The Institute for Discipleship at Southwestern College offers certifications in several ministry-related areas. Certifications require just four courses of $125 each — a total of $500. These courses will give you a solid theological understanding to support your work, as well as practical knowledge from experts. All courses are taught by instructors who have years of on-the-ground experience in their particular ministry area.
Gain tools to make a big impact in your ministry area and interact with other Christians from around the country who do the same kind of ministry you do!
Cost and Dates
Certification courses must be completed in order. Each $125 course is 6 weeks long, although some programs include a 12-week practicum component in place of the 4th course.
First courses in the certification cycles are offered in either January or August, with some certifications relaunching at both times.
Once you begin, you can complete all the courses you need for certification in just one year!
2022 Course Dates:
August 22 – September 30, 2022
October 10 – November 18, 2022
2023 Course Dates:
January 16 – February 24, 2023
March 13 – April 28, 2023 (No class during Holy Week)
August 21 – September 29, 2023
October 9 – November 17, 2023
Jump to an overview of:
Add a United Methodist Emphasis to Any Certification!
Optional United Methodist Emphasis
- IFDC050 – United Methodist Studies
This course will give you a United Methodist emphasis when you add it to any IFD certification. Other courses in the certification need to be completed before enrolling into this course.
Certification in Children’s Ministry
- IFDC110 – Teaching Biblical Faith to Children
A consideration of pedagogical methods for the church as it encounters the biblical message of the Old and New Testaments with special emphasis on understanding theological implications for children.
- IFDC120 – Teaching Theology to Children
A survey of issues in theology and their implications for teaching and learning in the church, with special emphasis on understanding theological implications for children.
- IFDC130 – Nurturing Spiritual Development in the Lives of Children
Historical, theological, and philosophical foundations of Christian education with attention to ways people develop and learn across the age span and how teaching takes place in the church.
- IFDC140 – Children’s Ministries as Leading Spiritual Education
An examination of the role of the educator in supporting the faith development of children in the congregation including pedagogies, administrative and leadership issues, and a theology of childhood.
Certification in Spiritual Formation
- IFDC220 – Spiritual Disciplines for Personal and Parish Renewal
The main focus of this course is spiritual formation and the ways that spiritual temperament and personality inform engagement of the spiritual disciplines for personal and parish renewal. Participants will define an initial plan for spiritual formation in a congregational setting.
- IFDC210 – Teaching the Biblical Faith for Spiritual Formation
The focus of this class is on ways that we might promote a formational engagement of the Scriptures for personal and parish enrichment through the ways that we teach our Biblical faith. In this course, you’ll learn how to engage the Christian meta-narrative and its key themes and motifs in ways that facilitate spiritual formation in our churches.
- IFDC230 – The Ministry of Spiritual Direction and Companionship
Affirming the role of authentic community and companionship in discipleship and spiritual formation, this course will work to define “spiritual direction and companionship” – in both its one-on-one form as well as “group” expressions. A variety of resources (including readings from Christian classics) will serve to illuminate key elements of and considerations surrounding such relationships, including: listening skills, psychological awareness, historical background (including formative Wesleyan spirituality), the differences between direction and counseling and coaching, and ethical considerations. Upon completion of the course, participants should have a clear understanding of the nature of this means of spiritual guidance as well as the formal processes involved in becoming a certified spiritual director.
- IFDC250 – Practicum in Spiritual Formation
Supervised field education in a project related to “spiritual formation” in the setting of a local congregation. Successful completion of this 12-week course will demand that participants demonstrate an understanding of project management and bring that understanding to bear in the definition, defense, execution, and critical evaluation of a short-term program/activity to be conducted in a local church or small group setting. (Prerequisites: IFDC210, 220, 230)
Certification in Evangelism
- IFDC310 – Teaching Biblical Faith: Evangelism
A study of the biblical message of the Old and New Testaments and the relation of the Bible to teaching Evangelism.
- IFDC320 – Teaching Theology: Evangelism
Theological foundations for the ministry of Evangelism, empowering laity as theologians and exploring Christian doctrines.
- IFDC330 – Evangelism as Congregational Outreach and Growth
Examination of the role of the specialist in Evangelism in equipping the congregation to tell the Christian story to those outside the church, to seek a response to the Christian message and to assimilate newcomers into the life and ministry of the church. Areas of concern will include communication theory and skills, outreach methods and approaches, and models for the assimilation of new members.
- IFDC340 – Evangelism as Congregational Care and Nurture
Consideration of the ministry of evangelism through the care of members by such means as pastoral care, visitation, support and self-help groups, and the growth and empowerment of laypeople in faith and discipleship.
Certification in Christian Care and Counseling
- IFDC410 – The Church and Counseling: A Biblical Perspective
This course is designed to show that God’s Word is our guide for good living and by reading and studying His Word we can find that God addresses every concern we have in life. In the church, there is a lifetime support system to love and care for us and the whole community of believers and nonbelievers.
