MATS: Master of Arts in Theological Studies
“Go therefore, and teach all nations…” ~Matthew 28:19
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. For those hoping to pursue vocational ministry, you may also be interested in our Master of Divinity (MDiv) degree.
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 15-hour core (choices from Old Testament, New Testament, History, and Theology), but you have the flexibility to choose the remaining 21 hours from our offering of classes in our traditional areas of biblical studies, theology and practical ministry, or in our other MA program areas: biblical languages, apologetics, classics and philosophy.
Another feature of the MACL, MATS, and MDiv degrees at HBU is the advantage of studying at a comprehensive university. HBU offers many graduate certificates, which allows you to pursue 12 hours of coursework in another academic area. In conjunction with your MACL, MATS, and MDiv degree students are able to use 12 of the elective hours and pursue an “embedded certificate,” from another academic discipline. This allows students to focus their theological and biblical studies toward a specific area of ministry. For example:
- Church Planting – MACL/MATS/MDiv + certificate in Entrepreneurial Leadership
- Addiction Ministry – MACL/MATS/MDiv + certificate in Addiction and Recovery Studies
- Children or Family Ministry – MACL/MATS/MDiv + certificate in Marriage and Family Studies
- Human Trafficking Ministry – MACL/MATS/MDiv + certificate in Human Sexuality Studies
- Christian Life Coaching – MACL/MATS/MDiv + certificate in Professional Life Coaching
- Ministry to Military Veterans – MACL/MATS/MDiv + certificate in Military and Veteran Care Studies
Ministry in a multifaceted world requires multifaceted preparation. The embedded certificate allows you to receive the theological and biblical preparation you need for a sustained ministry, together with focused training to equip you for the ministry to which God has called you.
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. Our MATS classes are capped at 15 students each, which allows us to get to know you 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, allowing 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 toward future study, it prepares learners for the type of discussion in PhD seminars.
Most students preparing for ministry pursue some type of graduate degree to help them further prepare for ministry. Traditionally, the Master of Divinity (MDiv) has been the standard degree, as it provides the most well-rounded and robust training for ministry. We offer a 72-hour MDiv, but for students who wish to pursue a more academically focused and shorter degree, our 36-hour MATS gives the core foundation desired by churches, while also providing flexibility in course selection. We offer the majority of our classes in the evening, in classes that meet one night per 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.
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.
The degree is 36 credit hours (12 courses), which takes approximately two years. There are 5 required classes (15 hours). The first is CHRI 5305 Theological Inquiry, but there are choices for the other four – one from each area below:
- 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 21 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, or without prior graduate studies in theology, are required to take CHRI 5300 Introduction to Biblical Texts and Doctrines in their first semester.
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 master’s students who are pursuing ministry as a vocation. Please note that there is a Scholarship Application (and possibly an additional personal statement) different from the application for admission. Please make sure you check all the relevant boxes on the application. In addition, note that the Guild Scholarship has its own, separate Guild Scholarship Application, along with a separate personal statement. Current and entering students can apply for the Guild Scholarship. It is awarded annually, and the deadline for application is April 1. (Note that new references and a resume are not needed for the Guild application; these will be drawn from the application for admission. All that is needed is the letter of introduction, besides the Guild Application.)
Important Deadlines: Your Application file must be completed and Scholarship Application must be submitted by these dates to be considered for scholarships: Summer: April 1, Fall: July 1, Spring: November 1.
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 4 hours in the summer.
There are a variety of ways to engage the Department of Theology: we’re on Facebook, we have a community blog, we offer an annual Theology Conference, and we have regular lectures by preeminent scholars as part of the A.O. Collins Lecture Series.