Master of Religious Leadership (MRL)

Shelvis Smith-Mather in South Sudan

Master of Religious Leadership (MRL)

The Master of Religious Leadership is designed to enhance the leadership potential of those interested in Christian service.

Conversations with prospective students and church leaders reveal increased desire for theological education opportunities aimed at preparing students for forms of ministry beyond congregational-based pastoral ministry. It is this interest that MRL intends to address.

This program offers students interested in specialized ministries a graduate theological program that provides a biblical, historical and practical foundation for their work.

Cultivate your leadership potential. Take your call to the next level by enhancing the skills you need to lead.

Six areas of specialization. Specializations that reflect your strengths: Wesleyan Leadership and Heritage, Mission, Evangelism and World Christianity, Justice, Peacebuilding and Conflict Transformation, Pastoral Care, Ministries with Youth, and Worship and Music.

Flexible Formats. Hybrid option for areas of specialization in Youth Ministry; Justice, Peacebuilding, and Conflict Transformation (JPACT); and Wesleyan Leadership and Heritage.

Practical skill-building. Supervised internships that put you right in your chosen field, providing invaluable experience in real settings.

Benefit from the best. Cutting-edge programs from distinguished faculty offering real preparation for Christian leadership in the church and beyond.

For more information about the MRL program, contact Candler’s Admissions Office at 404.727.6326 or

Credit Hours
The 48-credit hour curriculum is structured to be completed in two years of full-time study; part-time students have up to six years to complete the program.

Students must complete specifically required courses such as Methods of Social and Congregational Analysis, Christian Ethics, and Systematic Theology, core courses in Bible, History, Leadership and Administration, Church and Community Ministries, and six courses in one of the six Areas of Specialization.

In addition to classes, students must complete six hours of contextualized education in social ministry or ecclesial settings aligned with the program’s six Areas of Specialization.

Read more about the MRL degree requirements.

The MRL Areas of Specialization are based on strengths of Candler’s full-time faculty and reflect critical needs for leadership in church and society. MRL students may choose to specialize in any one of the following areas:

Wesleyan Leadership and Heritage prepares students for lay ministry in Methodist/Wesleyan contexts, and allows United Methodist students over the age of 35 who already hold a masters degree in their area of ministry work to complete the United Methodist Basic Graduate Theological Studies (BGTS) requirements in order to seek ordination as a Deacon.

Mission, Evangelism and World Christianity produces practitioners who are critically aware of the complexity of the church universal as it engages in God’s mission in the world.

Justice, Peacebuilding and Conflict Transformation contributes to the formation of religious leaders who are equipped to engage conflict constructively within their congregations and their communities.

Pastoral Care prepares students to provide general pastoral care in congregational and community settings and in chaplaincy contexts. This concentration also provides initial training for those who may seek more advanced training in pastoral theology or pastoral counseling.

Ministries with Youth prepares students for a range of ministries with youth in and beyond the congregation.

Worship and Music equips music and worship leaders with creative and faithful ways to integrate music and worship.

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"Through my professors and colleagues, I have learned to provide theological context to my passion for justice in a community of scholars. I have begun to "reappropriate" in ways that I hope will allow me to lead a movement to shift the narrative in the public square and in the church."
-Kathryn Stanley 16T