Master of Arts in Theological Studies

"Go therefore, and teach all nations..." --Matthew 28:19

Program Description

The Department of Theology offers the Master of Arts in Theological Studies (MATS) as an integrated approach to Christian theological graduate education designed to prepare students for enhanced ministry, both lay and vocational, in their churches and to prepare those who want to pursue further graduate study. In addition, we have a number of students in the program with non-theological vocational callings, but they study with us to enrich their own spiritual journey.

We value and draw from our Baptist heritage, but our faculty and students represent a range of evangelical traditions and denominations. Thus, we welcome anyone who would wish to study with us.

The Master of Arts in Theological Studies exposes students to key questions and concerns in the fields of biblical studies, theology and practical ministry. Drawing from our specific focus on the Bible, graduates of the MATS program at HBU can responsibly bring the ancient texts of Christian Scripture into dialogue with historical, theological, and contemporary concerns.

Our 36 hour program is built upon a 12 hour core (choices from Old Testament, New Testament, Theology, and Hermeneutics), but you have the flexibility to choose the remaining 24 hours from our offering of classes in biblical studies, theology and practical ministry. That is, you can tailor the degree to focus on the areas you find most interesting and valuable for your future vocation. In as little as two years, you will develop a global vision for the kingdom of God and a practical vision for your role within your local Christian community.

Advantages and Opportunities

Through close interaction with experienced faculty in small, seminar-style classes, students in HBU’s Master of Arts in Theological Studies program will be challenged to grow intellectually and spiritually in their servant leadership. One of the greatest strengths of our program is the personal interaction with faculty. Most of our MATS classes have less than 10 students, which allows us to get to know one another personally. In addition, rather than always lecturing and merely giving you all the right answers, our classes are primarily seminar-style, in which we read texts together and discuss them in community, which allows us all to learn from the diverse ministry experiences of those in the classroom. This not only encourages a deeper engagement with texts and ideas, but for those looking towards future study, it prepares you for type of discussion in PhD seminars.

Most students preparing for ministry pursue some type of graduate degree. Traditionally, the MDiv (90 credit hours) was the standard degree, but churches today are becoming more interested not just in a graduate degree but also practical experience. As a result, we offer a MATS degree (36 credit hours) that gives the core foundation desired by churches but is shorter, to provide you more flexibility in pursuing that necessary practical experience. Many of our students are already serving in ministry, so we offer the majority of our classes in the evening, in classes that meet one night a week, so you can easily wrap your studies around your work commitments.

The majority of our students are pursuing a vocation of church ministry, and our ecclesially engaged faculty are well suited to help you in your preparation. Besides the variety of past church ministry experiences that we bring, many of our faculty are currently serving as pastors and interim pastors. At the same time, some of you might be considering a PhD as the next step. Many of our faculty, some with degrees from world-class research universities, are engaged currently in research and publishing. We have had a number of students complete further graduate study successfully at other well-respected programs, such as Duke University and Manchester University. The option to write a thesis is especially helpful for those looking in this direction.

After Graduation

Besides the personal enrichment from studying the Bible, theology, and ministry with great faculty, graduates of the MATS program will be equipped for a variety of opportunities. The MATS degree can provide the educational framework needed for most ministry and teaching opportunities. In addition graduates may choose to pursue further education at the PhD level. If you are considering a PhD, a sister institution has drawn together a helpful description of the process of preparing and applying: Soooo … you want to get a Ph.D.? In addition, Nijay Gupta has prepared a helpful book that describes the process in more depth: Prepare, Succeed, Advance.

Course Requirements

The degree is 36 credit hours (12 courses), which takes approximately two years. There are 4 required classes (12 hours), with choices for each:

  • Old Testament (Pentateuch or Prophets)
  • New Testament (Gospels or Paul)
  • History (History of Christianity or Historical & Moral Theology)
  • Theology (Hermeneutics or Systematic Theology)


For the remaining 24 hours of the program, you may choose among any of the offered classes as electives, including up to 12 hours of biblical languages, apologetics, and/or philosophy (with approval from the director). A thesis (6 hours) is not required, but can be taken as an elective.

Note: Those entering the program without a prior undergraduate degree in theology are required to take CHRI 5300 Introduction to Biblical Texts and Doctrines in their first semester. This class counts towards your 36 hours.

Costs, Scholarships, and Financing

To find the costs of the program, see the current year Graduate Tuition and Fees for the MATS program.

HBU offers several types of scholarships to help our incoming students. In addition, the BGCT offers $100 per credit hour for masters students who are pursuing ministry as a vocation. Please note that there is a separate application (and possibly an additional personal statement) for scholarship applications.

Students may take out loans to help finance the cost of their graduate education. To be eligible for federal loans students must take at least 5 hours for a fall or spring semester or 3 hours in the summer.

Students interested in the MATS program should contact Dr. Ben Blackwell.