Whether it is in preparation for ministry or simply motivated by a desire to know more about theology and the development of Christian thought, a degree in theology or Christian Studies can be an indispensable component in attaining one's vocational or personal development goals. There are various reasons someone might want to pursue their theological education online. For many, the desire to participate in ministry comes later in life, making on-campus education undesirable or, in the case of those in full-time employment, impossible. Missionaries may require supplemental education while ministering in far away places. Others may be attracted to
the affordability and flexibility offered by an online degree. If you are considering a BA in theology with official church ministry in mind, one thing to be attentive to is whether the degree program will align with what is required by your denomination or the ministry position toward which you are studying. With that in mind, these are the regionally accredited online undergraduate degree programs that offer the most affordable rates of out-of-pocket tuition.
See our rankings methodology page.
Location: Owensboro, KY
Brescia University is a small Catholic university located in Owensboro, Kentucky. Its online undergraduate theology degree has a special focus on pastoral studies, making it ideal for those with plans for future ministry, particularly in the Catholic church. This is especially true for those hoping to become Catholic deacons, as Brescia’s curriculum was designed to meet the requirements for diaconal ordination in the United States. The pastoral orientation of this degree means that classes are focused on specific types of parish ministry, such as youth ministry and catechetical formation. In order to ensure that what is learned in the courses can be applied fruitfully in active ministry, the degree ends with an internship designed by the student in collaboration with their advisor with their unique vocational goals and development in mind. Brescia’s online degree also allows students to graduate in less time than with a conventional on-campus degree by using an accelerated format. This format enables online students to cover the same content in a shorter amount of time, saving money and allowing for an earlier graduation. Brescia University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
: Virginia Beach, VA
Regent is a Christian university in Virginia Beach that was founded in 1977 by Pat Robertson, the well known Southern Baptist minister who is also the host of the 700 Club and chairman of the Christian Broadcasting Network. Though non-denominational, it is squarely within the evangelical tradition and would appeal to those within that tradition whose political inclinations lean further toward the conservative end of the scale. Regent has won a number of awards for their online programs, including being named among the top 20 of US News and World Report’s “Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for 2016” and a recognition from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) in 2012 for the breadth and comprehensiveness of their core curriculum. Regent’s online program is also notable for its generous credit transfer policy for those who have already completed college credit elsewhere as well as its education benefits for veterans and their spouses. Its online BA in Biblical and Theological Studies is geared toward those thinking about entering ministry, religious non-profits, Christian education, and missionary work. Regent is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
: Virginia Beach, VA
Lee University is a Christian liberal arts university located in Cleveland, TN. Though affiliated with the Church of God, its denominational identity is not strongly emphasized, making it a good choice for students from a non-denominational Protestant background. Lee University offers two Bachelor of Arts degrees that fall within the scope of this list: one in Bible and Theology and one in Christian Studies. Its BA in Bible and Theology is designed for those wanting to continue biblical or theological studies at a graduate level. Its BA in Christian Studies is designed for students who want to combine a broad theological education with the ability to modify their course of study to fit their goals for ministry. Conveniently divided into eight week terms, students are able to access course information and complete assignments at any time. Online course demonstrations are available at Lee University Online’s website. It is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Grand Canyon University
: Phoenix, AZ
Grand Canyon University is a for-profit Christian university- the first of its kind in the United States- located in Phoenix, AZ. It is owned and operated by a publicly traded corporation called Grand Canyon Education, Inc. With course lengths of seven weeks and a very generous credit transfer policy, GCU might appeal to students who have an uncompleted degree or Associate’s degree at another school and want to finish in a shorter amount of time. GCU offers a BA in Christian Studies through its College of Theology. Unlike theology programs with a more purely academic focus, GCU’s Christian Studies degree stresses the development of skills in church leadership and management, with a distinct focus on ways to grow larger congregations and expand parachurch ministries. GCU is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.
: Nashville, TN
Truett-McConnell College is a Christian liberal arts college in the small town of Cleveland, GA. It was founded and is currently associated with the Georgia Baptist Convention, which has a further association with the Southern Baptist Convention. As such, Truett-McConnell tends to be more theologically and politically conservative. Truett-McConnell offers a BA in Christian Studies with two different concentrations: a more general concentration on biblical and theological studies and also a student ministry concentration for those hoping to be involved in youth ministry. Students in these programs are instructed with four goals in mind: to increase their knowledge of the bible, to give them the ability to interpret the bible and apply its teaching in their lives and ministry, to critically evaluate different theological worldviews, and, through a final project, to demonstrate that they can apply these abilities in practical ways. Truett-McConnell is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Holy Apostles College and Seminary
: Cromwell, CT
Though it began as a minor seminary for the formation of Catholic priests in 1956, Holy Apostles opened its doors to women and laypeople beginning in 1972. They began offering online courses in the late 90’s and, in 2012, began offering online undergraduate degrees, including a BA in Theology. Holy Apostles’ campus is located a few miles out of Hartford, Connecticut, in the small town of Cromwell. It prides itself for its strict fidelity to the teachings of the Catholic Church and have been recognized by the Cardinal Newman Society as being in conformity with the ideals of a Catholic college as set forth in Pope John Paul II’s document on that topic, Ex Corde Ecclesiae. Identifying itself with the liberal arts tradition, undergraduates majoring in theology at Holy Apostles will also participate in a core curriculum that includes everything from drama and poetry, to mathematics and chemistry. With the addition of a few more classes, theology majors can also double major in either philosophy, English, or history. Holy Apostles is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
: Sterling, KS
Sterling College is a very small liberal arts college named after the rural Kansas town in which it resides. As a member of the Association of Presbyterian Colleges and Universities, Sterling is the only college in this list with a Presbyterian background. Sterling began offering online degrees in 2007 with the intent of expanding access to college scholarship to students outside of its small campus. Nevertheless, in doing so it has managed to preserve in its online format the intimate feel of a small campus. The focus of Sterling’s BA in Theological Studies is personal growth according to the Christian tradition. This emphasis is reflected in course offerings such as Philosophical Concepts and Christian Thought, Ethics, and Foundations of Servant Leadership. Sterling College is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.