Take a look at our curriculum design and you’ll see something new and innovative courses are organized around the five biblical purposes of the church.

Traditionally, seminaries have arranged courses according to categories of knowledge, i.e., biblical studies, theological studies, historical studies, and practical theology. This organization of curriculum was carried over to seminary education from the European university system about 200 years ago, and reflects a university’s primary purpose of producing scholars.

Rockbridge Seminary, however, is called to emphasize local church ministry. Therefore, the curriculum is designed to flow around the purposes of the church rather than by categories of knowledge.


Ministry requires skill. Every ministry position—whether vocational or volunteer—carries with it the expectation the minister can do certain things effectively. For instance, ministers are expected to have the skill of appropriately interpreting the biblical text and applying its truth to daily life. But those in ministry are also expected to have skills that help resolve conflict, listen to those who are hurting, provide pastoral care to the sick, and guide someone to become a follower of Christ. Additional skills are also expected like assessing the needs of the local community, building an effective ministry team, and leading the church in conducting mission endeavors.

Many professions like law, medicine, and teaching recognize the importance of upgrading skills by requiring annual re-certifications. According to Reggie McNeal, ministry skills are not immune to becoming outdated and ineffective over time:

Many men and women who entered the ministry with a clear sense of call to make a difference feel overwhelmed, bewildered, defeated, and generally under-prepared for the challenges they face. Having packed their bags for the journey of the church age, they now have no idea what should be in their leadership backpack for the current excursion. The portfolio of skills that once gave them standing in the community of faith no longer distinguishes them, ensures their effectiveness, or guarantees their continued leadership position. (The Present Future, pp. 7-8)

Do your ministry skills need updating? Below is a list of 35 ministry competencies identified by Rockbridge Seminary as helpful for ministry in the 21st century. Rockbridge Seminary students use this list as an assessment tool for their academic studies. Each course designates which of the competencies are a focal point in the course learning experience.

Worship Competencies – Celebrating God’s Presence

  • Leads and/or works with other people in planning and facilitating worship. (W-1)
  • Performs baptisms, weddings, funerals, and other ordinances of the church in an appropriate manner. (W-2)
  • Designs creative worship experiences that involve music, media, and the arts. (W-3)
  • Educates the congregation in worship. (W-4)
  • Communicates Scripture in a way that leads to an intended audience to worship and to experience life transformation. (W-5)
  • Leads a congregation in making prayer a vital element of the church’s life. (W-6)
  • Leads the church in practicing worship through stewardship of life and resources. (W-7)

Evangelism Competencies – Sharing God’s Word

  • Communicates biblical truth through preaching, personal witness, teaching, speaking, writing, music, and other ways as may be appropriate to fulfill the Great Commission. (E-1)
  • Leads the church in an effective program of evangelism. (E-2)
  • Leads the church in planning and conducting cross-cultural missions. (E-3)
  • Builds relationships with unbelievers that lead to opportunities to share the Gospel. (E-4)
  • Interprets the culture and plans appropriate strategies for sharing the Gospel in that culture. (E-5)
  • Respects persons of different cultural, social, and religious backgrounds. (E-6)
  • Articulates the Christian message and contrasts that message with other worldviews and major world religions. (E-7)

Fellowship Competencies – Nurturing God’s Family

  • Builds and maintains healthy relationships with others. (F-1)
  • Sensitive to the needs and feelings of others. (F-2)
  • Develops relationships within and external to the ministry organization for accountability and personal support. (F-3)
  • Works effectively with others. (F-4)
  • Listens and responds in ways that let people know they have been heard. (F-5)
  • Develops small groups and leads them to birth new groups. (F-6)
  • Leads the church in developing a process for connecting new members into the life and purposes of the church. (F-7)

Discipleship Competencies – Maturing God’s People

  • Interprets the biblical text and applies its truth to life situations. (D-1)
  • Effectively employs Bible study tools and basic biblical language skills for personal Bible study and Bible teaching. (D-2)
  • Evaluates current ministry programs and issues in light of church history and theology. (D-3)
  • Leads the church in planning, conducting, and evaluating a comprehensive program of discipleship and Christian maturity. (D-4)
  • Demonstrates a vibrant spiritual life through the implementation of spiritual disciplines including prayer, Bible study, holiness of life, and communion with God. (D-5)
  • Models the role of an effective teacher and communicator. (D-6)
  • Functions as a resource person in discipleship curriculum. (D-7)

Ministry Competencies – Living God ’s Word

  • Exercises the administrative skills of strategic planning, organizing, leading, and evaluating the work of ministry that leads to achievement of defined goals and the mission of the New Testament church. (M-1)
  • Provides spiritual guidance in helping others analyze how God has shaped them for ministry. (M-2)
  • Recruits, trains, and supervises individuals to fulfill the purposes of the church. (M-3)
  • Assesses the needs of the ministry community, designs appropriate actions to meet those needs, and effectively markets the church’s ministry in the community. (M-4)
  • Develops and administers budgets for ministry programs and organizations. (M-5)
  • Provides pastoral care, counseling, and appropriate referrals for the sick, hurting, and grieving. (M-6)
  • Demonstrates godly humility and sacrificial love for those in the church. (M-7)


There is more to teaching than conveying information. We view teaching and learning as transformational, changing the entire being of a person. Just as chairs have four legs, there are four elements to transformational teaching and learning.


