Degree Programs

Master of Arts in Ministerial Leadership

Superior Ministerial Service.

The Master of Arts in Ministerial Leadership program prepares persons for leadership service in the church. In the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) the program works in conjunction with the student’s synod candidacy committee in preparation for rostering as a deacon, a minister of Word and Service. The degree, normally a two-year program when taken full-time, requires a total of 51 academic credits, plus contextual formation experiences and additional non-credit requirements. Courses are offered on both campuses in various formats: residential, hybrid, intensive, and online. If the degree is not completed within four years, the student must petition the faculty for continuance in the degree program.

Mission Statement

The Master of Arts in Ministerial Leadership program prepares persons for leadership service in the church. For students in the ELCA, the preparation for service is in conjunction with the student’s candidacy committee in preparation for rostering as a deacon, a minister of Word and Service.

Learning Outcomes

  • 1. Unifying – Developing skills to bring people together as an engaged learning community in the diverse unity enabled by the Triune God
    1. Actively articulates faith traditions and diverse perspectives, including biblical, theological, scientific, ecumenical, and interfaith, when engaging contemporary events
    2. Consistently advocates for the development of a shared vision in groups of diverse learners
    3. Demonstrates an ability to lead and teach communities of faith in Word and Service, with biblical and theological integrity
    4. Presents a biblically and theologically clear and consistent message when proclaiming and engaging the gospel in all contexts
  • 2. Learning — Developing skills in lifelong critical thinking, research, and application, through the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit
    1. Demonstrates problem-solving abilities combining biblical, historical, theological, and integrative disciplines
    2. Articulates critical and constructive engagement with a living theological tradition, and capacity to engage that tradition with contemporary problems
    3. Evidences abilities to interpret historic religious traditions, including their sacred scriptures, historical development, and cultural forms, engaging contextual analysis
    4. Draws on contextual experience (including field work) as a source of continuing critique and ongoing education
  • 3. Serving – Developing skills and confidence in leading organizations and communities for outreach and public witness grounded in the risen Christ
    1. Utilizes conflict management, counseling, and pastoral theology effectively in individual and group situations, while also understanding the limits of one’s skills
    2. On the basis of sound theological and biblical understanding, establishes opportunities to accompany those who are marginalized, actively addresses the systems that cause and perpetuate such marginalization, and works to transform the community
    3. Demonstrates growth in personal and spiritual maturity for leadership in public ministry
    4. Celebrates opportunities and challenges in building communities of diverse peoples and the gifts they bring


