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    Seminary that Fits Your Schedule

    One student’s experience of the benefits of distance learning.

    by Kathy Furlong

    My heart's desire was always … to attend seminary right after Christian college. However, God had a different curriculum for me that involved entering the work force first and ministry later—at the age of 38," says Gary Kniseley, a Master of Divinity (M.Div.) student at Moody Theological Seminary in Chicago. As pastor of Family/Children's Ministries for a church in Rockford, Illinois, Gary admits that his work and family demands once made seminary seem out of reach.

    "The first year of ministry was exciting, but I longed to further my education. I knew that attending seminary was vital to [my preparation] to serve as a senior pastor," he says. As Gary surveyed his options, he kept returning to Moody because of the flexibility it offers through distance education. Moody's M.Div. degree may be completed through a combination of online and modular classes. In addition, evening, weekend, and directed (independent) study options are also available. "[Moody] makes every effort for distance learning to take place," he says. "As my wife and I prayed about this, we saw how this could work for me."

    Gary's schedule has been rigorous, but the modular format (whereby students come to campus for one week of intensive study) has worked well for him. Courses begin with six weeks of pre-class assignments in preparation for the week spent on campus. "I certainly enjoy the modular format as it allows many students to gather on campus several times a year and stay in contact," he says. "I [now] have four friends in Minnesota, Texas, Vermont, and Indiana … . I count them as close friends and comrades in ministry."

    Another benefit of the modular format is that he never had to miss a Sunday while he was pastoring. Not surprisingly, Gary's ministry work is demanding. "I was pastoring and putting in at least 50 hours a week … and trying hard to keep my family a priority. However, God slowed me down as I went back to school," he says. The distance format of the coursework enables him to fit his studies around the ministry and time spent with his family.

    Another benefit Gary has experienced at Moody is that "you gain a close relationship with the professors in such a short period of time. They have provided me great flexibility in so many formats to complete my schooling."

    After six years of part-time study, Gary looks forward to graduating with his M.Div. degree this May. He says he does not regret the extra time he took to finish: "This pace allowed me to mesh my schooling into my ministry over the long haul. I believe it allowed me to mature as a pastor and learn to shepherd the flock of God like I never would have planned."

    "Moody has long been highly respected for embracing the authority of God's Word, and it shows in everything they do with a spirit of excellence," he says. "I'm very proud of the quality of education I received … . Moody truly understands the rigors of those striving to complete their education at a later point in life."

    Kathy Furlong is a freelance writer living in Philadelphia, PA.