Life Pacific College (LPC) in San Dimas, Calif., is accepting student applications for a new graduate program that is both timely and accessible for ministers. The Master of Arts in Strategic Leadership (MASL) will help extend the education of seasoned ministers without taking them away from their families or places of ministry.
Pastor Louie D. Locke of Hillside (Reno Foursquare Church) in Reno, Nev., was thrilled when he discovered the new master’s program. He has wanted to attend LPC since he was first credentialed as a Foursquare minister almost 20 years ago but couldn’t justify leaving his church or moving his family to San Dimas. Instead, he earned a bachelor’s degree through the University of Nevada.
“I’ve been looking at online graduate schools for about four years,” Louie tells foursquare.org. When he learned about the MASL program, he “jumped at the chance to apply,” because he won’t have to relocate to pursue it.
Beth Mead, a graduate of Mount Vernon Bible College in Ohio, also has been interested in pursuing graduate education for several years. She is a licensed Foursquare minister who has served in associate leadership positions in churches in Indiana and Southern California. Her passion is mentoring, training and equipping young adults for ministry, and she wants to be qualified to teach on the Bible college level.
“I’m not getting any younger,” Beth quips, adding that the question is not whether she should earn her master’s degree, but rather, how soon. Beth thinks the one-course-at-a-time online format of the MASL is ideal for prospective students such as herself, who have work and family obligations.
Foursquare board member Eric Hulet is senior pastor at Grace Community (Southlake Foursquare Church) in Southlake, Texas, and sees a similar benefit to the new program at LPC.
“The specific focus of strategic leadership is precisely the course of study I desire,” Eric explains, “and I have not found elsewhere the dual components of distance learning and this course of study.”
Faculty and administration at the college have long considered offering a master’s degree. The first serious discussions can be traced back to the 1970s. Although it remained a desire of several faculty and alumni, various issues stalled the progress until 2005, when the LPC Board of Trustees gave approval to move forward with development of the program.
The time was right in September 2009 to finalize the degree and pursue approval from the college’s regional accrediting agency, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). WASC granted interim approval in May 2010, and LPC was permitted to begin accepting applications for the program with classes slated to begin in January 2011. LPC President Robert Flores announced the new program in June during Foursquare Connection 2010, the annual Foursquare convention held this year in Atlanta.
In contrast to the usual LPC demographic group of 18- to 24-year-old undergraduate students, the MASL degree will appeal to working adults who already have earned their college degrees and are involved in ministry. Robert Flores is convinced that this new program of study will significantly influence the quality of leadership in our Foursquare family.
“If Foursquare is at a crisis point, I believe it is a leadership crisis,” he states. “I believe this degree is a major part of the answer.”
MASL faculty are confident the curriculum is a good fit for pastors who have been actively involved in ministry but want more formal education in ministry leadership.
“I want to be stretched and to grow,” Louie affirms, “to be challenged, and to study in a field that will have a direct impact on the church and the people I pastor.”
LPC Academic Dean Michael Salmeier affirms that the MASL is designed with these field-based ministers in mind.
“The goal is to make sure there is a solid link between the theory elements in the courses and practical application to the ministries and organizations where the students serve,” Michael explains.
Two different surveys were conducted during the years it took to develop the program, involving as many as 400 Foursquare pastors, alumni, students and faculty. Input from this research helped identify, among other critical data, the knowledge, skills and values that successful ministry leaders should possess. The information from these studies was taken into consideration as the academic committee formulated the curriculum for the graduate degree.
“We listened and will continue to listen to the field,” Michael affirms. He adds that courses are designed to help pastors and leaders develop their educational breadth and depth, and to increase their success as God advances His kingdom through their ministries.
“The harvest is open and the opportunities are there,” he states.
President Flores views the MASL program as “a unique opportunity for a leader in the field to significantly raise his or her leadership level while continuing to serve locally.”
This is just what Beth Mead says she anticipates out of the program, and in particular looks forward to “the challenging intellectual interaction the program will provide.” Louie Locke hopes that what he learns from the program will help him to be more effective in his ministry, “equipping others to be fully functional disciples of Jesus Christ.”
“We’ve designed this program around you,” Robert Flores shares. The MASL is “a cohort experience working through some of the finest leadership material available and taught by world-class instructors. It doesn’t get any better than this.”
By: Rod Light, an ordained Foursquare minister and educator in Los Angeles