Graduate Department of Theology

The Graduate Program of Theology at Rochester University provides excellent opportunities for those called to professional or lay ministry to pursue a quality graduate education that is integrated with real-life ministry. The program prepares students for a lifetime of faithful service and vibrant discipleship, while continuing to stay ahead of the new and rapidly evolving cultural context, in order to conceive and deliver training. The Master of Religious Education in Missional Leadership is an attempt to provide faithful ministry preparation that takes our changing context seriously.

Degree Requirements

Master of Religious Education in Missional Leadership

The MRE in Missional Leadership helps you build upon solid biblical theology and pastoral foundation. If you are committed to leading within the church and find yourself challenged by the implications of a practical and living gospel in an everchanging, dynamic culture, this course of study is for you.

Through the MRE program at RU the congregation, not the classroom, is where you will gain, expand and grow your understanding of missional leadership. This dynamic, hands-on approach to religious education offers you a chance to work in ministerial roles in which you can develop your leadership capabilities.

This unique program will connect you with resources and people beyond RU’s outstanding resident faculty, including key leaders in both the missional and emerging church movements, as well as missional leaders from around the world. As a graduate student, these leaders will serve both as faculty and online mentors.

Program Description

Congregational leaders today can no longer assume that “if we build it, they will come.” Things have changed. Often, church leaders are doing everything they’ve been trained to do, better than they’ve ever done it before, but with diminishing impact. The emerging ministry situation in which we find ourselves will require nimble congregations, imaginative leaders, and new ways for preparing women and men for ministry. The MRE in missional leadership is Rochester University’s attempt to bring a different approach to training ministers for Christian communities in a new missional era.

Ministry challenges in a new missional era don’t always come with obvious solutions. Leaders, therefore, must be able to interpret their own cultural settings, recognize new opportunities to experience the hospitality of God on terms other than their own, and equip themselves and others with the spiritual practices necessary to experiment in the midst of ambiguity and anxiety. These are challenging times, but they’re also exciting times for those who have a sense of adventure and are willing to trust the leading of a living God into a new future.

The MRE features four distinctive program aspects that when taken together offer a unique educational experience. These four aspects, discussed more fully below are: 1. Situated learning, 2. Spiritual formation, 3. Cohort learning, and 4. Over the shoulder learning. We’ve been doing learning these ways for over ten years now, and we think the results speak for themselves (Link to student testimonials). We hope you’ll come learn with us.

  1. Situated learning: We think learning to lead is best done by actually leading. So, we want students to learn in the “situation,” or location, where opportunities to lead already exist. Students are required, therefore, to have signed consent forms to do projects in their ministry setting. Each course features a major assignment that begins in the student’s context. This is because we believe the living God is at work in the details of congregational experience. So, the congregation is not a place simply to apply our theology, but the congregation is actually a source for doing theology. We discover God sometimes in ways we don’t expect by attending closely to the details of congregational life.
  2. Spiritual formation: Central to leading and joining in the mission of God is the pursuit of a God-centered identity. In the MRE, embracing our God-centered identity is considered job #1. Woven throughout the program from orientation to graduation, students are invited to attend to the presence and work of God in their lives, communities, and the world. Students share common commitments, such as prayer, attentiveness, hospitality, and simplicity by crafting a rule of life that contains spiritual rhythms which open them up more fully to the life of God. Students have frequent conversation points through the program with a spiritual director and fellow students, ensuring that the pursuit of a God-centered identity is not done alone.
  3. Cohort learning: Students journey throughout the program with the same peers from the beginning to the end. At graduation, we consistently hear that the relationships made have deepened their time in the program in profound ways. Before any online learning occurs, students spend time together at orientation and for their first course, and they continue learning together both online and in person for the remainder of the program. This deepens the learning, as students do not have to continuously meet new peers and build new trust with each course. Students learn by observing others who are in a variety of different ministry contexts and navigate challenging theological and spiritual waters together, supporting one another in ministry throughout the program and beyond.
  4. Over the shoulder learning: While students primarily learn within their ministry contexts, they also travel to various locations together near the beginning of each semester in order to learn from other communities participating in the mission of God. In places such as Portland, OR, Durham, NC, and Nashville, TN students encounter new ideas and possibilities, and their imaginations are opened to the new work of God in their own contexts. These weeks are also a rich time of sharing life together through meals, conversations, worship, spiritual practices, reflection, and rest.

How the Program Works

The MRE is a situated learning degree, meaning that you learn primarily in the ministry “situation” or context in which you find yourself. This means that seven of the twelve courses you take deliver instruction fully online. The other five courses are either one week intensives, or a hybrid course that combines face-to-face learning with online work. The expectation is that each student will complete three courses in a sixteen week semester. Each semester, we travel to a location that provides the best learning opportunities for our students for either an intensive or hybrid course. Currently, our travel destinations are Rochester Hills, Portland, OR, Durham, NC, and Nashville, TN. 

For instance, here is the sequence of courses for students beginning in the Fall 2020:

Fall 2020

Leading the Missional Congregation (hybrid, Rochester Hills, Aug 24-25)

Jesus in the Life of the Church (hybrid, Rochester Hills, Aug 26-28)

God, New Creation and the Church (online)

Also includes an orientation, Aug 21-23 (Rochester Hills)


Spring 2021

Gospel and Cultures (online)

The New Testament and the Gentile Mission (online)

Salvation and Human Identity (Hybrid, Portland, OR, Jan 25-27)

Includes a check-in retreat, Jan 22-24 (Portland, OR)


Fall 2021

Global Christianity (online)

The Holy Spirit, Leadership, and Missional Communities (online)

Hospitality as Leadership (Hybrid, Durham, NC, Sept. 13-15)

Includes check-in retreat, Sept 10-12 (Durham, NC)


Spring 2022

Missio Dei: The Story of Christian Mission (online)

Prophetic Critique and Program for Renewal (online)

Missional Hermeneutics (Hybrid, Jan 24-27, Nashville, TN)

Includes check-in retreat Jan 21-23 (Nashville, TN)

What Participants Are Saying About RU's MRE

Tune into the MRE Facebook Live sessions to learn more about our program!

Session 1, June 29

Session 2, July 2

Session 3, Aug 6

Session 4, Oct 14