- IFDC420 – The Theology of Christian Care and Counseling
In this course we will look at the biblical themes of sin, suffering, exodus, sacrifice, law, kingdom and exile and how they develop in Scripture over the course of redemptive history. Looking at counseling topics such as interpersonal ministry, conversation, discipleship, personal struggles and crisis will also be studied.
- IFDC430 – Understanding People: A Ministry to God’s People in All Stages of Life
To truly understand people, we must combine the rigorous formal study of developmental issues with our own observations and thorough study of Scripture. In this course we will seek to enhance Christian care and counseling skills to work with people in different developmental stages to get the most out of life in each stage.
- IFDC440 – A Look at Life’s Issues
God sent His Son to show us how to deal with the problems of this world. We will consider how to help people with prominent issues – anger, anxiety, depression, guilt and forgiveness, loneliness…developmental issues…interpersonal issues, such as abuse and neglect, conflict and relationships…identity issues – self-esteem, grief…family issues…control issues…
Certification in Rural Ministry
- IFDC910 – Engaging the Bible in Rural Ministry
The Bible is, in many ways, a rural text. It relates to people with industrial, agrarian, and small-town leanings. Even Jesus, often present in urban settings, teaches using small town and country metaphors. This course encourages participants to view scripture as a means of fostering new life and ministry in rural settings beyond Sunday school understandings of the scripture. The course includes audio lectures, readings, course postings, a project which allows for application of the material learned in the course.
- IFDC920 – Practical Theology in Rural Communities
This course engages both the terms “rural” and “practical theology” in ways that allow for application and inspiration of the Holy Spirit in rural ministry. As rural life looks very different depending upon context, this course allows for application which provides fewer solid answers, and more a toolbox for engaging in ministry. The course includes audio lectures, readings, course postings, a project which allows for application of the material learned in the course.
- IFDC930 – Rural Relationships and Rural Ministry
This class provides learners opportunities to enhance their affinity for ministering in rural settings. It will provide immersion experience in rural settings including an examination of the cultural dynamics of rural life and the church, learners will be encouraged to develop approaches that bridge those differences and create positive connections.
- IFDC940 – Transforming Rural Places Through Congregational and Community Partnerships
Learners will examine best practices used by congregations that have successfully launched and grown ministries in rural settings.
Certification in Christian Education
- IFDC1120 – Theology and Christian Education
This course seeks to engage the importance of theological education in the local church by working through both the various tenants of Christian theology and their influence and impact on teaching and learning in the local church. The course includes audio lectures, readings, course postings, a project which allows for application of the material learned in the course.
- IFDC1110 – Biblical Faith and Christian Education
How we understand scripture impacts how we teach the scripture. This course engage an understanding of the Bible as a living document that allows for many interpretations and means of engagement. Alongside this, several different types of teaching and learning are offered as a means of engaging what “Bible Study” and “biblical faith” look like in a multitude of venues. The course includes audio lectures, readings, course postings, a project which allows for application of the material learned in the course.
- IFDC1130 – Teaching and Learning in Christian Education
Education with attention to the ways people develop and learn across the age span and how teaching takes place in the church
- IFDC1140 – Administering Christian Education Programs
An examination of the role of the educator in ministry through administration and leadership in local church education
Certification in Ministry with People with Disabilities
- IFDC1210 – Disability, the Bible, and the Church
This course will explore how the Bible provides us with examples of people with disabilities were viewed in the Old Testament and then we will take a look at how those with disabilities were welcomed in a community.
- IFDC1220 – Theology of Ministry with People with Disabilities
In this course we will expand on what we started learning in course one of this certification process. Through this course, learners will be provided a theological foundation for the practice of ministry, relating theology to relevant issues of disability and faith development. Learners will be engaged in theological reflection relating to tradition, experience and exploring the theology of disability.
- IFD1230 – Disability Awareness
This course covers the nature of disabilities through the lifespan. It includes the history of disability, theories, laws, policies, attitudes and resources.
- IFDC1240 – Ministry with People with Disabilities
As the fourth course in the Ministry with People with Disabilities certification, we will add one more layer of what it looks like to create an open, welcome, and creating hospitality to those with disabilities and their families. We will look at creating meaningful and effective ministries for those with disabilities and their families.
Certification in Women’s Ministries
The Women’s Ministries program investigates women’s roles in scripture, historical beliefs about women’s relationships with God, and various spiritual and leadership topics that will support strong lay ministries by, for, and with women in the church and community. It is based on egalitarian theology – the belief that women’s and men’s ministries are equal in value – and open to all who want to enlarge their learning.
- IFDC1310 – Biblical Faith Regarding Women
In the scriptural foundation for this certificate program, we will look at the stories and roles of women in scripture. We’ll also take a look at how those roles might have changed through the biblical millennia and think about why that might have been. And finally, we’ll see if those roles relate to the roles of women today!
