Ministry with a Dual Purpose - MB Biblical Seminary's Master of Divinity/Master of Arts in Marriage, Family and Child Counseling degree

By Sarah Bergen

At MB Biblical Seminary’s Fresno, California campus a new dual degree program combining the Master of Divinity (MDiv) and Master of Arts in Marriage, Family and Child Counseling (MFCC) degrees has been created. Students and faculty from MBBS have long known the value of the integration of theology and psychology. Affirmation of this integration started with the first appointment of full-time pastoral counseling faculty in 1976. At the suggestion of Academic Dean Lynn Jost, PhD, the MFCC Department, including Delores Friesen, PhD, David Rose, PhD, and Mary Shamshoian, MA, along with the Registrar Lori James, MA, recently collaborated to create the new program.

Associate Professor of Marriage, Family and Child Counseling, David Rose, PhD, notes that “Science (or psychology), skill, and theology come into play as three strands for most students. As they progress through their program, these merge and eventually weave into one integrated skill-set.” The dual degree program does not compromise either of its two components; it incorporates two full degrees into one program, culminating in one senior paper or thesis. Professors estimate that full-time students will need at least four years, preferably five, to finish the program’s 120 units. Students who are pursuing state licensure in counseling can continue to work toward that goal by accumulating their internship hours, often in paid positions, after graduating.

Professor of Pastoral Counseling, Delores Friesen, PhD, says of the dual degree program, “It’s good for people who have ministry experience…and want to do more. It maximizes personal development, spiritual development, and academic preparation for the work world in a time when people move between professions.” In the past, alumni have chosen to return to MBBS to complete a second degree or take classes to supplement their degrees, but this unique combination, with its full treatment of pastoral and counseling skills, will provide an MA in MFCC which meets state qualifying degree requirements and an MDiv concurrently. Clinical Director of the On-Site Counseling program and adjunct faculty, Mary Shamshoian, says the new degree program is “for the person who wants one foot in both worlds: ministry and counseling.” She adds that “it is not a lesser version of either of the degrees but a new program in which students are going to get both areas in equal depth.”

Emily Stone (MA MFCC, 2005), who came to MBBS with an MDiv, says that “as a female in ministry having both degrees gives me credibility in a world full of male ministers. As a therapist in the secular world having the MA beyond just the MDiv is crucial for my ability to work with non-Christians. If I only had the MDiv I believe it would cut off a whole population of people that I want to serve.”

Recently Jay Griffith (MDiv, 1996) returned to MBBS for a second Master’s degree in MFCC. In his ten years of mediation with the Victim Offender Reconciliation Program (VORP) in Fresno, he saw a need for deeper understanding of human development and counseling skills. Of the new program he says, “Pastors will benefit from this…Discipleship is not just theology and not just modeling. It’s about learning to make healthy decisions for yourself and your community.”

Heidi Gray (MDiv, 2001), a current MFCC student, anticipates that having both degrees will increase her vocational potential and help her keep “a foot in both worlds.” After five years of urban ministry in Montreal, she and her husband David felt the Lord calling them to minister bi-vocationally. She chose to return to MBBS because “the Seminary doesn’t feel restrictive…I knew the ethos of the community…and if we’re working at bridging the gap between the church and the secular world, it’s important that we can ask the questions that secular people in a secular world are asking.”

Friesen observes that the integration of the new program “meets a felt need for therapists who want more training, students who have studied psychology and realized it has no meaning apart from their faith.” The new program seamlessly combines both theology and psychology, focusing on a deeper integration of the two areas that have been seen as related since the beginning of the MFCC program at MBBS.

Posted: July 10, 2008