The first element is the head. Cognitive information is important in the process of understanding God, our world, and others. We want our students to be knowledgeable about theology, the work of the church, and the principles of effective ministry.


The second element are the hands. We understand the role of the seminary is to equip men and women with the practical skills to perform ministry. Therefore, our curriculum is applied ministry. We ask what skills you need for ministry and help you develop them through corresponding ministry competencies.


The third element is heart. We can feed the head and help the hands, but if we fail to nurture the soul, we fail as teachers and as a seminary. Parker Palmer writes,

We are obsessed with manipulating externals because we believe that they will give us some power over reality and win us some freedom from its constraints. Mesmerized by a technology that seems to have done just that, we dismiss the inward world. We turn every question we fact into an objective problem to be solved—and we believe that for every objective problem there is some sort of technical fix. That is why we train doctors to repair the body but not honor the spirit; clergy to be CEOs but not spiritual guides; teachers to master techniques but not to engage their students’ souls.


The fourth element is the habit of community. Spiritual maturity and the fullest range of learning cannot take place in isolation. We believe you not only learn with interaction with the instructor, but with interaction with each other. Instructors are really facilitators of learning and they in turn learn from students. Skeptics claim community cannot exist in an online environment, but our experience has been just the opposite. Intimate relationships can develop online if both students and instructors view the habit of community as part of their responsibility.

We utilize the latest technologies in helping students with transformational learning. Technologies change. Our current model involves online learning, but that may change with technologies we are not even aware of today. Technology is simply a tool we use to equip students for servant leadership. We therefore encourage our faculty members to engage in research, the practice of ministry, practice personal spiritual development, and build relationships with students and our constituents.


A growing number of learners are finding that online learning opens up educational opportunities that normally would not be available to them. To that end Rockbridge Seminary courses are fully online.

Any Time, Any Place Learning – You Decide

Fitting your schedule around campus-based studies is increasingly difficult if not impossible. Work or ministry responsibilities can keep you from being able to attend a class that meets at a scheduled time and location. Online learning though allows you to study according to your schedule, not that of the school.

Attending a traditional classroom can be prohibitive also because of distance and the additional costs of getting to campus. With online learning you eliminate travel expenses, spending time in traffic, or waiting in a classroom for the course to begin. Attending online courses only requires you to have access to a computer or mobile device, and a connection to the Internet.

Benefits of Online Learning

Rockbridge online courses offer additional benefits through any time, any place learning.

  • Courses are relevant, purpose driven, and designed for the online environment. You do not sit through a streaming video of a traditional seminary class session.
  • A qualified and experienced professor is assigned to every class to support and engage you in your learning.
  • You become part of an active and vibrant learning community in every course that helps motivate, encourage, stimulate, and challenge you to complete your studies.
  • You can apply what you learn immediately. Projects and other assignments are almost always completed within the context of your church ministry role.
  • You benefit from the ministry perspectives of fellow learners from all over the world. A global student body builds a global perspective of what God is doing in the world.
  • Rockbridge Seminary’s online learning is designed to make seminary education accessible and relevant for you.

Features of the Online Classroom

When you login to a Rockbridge Seminary classroom, you enter an online learning environment that is self-contained and fully functional. There is no software to download or special equipment required other than a functioning computer or mobile device, and a reliable connection to the Internet.

In the online classroom, you join others from around the world who have also enrolled in the course. Together you progress along a learning journey that starts with a “Course Introduction Week,” followed by one unit of study per week, and finishes with a “Learning Assessment Week.” Along the way you are supported by a seminary professor who mentors you in your studies throughout the term. In addition, you select a local mentor who helps you process and apply what you are learning to your local church ministry.

Through the online classroom you can communicate with your professor and the other students, ask questions, participate in surveys, take exams, view topic-related multimedia, read articles, access materials in the Rockbridge Seminary Library, and upload assignments. Each course is designed with reference materials, discussion groups, and web-based resources, all embedded in the units of study.

The Rockbridge online classroom experience does not end there. Additional online resources like affinity group discussion rooms, online registration, and even an online library are provided.

Rockbridge Seminary Library

As a Rockbridge student, you have 24/7/365 access to the Rockbridge Seminary Library. Resources in this virtual library include downloadable eBooks, the Gale Virtual Reference Library, searchable subscription databases of full-text journal articles, book reviews, and collections of essays. Databases include the ATLA Religion Database, EBSCO Religion and Philosophy Collection, InfoTrac Religion and Philosophy Collection, and the Galaxie Theological Journals.

You can also connect through the library to pre-selected websites providing original documents, studies, and learning community resources in the fields of Bible, theology, church history, church ministry, evangelism, missions, and religious studies. A theological librarian is also available to assist you with your research.

At Rockbridge Seminary, learning resources and research support are conveniently accessible to you whenever and wherever you study.