Why Pursue a Non-Traditional Master’s or Bachelor’s at Bethlehem?


There are at least three (human) motives flowing together into an answer to this question: Why pursue a degree in Bethlehem College & Seminary’s non-traditional programs? Let me investigate these briefly as a help to you as you assess God’s leading for you.

Bethlehem College & Seminary invests significantly in our non-traditional degrees (on four campuses: Minneapolis, Memphis, Hawaii, and Rochester). Our desire is to raise up students in an intellectually robust and Christian Hedonistic atmosphere. Briefly, Christian Hedonism is the reality that God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in him. Our two non-traditional programs’ aim to provide this kind of educational opportunity for people who want an in-person evening program at an affordable cost.

I began serving with Bethlehem College & Seminary in 2009. At the time I was a pastor serving at Bethlehem part time. Now, retired from pastoral ministry, I am serving here full time as director of our non-traditional programs and a professor of theology. I love Bethlehem’s vision, the people with whom I work, and the opportunity to teach and disciple students. I love the fact that our school is only in person (allowing for the exception of Zoom as necessary when dealing with pandemics!), has small cohorts, and is discipleship focused. God called me into pastoral ministry to preach and disciple. Now he has called me into education to teach and disciple—a change, but not in primary focus. My motive in serving as director is to help students see, know, and delight in God as they continue their education with us.

I know more about Bethlehem’s and my motives than yours, but I also know the kind of student we are seeking. See if these motives may also be yours:

  • Complete your college degree. Our non-traditional bachelor’s (B.Th.) is designed to allow students who have started college (you need to have or achieve transfer 56 hours (or CLEP hours), and we provide 64 hours, for a total of 120 credit hours needed for a bachelor’s degree.
  • Focus your study on Bethlehem’s theology and exegesis. Bethlehem’s theology is historically reformed, but also a bit distinct. Many people love the theology exposited by Chancellor John Piper in his preaching, teaching, and books. It is this theology that is taught in both the master’s and bachelor’s degrees, along with the tools of Greek language study and biblical exegesis.
  • Continue working while in school. Most of our students are working full-time jobs or are engaged in full-time ministry in the church or at home. Non-traditional programs allow students to achieve their bachelor’s or master’s degrees while working. Both degrees require five semesters (two years, plus the intervening summer semester), and students can expect to spend 4 hours in class one night a week and 16 hours studying during the week.
  • Prepare to serve God better in your current role. Both degrees are offered with the expectation that many students will continue working in their current roles, rather than preparing for full-time ministry (as would be the normal case for someone pursuing an M.Div. degree). This includes moms and dads, writers, people working in business, volunteer church leaders, and all others who want to know God’s Word and theology better in order to see, know, love, and serve God better. This is the case for about half of our students.
  • Prepare to serve God in a current or new ministry role. Both degrees are also offered with the expectation that some students are already in ministry and want to be better qualified, and others may plan to transition into ministry after school. For many, this non-traditional approach (one evening a week) is a better fit for their schedule. This includes lead pastors who cannot pursue an in-person M.Div., worship or youth pastors, missionaries (perhaps while on home assignment), and those seeking these roles.
  • Study in a context that is personal. Bethlehem’s commitment is to be small, personal, and discipleship based. That means we are committed to in-person learning. We will always be small. We will always be focused on Christian formation (i.e., discipleship).  Therefore, students have access to professors not only as teachers, but as mentors and as brothers and sisters serving God alongside you.
  • Avoid debt while getting a degree. The price of education has inflated much faster than the economy, and debt works against ministry (and perhaps against God’s expectations). We work hard to minimize the cost to students. Both programs (the bachelor’s degree completion program and the master’s) cost a cumulative total for the entire degree of about $15,000.

If I do not know your motives, how much less can I know about God’s specific motives for you in education at Bethlehem? But I do know this: God will not mislead his children. If you are thinking about going back to school to finish your bachelor’s or achieve your master’s degree, consider Bethlehem. Seek God. Ask him where he wants you. He never misleads his children. He always leads you where he wants to you be—with him, on the front lines, delighting to do his work. Perhaps Bethlehem College & Seminary’s non-traditional program is where he wants you to take a next step in your discipleship and sanctification for service with him.

Dr. Richard A. Shenk
Director of Non-Traditional Programs

Prayer Requests:

  1. Pray that the Lord would guide the students he wants towards the evening programs.
  2. Pray for our newest faculty members as they move to Minnesota and begin to establish roots.
  3. Pray that the Lord would use and guide our recent graduates as they begin new positions.
  4. Pray that the Lord would be pleased to direct just another $40,000 in generosity before June 30, we will have, by his grace, reached for the first time since our founding the goal of raising $2.5 million to support 250 full-time students. Pray that it may be so, and whether you might be used of him in this purpose.