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"I want to take this opportunity to tell you how beneficial the CLP courses have been to me. It is amazing how much I learned and how much I use on a daily basis. It is a good program."

- Nanette Cagney


CEP Curricular Goals 
1. Be formed by, live in, and minister out of Scripture and the historical and theological tradition of the Church.
2. Educate and equip individuals and congregations to live and minister joyfully and faithfully as part of their own denomination and the ecumenical church.
3. Integrate theology and practice in all areas of life and ministry. 

The overall goal of the Congregational Equipping Christian Leadership Program of UDTS is to strengthen the church through quality theological education for lay persons. While the courses offered are particularly designed for those seeking commissioning as a Ruling Elder, they will serve the needs of all lay persons who are contributing their gifts to the ministry of their local church. Church officers, Christian education leaders and teachers, and persons who wish to deepen their understanding of the Christian faith will discover a rich opportunity through this program.

Classes are offered semi-synchronously and online (work completed weekly, no required classtime, no residency component) through moodle.dbq.edu. Participants benefit from a theological education, including online interaction with faculty and other students.  All online students are required to take an Introduction to Online Theological Education course as a prerequisite to any core course.

The University of Dubuque Theological Seminary is not a certification agency for ministry. As with ordained ministry, the path to being Commissioned as a Ruling Elder is certified through the individual's denominational judicatory (Presbytery, Church and Ministry Committee, or Local Church, depending on denominational background). UDTS does, however, certify the completion of courses.

Getting started with our program

  1. Fill out an online application.
  2. Based on the information you provide, our staff will contact your reference.
  3. Upon acceptance you will receive an email from us. Reply to the email with the courses you would like to initially register for.
  4. CEP Staff will complete your initial course registration and will provide you with your UDTS login credentials and access to the Introduction to Online Theological Learning course.

We require all of our online students to take an Introduction to Online Theological Education course.  This course is designed to give students an introduction to online learning. During this experience, you will master the tools and techniques that make online learning a rewarding experience. When you have completed the course, you will be equipped to use our learning platform for online courses.
*Please note: It is recommended for students to enroll at least two weeks before the beginning of a semester.

Please contact Becky Shellabarger, Director of the Congregational Equipping Christian Leadership Program, with questions at 563.589.3261 or DERegistration@dbq.edu.

Course Information
This program offers eight core courses required of Presbyterian Commissioned Ruling Elders (CREs) in the Presbyterian Church (USA) "Book of Order." At the same time, the content, for the most part, is basic to many mainline denominations. Persons from the Reformed Church in America, the United Church of Christ, the United Methodist Church, and the ELCA have participated in these classes. This curriculum is intended to be used for elder and lay leadership training. Some congregations use this program for teacher education.

Advanced Courses / Continuing Education
Courses for advanced studies and continuing education opportunities are offered periodically in addition to the basic curriculum. We have offered courses on The Life and Theology of Paul, Connecting with the Congregation, Discerning a Call to Ministry, Church Leadership & Administration, and Christian Leadership Ethics. If you are interested in an advanced course or continuing education, please contact DERegistration@dbq.edu. 

Course Schedule, Load, and Assessment

The Congregational Equipping Christian Leadership Program follows an 8-week term format. 2 sessions are offered in each of the Fall and Spring semesters and 1 session offered during the summer semester. The work required in a CEP course is equivalent to a one-credit college course. The standard for this would translate to:

  • 300 - 500 pages of reading
  • 7 - 10 pages of writing assignments
  • 4 - 5 hours per week of class participation and preparation time

We suggest participation in no more than one course at any one time if you are working full time outside of the home. This will allow you to complete 2 courses each semester by enrolling in 1 each 8-week subterm. If you are planning to study full time, you may enroll in as many classes as you wish. Each core course is offered one time every Fall and Spring semester. Summer offerings are based upon demand and instructor availability.

The student's progress in achieving the course objectives will be measured through examinations, writing assignments, weekly online discussions, and electronic group assignments.  To pass a course, a student needs to participate on time in at least 75% of the course, and do passable work on the course assignments per the instructor's syllabus.

Classes are offered semi-synchronously and online (work completed weekly, no required classtime, no residency component) through moodle.dbq.edu. Participants benefit from a theological education, including online interaction with faculty and other students.  All online students are required to take an Introduction to Online Theological Education course as a prerequisite to any core course.

Core Courses

All eight courses are offered in both the Fall and Spring of the academic year.  Summer offerings are based on demand and instructor availability.

  • Introduction to Old Testament
  • Introduction to New Testament
  • Pastoral Care
  • Presbyterian Polity
  • Reformed Theology
  • Introduction to Preaching
  • Foundations of Christian Education
  • Reformed Worship and Sacraments

Cost of the Program
(Subject to change)
Tuition and Withdrawals:

  1. Core Courses and Electives $410.00 subject to an annual increase.
  2. Books are in addition to tuition. Many students comparison shop online and get their books through such national sites as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Alibris, Christianbook, AbeBooks, etc.
  3. Withdrawal/Refunds - If a student withdraws within one week following the start of the term, a refund of one-half of the class charge will be issued.  If a student withdraws after the first week, he/she will be eligible for a pro-rated refund.  Withdrawals after four weeks are not eligible for a refund.  Classes dropped after the tenth day will be considered a withdrawal and will result in a W on the transcript.  No withdrawals will be allowed after the eighth week of class or the published withdrawal deadline.

Credit for Coursework: Certification for Commissioned Lay Pastor/Commissioned Ruling Elder

We do not offer certification for lay ministry. As with ordination, the path to becoming a Commissioned Ruling Elder is certified through the individual's denominational judicatory. We provide the courses and evaluations, which may be used by your Presbytery, Association or other judicatory in your process of becoming a Commissioned Ruling Elder.

