About the Program

Transformational Leadership

This is a different brand of international studies program. Movement leadership is more than organizational, business, or church leadership; it’s the release of entrepreneurial dynamics in multiple dimensions. Urban educational processes include:

  • Action: Learn skills that range from communicating the gospel and small group formation to the complexities of community and international development. For example, one internship extends a theology of justice to actively stand with people in their struggle for land rights. Another moves from the analysis of poverty’s causes to the creation of vocational schools or preschools among the poor—one of the best ways to escape poverty.
  • Theological Reflection and Social Analysis: Movement leadership involves vision, which requires an engagement with global literature; an understanding of urban realities and theology; and an exploration of discourse on multiplying church movements.
  • Spiritual and Character Formation: Students learn from leadership teams as they do from church alongside the poor, and community leaders supervise character-building fieldwork. The first course of the program delves into Urban Spirituality, examining the vivacious spirituality of the broken and the quiet, reflective spirituality that sustains workers over lengths of time in extreme conditions.

Program Details

Close to 70 million people per year migrate from the countryside to the cities. That’s 1.5 million people per week or 130 people every minute. In fact, the world population is expected to swell from 6 billion today to 8 billion by 2030, with 95 percent of that growth taking place in the poorest regions of the world, and overwhelmingly in poor cities like Karachi, Cairo, and Manila. Already there are 1 billion persons—one out of every six—living in squatter communities. By 2030 that figure will mushroom to 2 billion squatters—one out of every four people on the planet. This explosive growth of slums is perhaps the crucial demographic and geopolitical event of our times.

Most of this global social class of perhaps one billion ex-peasants, civil servants, informal wage earners, and mini-entrepreneurs improvise lives largely disconnected from the world economy. Their living conditions are almost unthinkable. Overcrowding, squalor, unemployment, chronic health hazards, hopelessness, and violence are everyday realities.

At the same time, out of the slums of Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa has emerged Pentecostal Christianity—a dynamic religious form that mixes spectacles-oriented fundamentalism with slum-based social services. This is now the largest self-organized movement of poor urban people in the world. Will it ultimately transcend its reactionary elements in order to serve as a vibrant, faith-based vanguard for social and spiritual redemption?

Part of the answer to this question hinges on enlightened leadership at both community and regional levels. Urban poor communities desperately need intelligent, ethical leaders who are able to organize residents around initiatives that instill hope, mend families, create jobs, foster educational opportunities, improve sanitation and health care, and promote sound planning policies.

The Master of Arts in Transformational Urban Leadership (MATUL) Program aims to prepare such leaders. Entrepreneurial training institutions on four continents (Asia, Africa, North America, and South America) sponsor this entirely field-based program, with a single focus: to develop leaders who can catalyze transformational movements for positive change within the world’s burgeoning slums and shantytowns.


The MATUL degree program is embedded within a broader movement to link a new generation of Christian internationalists from the global North with those from the global South in vocations dedicated to advancing God’s shalom within urban poor communities. Program graduates, as “servants among the poor,” will utilize their understanding and skills within the fields of international relations, community development and planning, environmental policy, church leadership, non-profit management, global health, or public diplomacy, just to name a few. It is here where their extraordinary grasp of the urban poor condition can guide policy formulation and project development, both in their homelands and internationally.



Following an initial orientation and training period in central Los Angeles, students relocate to program sites, find housing with local families of urban poor churches in or adjacent to slum communities, and begin intensive language learning for six to eight months.

Action-Reflection Learning

Residence with the urban poor enables students to combine living, action, and formal learning (study, research, writing, and active problem solving) in an integrated approach to leadership development. Following language study, students begin internships in areas of community transformation through local community organizations.

Blended Delivery

Courses combine compassionate action, social analysis, character development, and theological reflection. Online theoretical resources and discussions are complemented by culture-specific resources and intensive, face-to-face interaction with national instructors and field mentors.

Field Support

The challenge of living and learning in distressed environments is balanced with a high level of practical support. Students live with supportive families from local faith communities, master the language, relate regularly to other students, and receive expert guidance from field mentors and academic directors of partnering organizations.

About Our Students

The MATUL program is designed for early- and mid-career professionals preparing for vocations in service among the world’s urban poor. It offers a broad, multidisciplinary, highly practical, and theologically informed approach to transforming life opportunities for informal (slum) settlement dwellers.

Who should consider the MATUL degree?

  • Those with experience in urban ministry church planting and church-based development
  • Those wishing to become cross-cultural change agents among the urban poor
  • Those seeking to understand the insides of poverty in order to become effective advocates

What kind of career opportunities can come from the MATUL degree?

  • Ministry: Take on apostolic, prophetic, pastoral, or evangelistic roles in national movements
  • Mission: Serve on new post-modern incarnational missions with organizations such as Servants to Asia’s Urban Poor, Servant Partners, InnerChange and Word Made Flesh
  • Development: Advance development or mercy processes in non-governmental relief organizations like World Vision and Tearfund
  • Business: Grow entrepreneurship among the poor and marginalized
  • Advocacy: Live deep in the culture of the poor while impacting policy and projects in development agencies like the United Nations, World Bank, and more

Class Schedule and Size

Units: 15 courses, 3 units each, for 45 units of coursework

Cohort size: Minimum of 15 enrolled students and a maximum of 30 in each cohort

Residency: Two years of in-country residence, including summers, unless an explicit waiver is given

Progress toward degree: Students will complete approximately seven courses each year (typically four core courses and three practitioner training courses) with one 6-unit Capstone Project to complete the program. Each course is valued at 3 credits, for a total of 45 units. The normal time for degree completion is four regular terms plus summers, or two and a half years.

Format: Each course features an intensive, one-week classroom phase followed by a multi-week fieldwork phase. Five practitioner training courses integrate students’ living and issue-oriented service within or adjacent to a slum community. Each field supervision process extends over a one year period.


To gain further insight into the mission and purpose of APU’s Master of Arts in Transformational Urban Leadership program, visit the following resources:



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Note: This information is current for the 2014–15 academic year; however, all stated academic information is subject to change. Please refer to the current Academic Catalog for more information.