Certificate in Pastoral Ministry

Join the conversations that will expose you to new ideas, deepen your commitments, and give insights on how to minister in a changing world. The Center for Ministry and Lay Training's online program allows you to explore your call to ministry or even earn a Certificate in Pastoral Ministry. Click here to apply.

Phillips is the only Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) seminary offering this Certificate in Pastoral Ministry. Since 1906, Phillips has been educating those who serve the church and is pleased to continue the 120-year legacy of the Bible College of Missouri through the Center for Ministry and Lay Training.

As a student, you’ll not only learn from our top-notch faculty, but you’ll also build a network of others engaged in ministry. The Center for Ministry and Lay Training is not designed for those who want to do ministry the way it’s always been done. If you want to make a difference in this changing world, we’ll help you push beyond your comfort zone.

Center for Ministry and Lay Training Highlights:

  • Affordable at $100 per course
  • Entire program online
  • Fits into your schedule
  • Each course lasts eight weeks
  • High-quality instructors (Master’s degree minimum with significant pastoral experience)
  • Program fully supported by Phillips Seminary

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can I afford this program?
We’ve lowered the price to $100 per course. Thanks to the generosity of our donors, Phillips now provides tuition aid scholarships that cover most of the course costs. You will need to either purchase or borrow books for your course.

Am I too old?
We have participants of all ages. Nearly 40 percent of our students are over the age of 51.

Do I have time?
Our students are balancing work, school, and personal lives. If you’re unsure, contact our director about auditing a course.

Do I have to complete the certificate program?
No. If you just want to take one course to deepen your understanding of a topic, you can. Our courses are open to all who have a desire to learn.

Do I need a bachelor’s degree?
Ours is a certificate program and does not have a minimum degree requirement. This is part of our commitment to educate the whole church.

Is Phillips too liberal?
The seminary identifies as progressive and welcomes students and faculty from many walks of life. We believe respectful conversations in these courses will lead to a deeper understanding of faith that will better prepare our students for ministry in a changing world.

Course Organization

Unless a prerequisite is listed, each course can be taken in any order. Students who take one class at a time may finish the program in about three and a half years.

Center for Ministry and Lay Training courses are organized as follows:

1.     Biblical Knowledge (three courses)

1A.   Biblical Knowledge:  Overview of the Bible

1B.   Biblical Knowledge:  Intro to the Old Testament (prerequisite: Overview of the Bible)

1C.   Biblical Knowledge:  Intro to the New Testament (prerequisite:  Overview of the Bible)

2.    Church Administration and Planning (three courses)

2A.  Church Administration & Planning: Admin & Planning  (prerequisite: Pastoral Leadership)

2B.  Church Administration & Planning:  Pastoral Leadership

2C.  Church Administration & Planning: Utilizing Conflict

3.    Communication

4.    Cross Cultural and Anti-Racism Experience

Cross Cultural:  World Religions

(Please note that Anti-Racism training is to be obtained in one’s home region)

5.    Ecumenism

6.    Education and Leader Development

7.    Ethics

8.    Evangelism

9.    Mission of the Church in the World

10.  Pastoral Care

11.  Proclamation of the Word (prerequisite:  Overview of the Bible and either Introduction to the Old or New Testament)

12.  Spiritual Development

13.  Stewardship

14.  Theology

15.  Understanding of Heritage (two courses)

15A.   Understanding of Heritage A:  Church History

15B.  Understanding of Heritage B:  Disciples History & Polity

16.  Worship

Course Descriptions

Church Administration and Planning

Pastors often express a desire to learn more about sound church administration. This course covers principles of church administration, including the development and implementation of short- and long-term goals with teams, committees, and boards that will enhance congregational life. The class will include necessary and appropriate administrative tasks (e.g., organizational analysis, working with ledgers and budgets, giving directions to a team, hiring practices, computer skills and electronic communication; and will lead to development of a work plan that demonstrates an understanding of congregational/contextual dynamics.


Christian Ethics

Ethics are the moral principles that govern our behavior. This course is an introduction and exploration of the basic concerns and issues involved in ethical reflection, the Biblical and theological foundations of Christian ethics, and the response of the Christian to perennial and contemporary social and moral issues, with a view to equipping the student for ethical reflection in preaching, teaching, and pastoral leadership.


Church History

This is a history class with one major exception – there is little emphasis on remembering dates except as “markers” in Christian History. By markers I mean paradigm shifts and movements in the transformation of the church from age to age. It is more important to grasp the movements in Christian History and just use dates as general “markers” or benchmarks during which the church was in transition or reformation. The course will include the use of “primary sources,” historical documents from church history.



The church has availed itself of technology throughout its history for the purpose of communicating its message to the culture. From the written word, to the Roman roads, to the lingua franca of Jesus’ time, to the printing press, the faith has adopted technology for its benefit. Today’s ministry leaders are faced with a quickly growing and changing number of options in the digital age.

