MAPPL - Master of Arts in Public and Pastoral Leadership

The Master of Arts in Public and Pastoral Leadership recognizes the kinds of leaders that are needed for the changing nature of Christian communities and supports persons engaged in various forms of leadership, from congregations to social entrepreneurship, faith-based social services, NGOs, community-based development, mediation services and community-based justice initiatives. A unique specialization in Spiritual Care prepares students for a variety of chaplaincy ministries.*

This degree is anchored in practice-based learning, action-reflection, and contextual analysis. Attention is given to developing religious literacy for working in pluralistic contexts, honing the theological intellect for forming public theologians and leaders, providing biblical, ethical and spiritual foundations for inspiring the visionary capacities of organizers and ecclesial change agents, and practicing ritual, rhetorical and communitarian skills needed for offering vital, artful, generous leadership in both inherited and emerging pastoral and public contexts.

Students in this program are expected to connect to a community or project in which their ability to practice and grow their capacity for leadership will be tested.


Program Length
Distance Learning

Length of Program

The MAPPL is a 48-credit hour degree, 30 credit hours in required courses, 9 credit hours in designated advanced elective courses, and 9 credit hours in open electives. Public and Pastoral Leadership will be anchored in 5 courses (15 credit hours) and 3 units of theological field education.

This degree may be completed in two years of full-time study or it may be completed on a part-time basis. There is a limit of seven years from the date of initial enrollment to completion.


Suitability for Particular Vocations and Occupations

  • An MAPPL prepares people for offering theologically informed leadership in community organizations and institutions such as NGOs, non-profits, para-church initiatives, and community-based development organizations. This is especially the case when a student includes in their program courses from VST’s offerings in Indigenous and Inter-religious Studies.
  • In the face of shifts in ministerial preparation in the churches, an MAPPL, with a credit load of half of the MDiv, may be more achievable preparation for a variety of types of ministry leadership. An MAPPL may meet denominational competencies for a variety of ordered ministries in some denominations, in some cases with the addition of denominational courses.
  • The degree is preparation for various forms of ministries and emerging models of Christian community, for example, as worker-priests and leaders of community-based ministries.
  • *The MAPPL specialization in Spiritual Care is designed for those intending to pursue vocations as spiritual care practitioners in settings such as health care facilities, prisons and correctional facilities, pastoral counselling centres, and congregations.
  • An MA is recognized as preparation for graduate work should a person at some point decide to move to advanced study.


A graduate of the MAPPL program at VST will know, articulate and integrate aspects of religious heritage, cultural context, and public and pastoral leadership:

  1. Demonstrate Master’s level knowledge of biblical, theological, and historical traditions and contexts, including the student’s own denomination or faith tradition.
  2. Analyze the relationship between religious faiths and contemporary culture, and demonstrate how engagement with both impacts one’s contribution to public and pastoral leadership.
  3. Analyze and interpret various cultural, congregational, and organizational contexts where ministry is practiced.
  4. Demonstrate positive growth in self-knowledge, emotional maturity, and spiritual vitality necessary for leadership in community.
  5. Articulate and practice an ethical and theological framework for decision-making and action.
  6. Articulate the student’s own purpose or call within their community of faith and wider society, making use of and possibly going beyond current models of ministry.
  7. Demonstrate integration of the knowledge, reflection and skills described above in theological reflection on the practice of ministry and leadership, in relation to major challenges facing contemporary religious communities and society.
  8. *For those in the Spiritual Care concentration, demonstrate skills as a practitioner in spiritual care, working with a care team in a clinical institutional setting.



Public and Pastoral Leadership

TFE Student Handbook

Classical Core

Students will take 5 courses (15 credit hours), one course each from the 4 primary theological disciplines:

Representative Electives

Students will be required to take 3 courses (9 credits) that pose critical religious reflection in relation to social context. These electives are intended to be representative of the core commitments of VST’s curriculum, such as feminism and gender studies, post-colonial awareness, interfaith and multicultural dynamics, and ecological justice. The courses include those which relate to inter-disciplinary study (such as economics, education, sociology, political science, physical sciences) with an aim to develop capacity for public and/or practical theology in inter-religious and inter-cultural contexts. These electives should include opportunity to develop post-colonial analysis and an understanding of the impact of globalization.

Open Electives

  • 3 courses (9 credit hours)

Culminating Assignment

The final requirement for graduation in the MAPPL will be a capstone project and presentation (see below). Students wishing to continue academic study after completing the MAPPL may petition the Research Studies Committee to write a thesis (see MATS requirements) in lieu of a capstone project and presentation.

The final requirement is normally completed in the student’s final year or semester of study.

Capstone Project and Presentation Description

The Capstone Project is an opportunity for students to complete their MAPPL degree by addressing a practical, real world leadership challenge or opportunity using the skills and knowledge they have gained throughout their program of study. The Capstone Project and Presentation provides opportunity for students to synthesize and apply their knowledge and experiences from their whole program. It helps them to negotiate successfully the transition to the next stage of their career, whether to the workplace or further study.

Information Literacy and Research Skills

All degree and diploma students are required to complete six hours of non-credit, no-fee research modules in Information Literacy. The modules will engage students in hands-on as well as theoretical work intended to develop knowledgeable, disciplined and critically astute researchers.

MA PPL students are also required to take another 2 Modules in areas of Research with Human Subjects, and Web Resources for Ministry

The VST Library sends out information and registration details for upcoming Modules.


An undergraduate degree is required, preferably in the humanities.

Distance Learning

MDiv and MAPPL (ministry-oriented programs) require that 1/3 of the degree be completed on-site at VST’s main campus.

MATS and ThM (research-orientated programs) can be completed entirely via distance. The MAIIS has course requirements which are only available on-site and will require the student to come onto campus to complete those course requirements.

On-site requirements are fulfilled in 3 ways:

  • Intensive courses offered in the January Interterm or Summer School in which all students are present on campus for the entire course.
  • Hybrid courses in which distance students are present on campus for one intensive 3-day weekend and are connected by Zoom to the rest of the classes spread out over the semester. The intensive weekend falls mid-semester and contains over half the classes of the course (6); the other 5 classes of the course are accomplished through synchronous or asynchronous Zoom connections.
  • Specialized on-site weekend intensive courses in which all students are present for the entire course. These short courses (1 – 1.5 credit hours) are used for particular denominational requirements like polity courses or spiritual retreats. This format used in these courses helps address the needs for denominationally-relevant opportunities for interaction, peer learning, development of pastoral skills, and growth in personal, spiritual formation

Please contact VST Admissions for more information,