Lonnie Yoder, associate dean of Eastern Mennonite Seminary, played a key role in developing the option of earning a master of divinity and master of business administration in a dual degree program. (Photo by Lindsey Kolb)

Seminary pioneers link between business, non-profit leadership, and ministry with dual degree program

Seminary is not just for pastors any more. Eastern Mennonite Seminary has recently added a new master of divinity and master of business administration dual degree for those who feel called to ministry that may involve business or non-profit leadership.

That is what attracted Matthew Stearn, who just finished his first year in the program. “EMU was the only university that I could find that could provide me with both an MDiv focused in missions and an MBA focused in non-profit leadership,” he said.

“Mennonites have a strong tradition of service outside the church building, and the MBA program at EMU focuses on sustainability and ethical business practices that line up with the Mennonite faith.”

The dual degree provides students with the theological, biblical and practical preparation for ministry, as well as the business leadership theory and skills that typify the MBA degree.

“People who get graduate degrees will be in leadership in an organization somewhere, no matter what their field,” said Jim Leaman, director of the MBA program. “The EMU MBA program focuses on critical skills and philosophy for leadership that serve the common good.”

Stearn agrees. “Business and church don’t normally find a meeting ground. There is a gap in the ministerial training that many pastors receive. Churches still have business elements that need to be addressed, and businesses can benefit from the ethical concerns brought up by those with theological training.”

Stearn views making money at all costs to be an unhealthy model. “Utilizing education in both theological training and business training can help remedy that situation.”

Stearn hopes to use his dual degree to either work with existing non-profits or create his own non-profit. He wants to develop new ways of creating and sustaining sources of income beyond donations.

“I’m very interested in the ‘farm to table’ movement because it includes many different levels and areas of employment,” he said, noting its products benefit those consuming fresh produce, while also generating profits for the producer-organization. “My goal is to make nonprofit organizations less dependent on donations that are strongly tied to a volatile economy.”

Eastern Mennonite Seminary offers two additional dual degree programs, one with the graduate counseling program at EMU and the other with the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding.

“Dual degree programs with the seminary offer the possibility of either training for bi-vocational ministry, or training for ministry that overlaps with non-profit leadership, professional counseling, or conflict transformation,” said Lonnie Yoder, associate dean of Eastern Mennonite Seminary, who was instrumental in developing the newest program. “Being part of a university with thriving graduate programs allows us to offer these unique options.”