduate courses toward both degrees. For details regarding the Department of Bible, Missions, and Ministry’s integrated programs, click here .
Master of Arts
The Master of Arts (MA) degree is considered a program oriented toward research and general theological studies. It is a degree (including thesis) providing basic understanding of theological disciplines for further graduate study or general educational purposes. Students who have completed substantial work at the undergraduate level may receive advanced standing (maximum 12 hours) in this degree. This degree requires the demonstration of advanced research and writing skills culminating in a thesis and oral defense. The MA includes tracks in Old Testament, New Testament, Theology, Ancient and Oriental Christianity, and Modern and American Christianity.
Master of Arts in Global Studies
The Master of Arts in Global Service is a 48-hour program that provides an innovative, real-world curriculum that will equip Christian leaders for service in global contexts. It aims to serve learners who desire advanced education for ministries that require living, working, and communicating in the intercultural contexts typical of today’s global society. Drawing upon theology, sociology, anthropology, history, and communication theory, MAGS challenges learners to analyze contemporary global concerns, formulate Christian perspectives, and explore solutions to intercultural challenges. Learners will engage the practices of global service through a mix of graduate courses, contextual learning opportunities, and mentoring in the competencies necessary for Christian leadership and service in intercultural contexts. The result is theologically formed, missiologically adept, interculturally competent leaders who are prepared for effective and sustainable service in a variety of settings.
Persons admitted with some advanced theological study or with extensive undergraduate studies in Bible, religion, and ministry may receive up to 12 hours of advanced standing. Consult with the advisor.
The degree has a thesis option. Consult with the advisor.
Master of Arts in Christian Ministry
The Master of Arts in Christian Ministry (MACM) is a 48-hour degree designed to equip individuals primarily for church ministry roles other than preaching. This degree prepares students for competent leadership in some form of specialized ministry in congregations or other settings. The MACM degree is normally two years in duration for a full-time student. Persons admitted with some advanced theological study or with extensive undergraduate studies in Bible, religion, and ministry may receive up to 12 hours of advanced standing. Consult with the advisor.
Master of Arts in Theological Studies
The Master of Arts in Theological Studies (MATS) is designed for people who want to deepen their understanding of the Christian faith. The broad program of study is for those who wish to strengthen their theological foundations, gain greater competence in selected areas of religious knowledge, and for general education purposes. The coursework equips the student with tools for graduate study and provides a flexible curriculum for those who desire advanced study of theological disciplines but whose career goals are not those of professional ministry. The advisor will work closely with the student to determine the shape of their program, particularly Focus Courses that concentrate on a particular area of study or integration appropriate to the student’s professional and personal goals. A culminating Capstone assignment gives the student an opportunity to demonstrate proficiency in the appropriate application of his or her knowledge.
Master of Divinity
The Master of Divinity (MDiv) is the basic degree in theological education. It is a 72-hour comprehensive program of studies designed to prepare graduates to serve as pulpit ministers, counselors, Christian educators, campus ministers, other ministers of the church and chaplains, and it provides the foundation for the PhD, ThD, and DMin degrees. This three-year program seeks to provide a knowledge of the Bible and related disciplines, to integrate the knowledge of these disciplines with the skills for various ministries and to provide the opportunity for spiritual formation. Co-curricular experiences, such as the mentoring program and graduate chapel, seek to nurture the whole person in preparation for ministry.
Persons admitted with some advanced theological study or with extensive undergraduate studies in Bible, religion, and ministry may receive up to 18 hours of advanced standing. Consult with the advisor.
Doctor of Ministry
The Doctor of Ministry (DMin) is an advanced program oriented toward ministerial leadership. Its purpose is to enhance the practice of ministry for persons who hold the Master of Divinity or its educational equivalent and have engaged in ministerial leadership. It is a 33-hour program that requires a project/thesis which includes effective ministry intervention in a specific setting, a thesis which demonstrates the integration of theology and practice, and an oral examination. Distinguished from academic research programs such as the PhD or ThD, the primary emphasis of the Doctor of Ministry program is on excellence in the practice of ministry and is not intended to be an academic teaching degree.
The aim of ACU’s DMin degree is to provide the context for deepened spiritual formation for ministerial leaders, to advance skill development for leadership in faith communities, and to promote critical theological reflection that informs mission and practice. This program includes biblical interpretation, theological reflection, applied leadership theory, congregational studies, and practical theology.