  • 1. A bachelor’s degree or its equivalent from a regionally accredited college or university
  • 2. Satisfactory completion of at least 51 credits. One credit is equivalent to one semester hour.
    1. A. Required Courses (24 credits)
      • BIB 201 Reading and Telling the Story
      • BIB 210 Story of Jesus
      • BIB 220 Story of Israel
      • HTH 100 Systematic Theology I: Creation, Sin, and New Creation
      • DEN xxx Denominational Polity (Lutheran Foundations or ecumenical equivalent)
      • PRAX 120x Church and Society option
      • Choice of two of the following:
        • PRAX 120 Pastoral Theology
        • PRAX 13x Preaching option
        • PRAX 14x Christian Education/Formation option
    2. B. Specialization Courses (15 credits)
      No later than the end of the first semester of full-time study, MAML students must select an area of specialization to be approved by the MA Committee. The student will then complete at least 12 credits in coursework related to the area of specialization, plus 3 credits in a specialization project, normally completed in conjunction with the student’s ministerial immersion (see below). As appropriate, the specialization course requirements (excluding the project) may be completed at another accredited graduate school, subject to the policy governing transfer credits.  Areas of specialization include:
      • Black Church (through the Urban Theological Institute)
      • Town and Country (through the Town and Country Church Institute)
      • Biblical Studies
      • History
      • Theology
      • Pastoral Care
      • Anglican Studies
      • Liturgy
    3. C. Free electives (12 credits)
  • 3. Contextual Formation is an intentional process involving contextualized experiences, reflection, integration, feedback, and assessment. In the MAML program Contextual Formation consists of three required components. All Contextual Formation components will be assessed as Successfully Completed (Pass) or Not Successfully Completed (Fail). Up-to-date information, forms, and important links for students and supervisors may be found at
    • Ministerial Fieldwork
      • Student will be assigned to a congregation for two consecutive semesters to engage in practices of ministry in order to develop skills and vision related to ministerial or diaconal leadership. This will normally take place in the first year of full-time study; part-time students who may be unable to begin fieldwork in the first semester should contact the Director of Contextual Formation during the first year to determine the optimal timing for fieldwork and subsequent contextual formation experiences. It is possible with the permission of the Director of Contextual Formation for students already employed in a congregational or clinical setting to use that setting as their Ministerial Fieldwork site.
      • Pre-requisite for Ministerial Fieldwork: Positive entrance decision for ELCA students (or assurance thereof)
    • Critical Reflection on Praxes of Ministry (normally CPE)
      • This is a peer group-based action-reflection program in which students foster their theological understandings of pastoral ministry as they intentionally integrate their praxes of ministry, systematic theology, and formation of personal and ministerial identity. A certified unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) is the recommended option to fulfill this contextual formation requirement and is required for rostering in the ELCA. Most students will complete CPE during the summer after the first year of full-time study. CPE sites can be found at many hospitals and clinical institutions around the country, some of which offer online units that can be accessed from deeply rural or urban areas. Some sites also offer “extended” units during the academic year that can sometimes be helpful to part-time students. The CPE site must be certified by the Association of Clinical Pastoral Education, an independent entity that provides training for spiritual care professionals.
      • Students whose denominations do not require CPE and who are unable to avail themselves of a CPE program may take PRAX 410 Critical Reflection concurrently with Ministerial Fieldwork or Ministerial Immersion to satisfy the degree requirement. Normally a student will complete this requirement prior to beginning their Ministerial Immersion experience, though exceptions may be granted by the Director of Contextual Formation.
      • Pre-requisites for CPE or PRAX 410 include PRAX 110 Pastoral Theology
    • Ministerial Immersion (Internship)
      • Students will immerse themselves in a ministry setting to develop and demonstrate the degree program’s competencies. For ELCA candidates for Word and Service, internship placements will reflect the range of diaconal purpose (each including significant engagement in a congregational context) and still be specific to the candidate’s unique foci. Non-ELCA students will work with the Director of Contextual Formation to find appropriate settings which allow them to develop and demonstrate the stated degree competencies and meet ecclesiastical requirements for rostering.
  • 4. Other noncredit requirements
    • Spiritual Formation—A variety of individual spiritual practices is recommended to encourage students’ growth in intimacy with God. Regularly offered courses may be taken as free electives to fulfill this requirement, but students may also engage in at least 32 hours of alternate activities (retreats, spiritual direction, individual or group lectio divina, etc.) to develop and demonstrate competencies. Students have great latitude in choosing classical or unconventional prayer forms and disciplines that fit both their personality type and spiritual needs. Maintaining a “log” or dated record documenting one’s time and activity is required, a hard copy of which must be submitted to the Director of Spiritual Formation.
    • Healthy Ministerial Boundaries training—A focus on how ministers faithfully live out the sacred trust granted them by the church, particularly as their behaviors show respect for personal and ministerial boundaries. Training is offered at least once each year on each campus. Pre-approved trainings offered by synods or other judicatories may sometimes be substituted.
    • Anti-Racism Workshop—A consideration of the church’s call to radical inclusion as a witness to God’s radical grace, particularly as we recognize our need—individually and corporately—regularly to unlearn certain behaviors while re-learning our real relationship to all others as siblings in Christ. Training is offered at least once each year on each campus.
  • 5. Minimum residence at ULS of one year, defined as the satisfactory completion of at least 24 credits through courses offered on one of the seminary’s two campuses.