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Long-Distance Learning

Stephen Kemp

Discover how you can get more training without ever leaving your ministry.

You'd like to get more education, but there's no way you can move to a college or seminary. Then why not bring higher education to you with long-distance education? What should you know if you're going to pursue distance education?

At what level do you want to study? Distance-education programs offer course work through the doctoral level.

In what format do you want to study? Distance-education programs vary from extension studies (held on campuses or at extension locations) to independent studies (correspondence-type courses).

Do you want to audit or earn credit? Auditing a course entitles you to receive the benefits of class meetings, lectures, and/or course materials without having to fulfill all the assignments (tests and papers). Usually, audit fees are significantly lower than credit fees. Most schools accept only credit courses as fulfillment of a requirement in a degree program.

Do you want to earn a degree? If you want to earn a degree, keep that degree and its requirements in mind. Request a catalog and know in advance how distance-education courses relate to your program. Find out if the distance-education courses must be combined with campus residency. If a policy isn't stated in the catalog, request it in writing from an official school representative.

Do you want an accredited institution? Accreditation by an organization that's recognized by the Department of Education shows that the school meets common academic standards and is subject to intense regulatory review. If you're planning to seek acceptance into other academic programs, professional recognition, or employment that requires a degree from an accredited school, you'll want an accredited institution.

What's the quality of the course or program? Instructors' and institutions' reputations, alumni or student recommendations, and pre-enrollment inspection are usually good ways to determine the quality of a course or program. One of the best safeguards regarding quality is a reasonable refund policy -- especially with independent study.

What are the course costs? As with most major purchases, it's often difficult to identify all the costs. Consider the obvious and not-so-obvious costs such as supplies and travel expenses.

Distance-education opportunities have opened up many schools for rooted students. It seems that the future will bring even more educational avenues with accessibility and quality. May God bless you as you seek training for more effective ministry.

Stephen Kemp is the associate dean of nontraditional and distance education at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois.

Here are a few schools that offer distance education for children's ministers.

Carlson Institute for Church Leadership-Offers B.A. and B.S. degrees in Christian education by correspondence. Accredited. 910 Elliot Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55404; 800-446-1176, (612) 343-4430; e-mail:

Berean University-Offers a B.A. in Bible/Christian education and an M.A. in ministerial studies with an education emphasis by correspondence. Accredited. 1445 Boonville Ave., Springfield, MO 65802; 800-443-1083, (417) 862-9533.

Luther Rice Seminary-Offers M.A. and M.Div. degrees in ministry with a Christian education emphasis through distance-education. Accredited. 3038 Evans Mill Road, Lithonia, GA 30038; 800-442-1577, (770) 484-1204; e-mail:

Trinity International University-Graduate-level independent study courses for children's ministry. Accredited. 2065 Half Day Road, Deerfield, IL; 800-417-9999, (847) 317-8029.

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