Customizable certificate fits the bill for retired teacher

Published: March 20, 2023

By Annette Brill Bergstresser

ELKHART, Indiana (Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary) — Adela Friesen Wedler of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, had recently retired from teaching when an ad in the church news caught her eye.

Adela Friesen Wedler
Adela Friesen Wedler (Photo provided)

“The ad said that students could take two courses [at AMBS] before applying for admission to a program,” she remembers. “Having recently retired, this intrigued me.”

Wedler noted that she had always been interested in Christian theology, Christian and specifically Anabaptist history, and Christian worship, and that she had studied on her own through working with the church, reading and attending workshops. So she seized the opportunity to try out an online course in fall 2019 through AMBS, which is located in Elkhart, Indiana.

The next year, she was admitted into the seminary’s Graduate Certificate in Theological Studies program, and she graduated in April 2022. She’s applying her learnings by continuing to volunteer in her home congregation — First Mennonite Church of Edmonton — and in area churches.

Wedler sees the fully customizable Graduate Certificate in Theological Studies as a good program for people like her who are, or want to be, involved in lay leadership in their congregations. Participants in the 21-credit-hour program select courses to create a plan of study that matches their interests. They can complete the certificate online or with a combination of distance-friendly and campus-based courses. The program is designed to help church leaders, bivocational pastors and other professionals strengthen the biblical and theological foundation for their work. 

“The program is a great way of exploring one’s own passions or interests, as it is self-directed,” she said. “It’s a great way to test out what the future may hold, or a good stepping stone for those who are considering ministry.”

Wedler said she planned to take most of her seminary courses online and to come to campus for a semester or short-term course, but due to COVID-19, she had to do all of her coursework online.

“It was so interesting getting to know others from around the world as we studied and discussed together,” she reflected. “The courses reinforced what I knew, but more importantly, they led me to look at things in a new way and made me realize how much more there was to learn (and still is to learn!).”

In 2022, AMBS launched a second certificate program: the Graduate Certificate in Spiritual Direction. With a focus on practice-based learning, this 21-credit-hour certificate offers a curriculum and supervised program to prepare students to become spiritual directors or to strengthen the spiritual direction aspects of their ministry. The certificate can be completed part time in two years, either fully or partially online.

As Wedler noted, students may take up to two courses for credit at AMBS without having been admitted to a degree or certificate program. Nonadmitted students get 50 percent off tuition for their first three credit hours. 

Learn more or apply at

Located in Elkhart, Indiana, on ancestral land of the Potawatomi and Miami peoples, Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary is a learning community with an Anabaptist vision, offering theological education for learners both on campus and at a distance as well as a wide array of lifelong learning programs — all with the goal of educating followers of Jesus Christ to be leaders for God’s reconciling mission in the world.

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