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Trinity Bible College launching doctorate program in fall

The Prayer and Teaching Center on the campus of Trinity Bible College & Graduate School in Ellendale, N.D. John M. Steiner / Forum News Service

ELLENDALE, N.D. - A select set of 10 pastors, possibly from around the world, will have a chance to earn a doctorate from Trinity Bible College in Ellendale starting later this year.

"We really focus on training pastors and missionaries, that's our heart, that's our main call," said Matthew Payne, director of enrollment at Trinity.

The new degree will launch in fall and will be mostly distance-education, Payne said. Each semester for four years there will be two-day seminars that will require attendance, otherwise students do not have to stay in Ellendale.

But that doesn't mean the doctorate students will be forgotten about the rest of the school year.

"It's a European-styled research Ph.D.," Payne said. "It's a little bit different than most Ph.D.s in the States in that there aren't classes per se, but there's a lot more one-on-one work with the supervisor and independent research."

The program is geared toward pastors looking to earn a doctorate in practical theology and possibly considering a transition to academia, Payne said.

"People who feel like teaching and scholarship are part of their calling or their gift-set," he said. "You'd have to have a master's degree, preferably in some sort of theology or Bible."

The seminars are all scheduled mid-week.

"For pastors, Sunday is game day," Payne said.

During the rest of the school year, doctoral candidates will be researching their dissertations — an 80,000-word document to be completed before graduation, Payne said. The topics of the dissertations are up to the students.

The research students will be completing will focus on hands-on church ministries, Payne said. It is closely related to the social sciences — sociology, psychology — and will include a lot of data collection and investigation.

"Through their highly specialized dissertation (they can) really become, in theory, the leading expert in the world on a very, very specific topic," he said.

Trinity Bible College is affiliated with the Assembly of God church, and the program will likely appeal to pastors of that denomination or other evangelical denominations, Payne said.

"We would definitely be open to working with anybody that would take us, I suppose, is the way to put it," he said.

There have already been applicants to the program that was announced in March. The class will be capped at 10 students per year.

Katherine Grandstrand / Aberdeen American News