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Does a PhD make one better equipped for ministry?

SATS has been blessed recently with an increasing number of registrations for its PhD in Theology. Despite the fact that we have only been accredited for the PhD in Theology for the past eight-and- a-half years, we have 85 doctoral candidates currently enrolled, with a further 41 having graduated.

Furthermore, we have have a growing number of requests from global churches1 and more recently, international seminaries2, to partner with us for our doctoral programme.

SATS’ PhD in Theology is designed to raise up leaders, scholars and ground-breakers in various fields of Christian ministry. It is a fully accredited, fully online programme that provides the opportunity for theological research at the highest academic level.

Results of recent research conducted by Dr Evan Hunter, Vice President of Scholar Leaders International, has shown that of all the accredited, majority world, private, evangelical seminaries in the world, SATS has the most doctoral students!

Competitive Pricing

We believe there are a number of reasons for this . Firstly our doctoral programme is extremely price competitive from a US perspective. We also have a very flexible pricing policy.

US doctoral candidates who enrol with SATS can expect to pay $12 000, including examination and finalisation of thesis, to study with us. This compares to an average of $50 000 a year for the equivalent offered by US campus-based institutions.

Dr Kevin Smith Head of Academics

SATS also has a very flexible pricing policy. There is no application fee and no hidden costs associated with our postgraduate programmes. Payment is made at the beginning of each course or phase. Prices quoted cover all tuition costs. There are also no travel costs incurred as all learning is accomplished online.

How valuable to ministry

This increasing interest in the PhD, led us to think about its value and its impact on those in ministry and ministry itself.

According SATS’ Vice Principal and head of academics Dr Kevin Smith, many view a PhD in Theology as being too academic and theoretical to equip well for ministry.

“While it is true that at many institutions, PhD studies are indeed so academic and theoretical that practitioners would derive limited benefit, this need not be so,” he says.

“Our experience is that many PhD studies focus on problems and questions that are extremely relevant to the current context, the church, and the Christian leader who undertakes the study,” he says.

“A review of SATS’ completed dissertation themes would confirm this,” he added.

In some cases too, the PhD process results in the graduate becoming an authority on a topic and this in itself often opens up doors for ministry and influence.

From left to right: Okey Jude Uche, Hui-Er Yu, Genis Pieterse

Some leadership experts argue strongly that doctoral studies constitute the most effective way of equipping top echelon leaders.

“The reality is that there is a dearth in today’s church of highly skilled scholars who have the necessary skill sets required to interpret the scriptures above and beyond the average,” Smith says.

“Given too the ageing nature of church leaders, certainly in the US3, but similarly elsewhere, we need great scholars able to fill their place,” he added.

The primary value of the PhD lies in cultivating advanced skills that are transferrable and applicable to ministry. These would include expert knowledge of a body of literature, the ability to critically assess literature, the ability to define and research a problem.

A review of the South African Qualifications Authority

http://regqs.saqa.org.za/viewQualification.php?id=49137 shows the outcomes that a PhD requires. It should therefore be readily apparent that many of them are transferrable and applicable,” Smith concludes.

About SATS’ doctoral programme

To be admitted into the SATS doctoral programme applicants must have achieved excellent results in an accredited MTh programme or its equivalent. Candidates can choose the area of their research and work under the guidance of supervisors specialising in the same field of research. Their studies culminate in a thesis of between 80 000 and 100 000 words (240 to 300 pages).

The Seminary offers a free, no obligation evaluation of candidate transcripts, which can either be faxed to +27 11 234 4445 or scanned and sent as email attachments to postgraduate@sats.edu.za.

The South African Theological Seminary (SATS) offers a research-based PhD through online delivery. The school has several distinctions:

  • It is the only evangelical institution in South African which is accredited by the SA government for its doctorate.
  • The student body is not just South Africa, or even Africa, but worldwide (as are the dissertation supervisors). Students enrolled in their doctoral program live in over 70 different countries, over half of these are outside of Africa.
  • Almost one out of five students enrolled in evangelical doctoral programs in the majority world are students at SATS.

What is amazing is the growth of the scales and geographical range of this program – considering that it is only seven years old.

Scott Cunningham, Vice President, Overseas Council 2015

1 Korean global church and The Church of Pentecost, USA (CoPUSA)

2 South Western University, Oklahoma

3 https://www.barna.com/research/aging-americas-pastors/

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