The CEP courses are graded on a Pass/Fail basis.  Passing a course is earned by successful completion of each instructor's course requirements.  The courses do not carry seminary or university credit; however, we do offer CEUs (continuing education units) for successful completion of each class.  

Certificate in Congregational Leadership and Commencement Participation

Once you have completed all eight of the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary's core Christian Leadership Program courses, you can apply for a Certificate in Congregational Leadership, and you are eligible to participate in our Spring Commencement Ceremony!

Is Online Learning Right for Me?
Online education is exciting and convenient! It requires active participation in the course work, a high level of motivation, a strong sense of discipline, and a willingness to work in a group as well as independently. A basic level of computer proficiency is required for successful completion of an online course. Students should be comfortable with navigating a web browser, email, opening word or video files, uploading files, and using a word processor. The Introduction to Online Theological Education course will help you become familiar with working in the online environment.

Technical Requirements | Basic Hardware / Software Requirements | Email & Internet
Students must have a working email account and be comfortable with their email program: sending email, receiving email, and opening and sending attachments to email are all things necessary for our program.

Students must have a working Internet connection and an Internet browser installed on their computer. Microsoft Internet Explorer and Netscape versions 4.0 or higher are both acceptable. We do not teach basic internet navigation. You should have this skill before enrolling in our program. Some helpful basic Internet courses can be found at:

Windows (PC)

  • Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows 2003, Windows Vista or newer
  • Display resolution of 800x600 pixels or greater
  • Windows-compatible sound card
  • Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 SP1or later, or Firefox 2.0 or later
  • Windows Media Player 9.0 or later
  • Broadband Internet connection (256 Kbps & above) for live and on-demand presentations


  • MAC OS X or greater
  • Install one of the following browsers to play Video presentations that are required in some online classes:
    • Safari 1.0.3 or later (Safari 1.2.4 & above recommended)
    • Firefox 1.0 or later
    • Netscape 7.2 for Mac OS X
  • You must also install Windows Media Player 9 for the Mac.

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Mission Statement 

UDTS Mission Statement:

A Community after God's Heart: 
Shaped by Faith in the One God,  
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, 
We seek to follow Jesus, 
Walk in the Spirit. 
Join God's Mission.  

We are a Christian seminary dedicated to forming God's people for ministry and mission: 

  • Gathering in gratitude and faithfulness, to be reformed according to the Word of God. 
  • Growing in the Church's biblical faith in the Triune God. 
  • Excelling in theological education and scholarship. 
  • Engaging the changing needs of the Church and World. 

Students who apply for and are accepted into classes offered through the Congregational Equipping Christian Leadership Program should understand that the program embraces and works to fulfill the seminary mission.  

The Congregational Equipping Christian Leadership Program affirms the equal opportunity policy of UDTS. The program reserves the right to prevent persons from taking classes or dismiss students from classes when in the opinion of the Director of Distance Education and instructors, the student is disruptive or otherwise deemed unacceptable for the program. The normal policies and procedures of UDTS will apply to any relevant circumstances in the Congregational Equipping Christian Leadership Program.  

The Congregational Equipping Christian Leadership Program reserves the right to correct errors and change or amend its rules, regulations, and procedures without obligation or prior notice and in compliance with local, state and federal laws and regulations. 

Our Policies 

Registration, Payments, and Billing  
CEP students register for courses online using MyUD. Billing is sent by University of Dubuque Student Accounts.

Withdrawal from Class 
Students must withdraw from classes on or prior to the first day of class in order to receive a refund.   

CEP Pass/Fail Guidelines 
To pass a CEP course, students must participate on time in at least 75% of the course  and do passable work on the course assignments.  

Class Size/Waiting List 
CEP classes are limited to 20 students per course. Introduction to Preaching is limited to 12 students. If a class has reached its capacity, a waiting list will be kept.  Students will be contacted if an opening occurs prior to the course date.  If the number of students on the waiting list exceeds 6 students, a second section of the course will be created.   

Non-Attendance at Class 
Non -Attendance at class means that a student does not check in with  class instructor, complete assignments or participate in class discussions. If a student is absent from a class for two weeks and there has been no communication with the instructor, a grade of "No Credit" will be entered on the student record.   Our system is designed to offer the convenience of online learning with community. This is especially important for Christian spiritual formation. You have a covenant with your classmates to not only engage the course work, but to share in the experience.  

CEP courses are graded according to pass/fail guidelines.  

Netiquette Internet Etiquette Policy 
All posts should reflect Christian character: Do solid work, "as unto the Lord." Do your own work; "Thou shalt not steal." Be kind; "Speak the truth in love." 

The Seminary defines plagiarism as the copying or use of another person's work in any form without acknowledgment. Students shall not represent the work of another as their own or in a way misrepresent their own work, or the work of another. The use of any outside source, whether of idea or of paraphrase, shall be properly acknowledged. Any quotation, even of phrase, shall be marked by quotation marks. Misrepresentation shall be avoided. The first offense of plagiarism once established, will be penalized with an "F" on the assignment.  Second offense, once established, results in failure of the course. A third offense, once established, may result in dismissal from the Seminary.  The Academic and Student Affairs Committee of the Seminary, with the Dean, shall adjudicate all claims of cheating and, with the Dean, enforce this policy.  Appeals of the decision of the Academic and Student Affairs Committee can be directed to the President through the Dean.  The decision of the President is final.  

Last modified: Thursday, May 9, 2024, 11:20 AM