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
You can complete all the courses you need for certification in just one year.
Each $125 course is 6 weeks long, although some programs include a 12-week practicum component in place of the 4th course. Certification cycles begin in January and August. Courses must be completed in order.
The 2021 course schedule is:
August 23 – October 1, 2021
October 11 – November 19, 2021
The 2022 course schedule is:
January 17 – February 25, 2022
March 14 – April 29, 2022 (No class during Holy Week, April 10-17)
June 6 – July 15, 2022 (Special course dates for summer option)
August 22 – September 30, 2022
October 10 – November 18, 2022
Jump to an overview of:
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
- 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, etc.
- 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 leadership development, mentoring, vocation, etc.
Certification in Church Administration
- IFDC1410 – Church Leadership and the Bible |
This course will explore the use of money from a biblical context and how we apply this context to our lives now.
- IFDC1420 – Theological Reflection: Church as Business and Mission |
This course will explore the theological standpoint of what it means to be a church as a business and as a mission.
- IFDC1430 – Stewardship, Finances, and Our Mission as a Church|
This course will focus on the practicality of living out a life of stewardship. We will look at your current budgets and finances. Is your church living out the mission to which God has called you?
- IFDC1440 – Practicum in Church Administration: Management and Stewardship |
This course will be focused on looking at stewardship and how church leaders can encourage giving and how that correlates with your church’s mission statement. Based on the previous courses, you will be working on a stewardship campaign.
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
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. IFDC840 Practicum in Music Ministry |
The Practicum in Music Ministry is a 12-week culminating course designed to offer practical working knowledge and apply pastoral principles and the musical skills necessary to do effective music ministry. Students develop their own learning covenants with their instructor to address those topics that are relevant to their context and overall growth as church musicians.