- IFDC1320 – Theology Regarding Women
In this survey of theological issues for women’s ministries, we’ll explore how theology reflects and supports the equality of women’s ministries, as well as investigate some varieties of women’s theologies.
- IFD1330 – Practical Women’s Ministries I
In this course, we’ll explore six areas of practical interest for women’s ministries, with information and facilitation from women leaders in those areas. Topics will include spiritual gifts, gender, multi-generational friendships, leading studies, and abuse of power.
- IFDC1340 – Practical Women’s Ministries II
In this course, we’ll explore six areas of practical interest for women’s ministries, with information and facilitation from women leaders in those areas. Topics will include domestic partner abuse, prison ministry, leadership development, mentoring, and vocation.
Certification in Church Administration
1. IFDC1410 – Biblical Compassion and Church Administration
Effective church administration allows each community of faith to operate to its fullest potential and creates space for all people to grow, worship, and serve. Attending to the details of congregational life involves organization and inspiration, along with conflict resolution and stress management at times. This first course in the church administration certification sequence allows learners to learn about compassion and love from Jesus’ example and how they can apply those outcomes to their ministry context today and tomorrow.
2. IFDC1420 – Theology and Church Administration
Where is God? How is church administration transforming to ever changing day to day ministry of the congregation? This second course in the church administration certification sequence takes a theological approach to building a relationship with God and relationships with those in your ministry context.
3. IFDC1430 – Serving in your Ministry Context
The third course in the church administration certification sequence focuses on aspects of the corporate business world that can be applied to church administration while still allowing the Holy Spirit to guide ministry and mission work. Resources will also include online links that will be made available through the course.
4. IFDC1440 – Finance and Church Administration
In the fourth course of the church administration certification series learners will explore the financial aspects of church administration and how to budget to be in mission rather than budgeting just to keep the doors of the church open and the lights on. The outcome of this course will provide the learner ways to create a narrative budget, methods for developing a sermon series on being focused on mission and not money in the offering plate, and how to encourage generosity through gifts and offerings. It will remind learners that everyone can be involved in ministry and mission. God’s children are more than consumers; they are loved by God and through their gifts bless others with God’s love, grace, and mercy.
Certification in Missions
- IFDC1910 – Starting Right: The Biblical Foundations for Engaging in Mission
This course would explore the biblical mandate to “Love Your Neighbor” and the understanding of taking the Gospel to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to Ends of the World. We will examine how this has been interpreted in the past; and, learning from the mistakes of the past, what does it mean to “Do No Harm” for the future? How do we interpret mission in light of the Bible, the Past, the Present and the Future?
- IFDC1920 – Mission through a Lens of Abundance
This course will help leaders shift the mindset of highlighting scarcities in mission fields and begin to identify, recognize, and utilize its resources and assets. It will take time to look at current day practices of asset-mapping and ensure that partners are moving together to discover what God has already offered through the people both in the communities and beyond.
- IFDC1930 – Culture Matters: Understanding Cultural Identity in Mission
As diversity continues to move from “out there,” to “right here,” this course is critical to understanding what defines culture and how it shapes who we are and what we believe about each other. Our identities are often defined and refined by the cultures we experience. Before we move into a cross-cultural mission experience of any type, it’s critical that we understand how we define culture and what are the expectations and assumptions each cultural lens brings to a mission-oriented relationship. Examining these contexts help us become more in tune and deliberate about our mission experience.
- IFDC1940 – Mutuality in Mission – Where the Rubber Meets the Road
This last course helps us think about how we respond to God’s call to “Love our Neighbor” in such a way that honors our neighbors as whole and fully gifted people, just as much as we are whole and fully gifted people because of God’s grace
Certification in Music Ministry
- IFDC810 – Psalms: Songs and Prayers of the Heart
The purpose of this course is to explore the Psalms and how they impact our understanding of who God is, what it means to be human, and how this knowledge influences how we interact with the world. The course will examine the Psalms in the context of the worship life of Ancient Israel with a view toward their role in our present day.
- IFDC820 – Singing our Faith: The Power of Theology and Music
This course is a survey of Christian theology for persons involved in music ministry. Special attention will be given to the theology of hymns and anthem/contemporary music choices. This study encourages students to articulate their theology as worship leaders and practitioners and to see the importance of spiritual formation in their calling.
- IFDC830 – Congregational Song: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
This course is designed to provide a survey of the development of congregational singing in our American experience. Areas covered will include an historical look at our hymnody, the rise of contemporary Christian music, text-music relationships, and trends in congregational singing into the 21st century.
- IFDC840 – Music Ministry: Its Administration and Practice
This course will address the practical elements of music ministry, including leadership qualities, functioning on a church staff, designing and leading worship, and effective leadership as a pastoral musician. The course will also capture a vision and philosophy of utilizing music and the arts in worship and discuss ways to articulate and implement that vision.