Students in this course will explore the theological underpinnings of the use of digital media in the sharing of the church’s message. Students will be expected to understand the pitfalls and promises of digital tools and their use in a variety of ministry settings. Students will be challenged to demonstrate effective use of digital media in ministry through a practical project. They will also develop the skills necessary to evaluate emerging digital tools for their effectiveness and how to promote ministries through targeted marketing and communication.

At the conclusion of this course, the student should be an effective communicator and be able to facilitate effective communication within and on behalf of the church.


Conflict Utilization

The nature of church conflict will be examined using a variety of diagnostic scales and descriptors. Participants will also explore their personal response to conflict and their most likely strategic action. At the end of the course, students will be able to describe church conflict and set it in a theological context; recognize their preferred styles of managing conflict situations and how that affects their personal responses; identify appropriate intervention or non-intervention; and teach some conflict utilization skills that can be used in the congregation.


Disciples History and Polity

An exploration and analysis of the history, polity and characteristic beliefs of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). The course will include the origins, development, growth and current status of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and its related groups around the world; discussions of the characteristic beliefs and practices which make the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) a unique part of the universal church while celebrating the Disciples’ ecumenical pilgrimage; and an awareness of how the polity of the Disciples of Christ works.



Ecumenism involves making the unity of the whole church visible to the world. We explore ecumenism biblically, theologically, historically in light of the Disciples witness to Christian unity, our polar star. We conclude with a focus on local ecumenism.


Education and Leader Development

This is an introduction to, and exploration of, the foundations and principles of leader development. Students completing this course will have been exposed to basic approaches to Christian Education and leadership development and been given the skills to facilitate those working in a congregation’s Christian Education ministry. This class has been designed to address the Leader Development section of the Disciples of Christ Sixteen Areas of Ministerial Practice: “Know the foundations of Christian education and the principles of leader development. Show competence in teaching children, youth, and adults, including lay leaders and staff.”



Explore the tools and training to articulate a theology of evangelism and to exegete the community and congregational culture in order to design and lead evangelism efforts. Evangelism in the North American context has “lost it’s luster” in many respects. Because faith is considered a “private” matter, many in our churches and parishioners have foresworn to simply let it be … no faith-sharing for them. And yet, this stands in complete contrast to Jesus’ great commission to go and make disciples of all nations (people groups). The Evangelism course is not simply an online study about evangelism. Rather, it is an eight-week training course that will give you the tools to evaluate and articulate your own theology of evangelism and to exegete both your community’s and your congregation’s culture in order to design and lead effective evangelism efforts.


Introduction to the New Testament

This course will enhance the students’ understanding and use of the New Testament in their teaching, preaching and service to God’s world. Students will pay particular attention to the message of the texts while looking at major themes, textual issues, literary forms, social and cultural context, and other issues and concerns. Students will become better acquainted with the historical, cultural, social, and religious context of the writings; the themes of the Biblical drama centered upon Jesus; and the New Testament’s bearing on current issues and ministry. Prerequisite: Overview of the Bible.


Introduction to the Hebrew Bible 

This course will be a survey of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), with a focus on understanding the nature of the literature, intent of the authors, the place of the books in the canon, and issues for interpretation in the life of the church.


Overview of the Bible

This course is an introduction to the content of the Bible and the methods of study that scholars use to understand it. Students will learn about the history of the periods in which various biblical books were written, and about how the individual writings came together into a single book. They will attempt to discover what the biblical writers were seeking to accomplish through their writings. This search will present students with understandings of the world and the place of humanity that can help illuminate alternative ways humans have experienced the world and attempted to make sense of it.


Mission of the Church in the World

Jesus called us to follow him into the world. This course will focus on the critical importance of Mission in the life of every congregation and the Church at large. We will engage this theologically and biblically. Students will explore many alternatives and ideas for doing congregational mission, not only in their own communities but globally. By the end of the course students will articulate the relationship of mission to the gospel, create Bible studies on the subject, and outline possibilities in their local settings.


Pastoral Care

Pastors serve people in very vulnerable situation of illness, death, divorce, family conflict, loss of employment and other trials. This course will help students assess pastoral situations, reflect upon them, make referrals, and walk alongside individuals to help them find God in their midst. It will also help students discover their own strengths and limitations in offering pastoral care.


Pastoral Leadership

Effective leadership in the church today appears to be a rare commodity. John Maxwell rightly asserts, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” An effective church leader can assess the state of a church or ministry, discern a Godly vision, and cast that vision in such a way that the congregation will follow. In this course students will identify their leadership styles, examine their strengths and weaknesses, and explore what it takes to effectively lead in the church today.


Proclamation of the Word

There’s more to preaching than just standing up in the pulpit and depending on the Holy Spirit to give you a string of coherent words. There’s more to preaching than the best practices of public speaking. And in today’s world, to reach younger adults, there’s more to preaching than a well-constructed sermon. The medium IS the message today.

