Memphis Theological Seminary seeks to broaden access to graduate level theological education for ministry. There are prospective students who have heard a call to ministry and seek theological education for ministry but who do not have Bachelor’s degree from an accredited four-year institution, one of the ordinary requirements for admission to MTS. 

We currently have some pathways for admission for students without a Bachelor’s degree. These include completion of the PAS program of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. We also allow for admission of students with a minimum of 60 undergraduate credit hours. But we do not have a pathway for admission for students outside of those requirements.

In conversation and consultation with other ATS schools, we have considered the question of what is necessary for entry into and success in theological studies for ministry at the graduate level. In our particular case, we can ask, “How do people show that they are intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually prepared to do master’s level work?”

One way to respond to that question is to not set a minimum of undergraduate credits (as if such credits alone would demonstrate capacity for graduate level theological studies). Instead, such students can be required to actually demonstrate the emotional and spiritual maturity needed for ministry through a certain amount of life experience, an essay that they write about their call and reasons for seeking graduate level theological studies for ministry, and recommendations from clergy, lay persons, and their professional lives that address their potential for ministry. Further, they can demonstrate their ability to do graduate level theological studies by requiring them to complete graduate-level theological study courses and maintain a certain level of academic achievement within those courses. This would be done along with faculty evaluation of each student’s performance in those courses along with consideration of other circumstances and life experience.

With these considerations in place, we are excited to announce a new Pre-Seminary Program at MTS that will allow us to broaden access to graduate-level theological education for ministry, by admitting students who do not have a Bachelor’s degree, but who are able to demonstrate their call, character, and capacity for graduate level theological studies.

The Pre-Seminary program allows us a rigorous means by which to assess prospective students’ capacity for doing graduate level theological studies apart from simply requiring an accumulation of undergraduate credit hours.

Applicants for the Pre-Seminary Program must be 40 years old or older, have three letters of reference, one from a pastor, one from a lay person in the church, and one from the workplace that address their potential for ministry, complete an essay which shares their call to ministry story, addresses why they desire theological studies for ministry in order to respond to that call, and what life experience they have that points to their capacity for graduate level theological studies. 

These essays will be reviewed by the Pre-Seminary Program Committee (a sub-committee of the Curriculum Committee, including the VPAA/Academic Dean). The Pre-Seminary Program Committee will either recommend or deny admission to the Pre-Seminary Program.

Students admitted to the Pre-Seminary Program take four graduate level courses in the MTS curriculum: Introduction to Theological Studies for Ministry (with a letter grade instead of Pass/Fail), Theological Research and Writing, Christian Heritage I, and Christian Heritage II. Pre-Seminary Program students cannot take more than two of these courses in a given semester. In those courses, Pre-Seminary Program students are expected to fulfill all course assignments and requirements. 

Faculty on the Pre-Seminary Program Committee will confer with faculty teaching those courses regarding the progress of the student in the Pre-Seminary Program and evaluate the student’s capacity for graduate level theological studies. Positive faculty evaluations and the completion of this Pre-Seminary Program with a “B” average in these classes makes the student eligible for admission to the Master of Divinity or Master of Arts in Christian Ministry degree programs at MTS. The classes completed in the Pre-Seminary transfer into those Masters’ programs. 

Pre-Seminary students pay $500 per course. Because Pre-Seminary students have fewer than 72 undergraduate study hours, they are not eligible for federal financial aid for the Pre-Seminary courses and for Masters’ degree courses. They are eligible for MTS scholarships.

We hope you will join us in celebrating this opportunity to create new pathways and increased access to theological education for ministry.