Last updated: September 26, 2023

Ministering at The Salvation Army

Ellen Miller’s father was a United Methodist pastor, and her mother was a school teacher. Ellen always wanted to teach and went to school to be a music educator. Yet five years into teaching middle school choir, Ellen wasn’t sure she was making the kind of impact she really wanted to make in the lives of young people. She thought, “Maybe this isn’t what God wants me to do.”

Meanwhile, Ellen’s church, The Salvation Army, needed guidance and structure for doing ministry, and Ellen and her husband had their first child. “It was a good time to take some time off,” Ellen says. “So I resigned from teaching and then just really felt on my heart that God was leading me elsewhere.” 

Ellen realized she wanted to be in ministry and began working part time at her church. The following year, 2017, she started online courses at Asbury Seminary. Her position at church eventually became full time, as Families Ministry Coordinator for The Salvation Army.

Asbury Seminary’s online courses are not just for people who live far away from our residential campus in Kentucky – they’re for anyone. Ellen, her husband, and their two young girls live near campus, yet Ellen studies through Asbury Seminary’s online and hybrid options. She takes classes online and, when required, attends onsite intensive on campus. “It doesn’t matter where you live. That’s the great thing,” says Ellen. “I really do appreciate the accessibility of the degrees at the Seminary.”

Choosing the Master’s in Ministry

The Master of Arts in Ministry seemed like a great option to Ellen, who describes herself as “a practical, hands-on ministry person.” She chose Children and Family Ministry for her specialization, as her position as Family Ministries Coordinator includes Christian education, youth group, assisting with the music and arts program, and community outreach through the homeless shelter, the Boys & Girls Club, and the Early Learning Center Daycare.  

Ellen’s practical nature is indeed a match for the M.A. in Ministry. “At different times, a class just really paired well with whatever was happening in my work,” she says. Courses such as Models of Ministry with Children and Gospel Catechesis made her think about how to minister to, teach, and engage youth. She believes kids are part of the church, and not merely to be entertained but discipled. “They should be engaged members… Howare we getting them involved in serving? How are they contributing to the church in a meaningful way?” The Theology and Practice of Equipping the Laity helped Ellen think about models of discipleship for her congregation – asking important questions like, “Do we have a discipling system, or do we just have programs?” She says her church is working on how to introduce new people to their church, how to move people to become members, and best practices for discipling systems.

Working Toward a Seminary Degree Online

“I’ve slowly been chugging away,” says Ellen, as she plans to complete her final course. She models how a wife and mother can tackle a seminary degree online while in full-time ministry. “I’ve discovered two classes is my limit. It’s hard to do more than two with a family at home. It means either waking up early or staying up late to make the time to read or do the online post or writing, but it’s definitely doable.”

Ellen’s long, steady journey working on her M.A. has given her the chance to continue applying what she’s learning to her ministry with The Salvation Army. “I’m not just absorbed in class work all the time or life on campus, because most of my mental capacity is going to, ‘What’s going on with my family?’ or ‘What’s happening at church, my work, that I’m passionate about?’” Over the past year, Ellen’s church gained two Swahili-speaking families who have come as refugees. “You sometimes have your own agenda… And then something else happens, like God brings people into your lives. And it’s like, ‘Okay, well I guess we’re doing this now.’ And so it’s just exciting to think about being open to serving God and doing His work in whatever way He leads you.”

According to Ellen, her seminary education is helping her be better equipped for ministry as well as more knowledgeable of who God is, how He has worked in the past, and how He continues to work today. Ellen graduates with her M.A. Spring of 2024.

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