In this course, you will learn what preaching is all about. You’ll learn at least three different ways to prepare a sermon. And you’ll learn about how to deliver a sermon that does more than just teach. You’ll learn how to construct an inspiring, motivating, life-changing message based on the words from The Book. You’ll do lots of reading. You’ll watch lots of sermons. You’ll help your classmates work through their sermon preparation. And you’ll learn how to create, fashion, and deliver a message that makes a difference in the world. Soo … let’s get started!


Seven Events that Shaped the New Testament Worlds

How did the New Testament come into being? What worlds – complex, diverse, and multi-faceted – did early Jesus-followers live in as they sought to live faithfully? This course will help students understand 7 events or cultural traditions that constituted the worlds in which early  Jesus folks lived. These events shaped the writings and formation of the New Testament. Understanding these events will, in turn, enrich our engagement with the New Testament.


Spiritual Development

The intent of this course is to explore the role of pastor as spiritual leader of the congregation; increase understanding of the individual’s own spiritual life; introduce the historical spiritual disciplines, including meditation and journaling; introduce the Christian mystics as examples of spiritual discipline; and experience spiritual companionship (direction) and explore its place in pastoral care.



This course will give attention to a holistic understanding of stewardship, but with a specific focus on the role of money in our personal life, congregational life and culture. Participants will explore various strategies for growing stewards and developing authentic stewardship ministries in the local congregation. While the content of this course may be most meaningful for those in leadership positions in the congregations, it will also be engaging for those who simply want to explore issues of faith and money.



How do we study and think about the unimaginable complexity we call God? How have our ancestors in the faith considered God and God’s interaction with the world? Students will learn to read and critically evaluate theological texts, and in the process learn to work with different theological approaches, see distinctions and similarities in various traditions, and develop a coherent personal description of the gospel and relate it to Christian life.


UCC History and Polity

Through weekly reading, online research, reflection, writing, and student interaction this course will enable and encourage students to be faithful interpreters of the UCC. This course requires that participants explore their own (or another local) UCC congregation, Association and Conference through personal contact and to engage in teaching and learning from each other.


World Religions

This course is a survey of the major world religions, with a focus on history of development, primary beliefs and practices, and cultural characteristics. Religions surveyed: Native American, African, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Shinto, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Baha’i.



Worship is central to the Christian life. This course will focus on the formulation of a theology for worship in the local congregation, an overview of the history and present trends in Christian worship, development of practical skills in planning and implementing weekly and special services of worship, introduction to the rich use of the arts and sacred music in the worship setting, and the development of resources which can be used for worship.

Course Schedule

23/24 Session 3: October 16-December 10, 2023

Introduction to the Hebrew Bible 

Dr. Lisa Davison

Disciples History and Polity 

Rev. Jeff Gill

Conflict Utilization 

Rev. Dr. Kris Tenny-Brittian


Rev. Dr. Billy Tenny-Brittian


23/24 Session 4: January 8-March 3, 2024

World Religions 

Rev. Clement Graham

Pastoral Care

Rev. Charla Gwartney

UCC History and Polity

Rev. Margot Pickett

Proclamation of the Word 

Rev. Dr. Bill Tenny-Brittian


Rev. Dr. Bruce Barkhauer


23/24 Session 5: March 4-April 28, 2024

Overview of the Bible

Rev. Dr. Alex Ruth

Introduction to the New Testament 

Rev. Dr. Kris Tenny-Brittian

Christian Ethics 

Rev. Dr. George Flanagan

Disciples History and Polity

Rev. Jeff Gill


Rev. Geoff Mitchell

How to Apply

Center for Ministry and Lay Training registration is available at the link below. The link will take you to a secure, external registration site. Please send any inquiries to Leslie LeSieur, director of the program. CLICK TO REGISTER

Payment is due at the time of registration. Credit cards are the only current accepted form of payment.

What is the tuition cost?

Thanks to generous support from our donors and Board of Trustees, Center for Ministry and Lay Training courses are available for $100 per course beginning June 26, 2022, a reduction from the standard $350 amount. We are pleased that these tuition aid scholarships will make it possible to open ministry training to more people.

Whether you are interested in obtaining the Certificate in Pastoral Ministry or are a lay leader within a congregation looking to gain relevant training and insight into the Bible, theology, church history, or pastoral care, you can be a part of the Center for Ministry and Lay Training.

  • Books are an additional cost. Students are responsible for ordering their own text books, which are readily available from online booksellers or can be borrowed from a library.

When choosing a seminary, many factors matter: community, affordability, faculty, and more. Visiting will allow you to see the value PTS offers in these areas. Enjoy the experience by visiting us today.

For questions, please contact Leslie LeSieur at 918.270.6471.