Most DMin courses utilize a hybrid format, with each hybrid course incorporating online learning as well as a multi-day residency on ACU’s campus or other designated learning site. Beginning in the 2020-2021 academic year, some residencies will be available in Melbourne, Australia. A small number of classes are offered fully online.
DMin residency periods occur twice each year: for 1 week in the spring and 2 weeks in the summer. Students’ initial residency must include: BIBM 701 , BIBM 716 , and a spiritual formation retreat. The following semester should include BIBM 724 . Subsequent semesters may include up to 4 credit hours each spring and up to 8 credit hours each summer.
All requirements for a course must be completed before a student is permitted to enroll in an additional course. A minimum of three years and a maximum of six years are allowed for the completion of the degree.
The student is expected to maintain a minimum grade point average of 3.25 during the program. A grade of “C” in a course automatically puts the student on academic probation. A student must earn a grade of “B” or above in BIBM 799 .
Transfer of credits from other accredited programs must be approved by the DMin director and GST associate dean. No more than two courses or six hours may be transferred.
The DMin has a program fee instead of standard tuition. Contact the DMin office for more complete information regarding scholarships, financial aid, housing, and admission.
A Master of Divinity (MDiv) degree, or its educational equivalent, from an institution accredited by a nationally recognized regional accrediting agency or by the Association of Theological Schools is required for admission to the program.
Ministers who hold an accredited master’s degree in religion, other than the MDiv, will be required to complete graduate courses equivalent to the standard requirements for the MDiv degree at Abilene Christian University. To apply, complete the Equivalency application at gradapply.acu.edu. This application requires an application fee and official transcript(s) of all master’s level work. The MDiv Equivalency advisor will review the completed application and develop an equivalency plan.
DMin applicants must be involved in ministry, and must have been involved in ministry for at least three years following the completion of their first theological master’s degree.
Application materials are due December 1 for international applicants or January 31 for domestic applicants, with online engagement beginning in March and the initial on-campus residency beginning in June.
- A completed application for admission with a nonrefundable application fee;
- Recommendation forms from four persons knowledgeable of the applicant’s personal character and performance in ministry; at least one recommendation should provide an academic reference;
- Official transcripts of all undergraduate and graduate work, with degrees posted. A minimum GPA of 3.2 (on a 4.0 scale) in prior graduate work is required;
- A documentation of ministry employment form;
- A five-to-nine page, typed and double spaced, admission essay including personal self-reflection statement, reflection on ministry context, and project/thesis interest statement; and
- A personal interview with the DMin director may be required.
In addition to submitting the standard application documents detailed above, DMin applicants from outside the U.S. must complete all requirements detailed on ACU’s International Graduate Application Information page. For international transcripts from institutions other than the University of Divinity (Kew, Australia), ACU reserves the right to require a course-by-course credential evaluation detailing U.S. equivalents to all coursework and degrees completed abroad, from a company approved by ACU and the National Association for Credential Evaluation Services (NACES). Please contact the DMin office for guidance.
Upon completion of all the above requirements, the applicant’s file is reviewed by the DMin director and GST associate dean for official action. The applicant will be informed by email regarding their admission status once a decision is reached.
If an applicant does not enter at the first opportunity after being accepted into the program, the admission will be honored for one additional year. At the time of entry, the student will pay a one-time, non-refundable resource fee to cover the cost of assessments and materials for BIBM 701 .
The DMin is a formational degree that requires students to make progress in their academic, personal, and professional development. Therefore, students will be required to apply for candidacy after the first 10 hours.
DMin students may pursue dual enrollment, concurrently earning 18 hours of ministry electives for the ACU DMin degree as well as a Graduate Diploma in Divinity (GDDiv) through Stirling Theological College (Mulgrave, Australia) and University of Divinity (Kew, Australia). The dual enrollment courses are BIBM 706 , BIBM 717 , BIBM 719 , BIBM 731 , BIBM 733 , and BIBM 742 . To complete this track, students must be accepted into ACU’s DMin program and Stirling’s GDDiv program.
ProgramsDoctor of MinistryMaster of ArtsMaster of Arts in Christian MinistryMaster of Arts in Theological StudiesMaster of Divinity