I crossed two significant (for me) milestones yesterday. First, and most importantly (again, for me), Fuller posted my DMin degree. So, I am now official. As the old joke goes: “My friends call me Chuck; you can call me Dr. Warnock.” Or something like that. Anyway, here it is. The downside is that I still have to wait several weeks for the diploma to be printed, signed and mailed. (Apparently Fuller was not as confident as I was that I would actually graduate!)
The other milestone happened yesterday — I crossed 1,000,000 page views on this blog! Which means that Debbie has looked at this blog a lot! And maybe a few other folks, too, I hope. I’ve been blogging here since December, 2006. If I figured this correctly, that’s an average of 12,350 or so views per month. Compare that to an average month in which I preach to about 400-500 people total. Of course, I realize that some people spend 3 seconds or less on a blog site, including mine. But still social media enable us to have conversations with lots of folks in lots of places, and most of the time that’s a great thing.
If you’ve been here for awhile, thanks for sticking around. If you’re new, I hope you’ll check in often. In 7 years of blogging, I’ve made my share of mistakes, offended some, encouraged others, and enjoyed the whole experience. Recently I refocused my blog around the theme of my DMin study and dissertation — churches building communities of reconciliation. Reconciliation is like Will Roger’s famous quote about the weather — “Everybody talks about it, but nobody ever does anything about it.” On this blog, from this point forward, I’ll be highlighting how my church and yours can do something about reconciliation. Stick around. Thanks.
If you have a Master of Divinity degree, you might be thinking about taking the next step academically — obtaining a doctoral level degree. If so, I’d recommend you check into a Doctor of Ministry program, a practical theology degree rooted in the practice of ministry. One advantage to DMin programs is they are designed around a working pastor’s life and do not require full-time residential study like PhD programs, so you can stay in your current ministry field while completing your degree. As a matter of fact, most DMin programs require that you have 2-3 years ministry experience before entering a program. If you don’t have an MDiv, Some programs will let you combine your Master’s level work and DMin work in a longer program.
While they do offer flexibility, DMin programs are not without their challenges. Ask yourself these 5 questions if you think you want to get your Doctor of Ministry degree:
- Do I have time? Fuller Seminary (where I am pursuing my DMin) estimates that DMin candidates need 15-20 hours a week to devote to reading and study before and after each seminar. I’m getting ready for my final seminar now (yay!), and I have been reading almost non-stop since November, 2009. Reading takes time, and some days my schedule doesn’t allow it. Fuller requires 4,500 pages of reading for a 12-hour course, and 3,000 for an 8-hour course. I’m doing 8, but that’s still 12 complete books and 2-page book reviews of each.
- Will my church support me? Most DMin applications will require church approval because DMin work is done in the local church setting. The benefits are that a DMin program makes you a better pastor, and provides the church with the latest thinking in your chosen field of study. The downside is that it will take some of your time, and you need church support to be able to say, “I’m sorry, but I’m writing a paper tomorrow.” My church has been very gracious and supportive since I began my DMin in 2006.
- Can I commit 4-7 years to the process? Fuller allows a total of 7 years to complete the degree, but it could be finished in 3-4 years, including the final project. Changing churches in the middle of the program is not unheard of, but may interrupt your academic schedule. I took a year off the program while we were building the community center here because I didn’t have extra time to devote to both. I’m still on-track to finish early, but not by much.
- Do I want an accredited degree or just the title? A wide variety of programs exist under the DMin banner. Some are accredited by real accrediting agencies, some are not. Some require little more than light reading, a short paper, and a big check to grant a degree. You have to decide if you want to be called “Doctor” more than you want to learn. Resume’ inflation doesn’t happen just in the business world.
- What criteria will I use to select a DMin program? When I selected Fuller, I did so because Fuller offered the option of individualized learning tracks, and I liked the schedule of 2 weeks on campus each year. Some DMin programs meet more frequently, some are designed for commuting students, and some can be partially completed by distance learning. However, some programs are pre-defined so that all DMin students take the same courses. You’ll have to decide what you want to study, where you want to enroll, and what schedule you need. Of course, there’s also the little detail of paying for it, too.
I am delighted with my DMin program at Fuller and would recommend their program to anyone interested in this degree. But, other fine programs exist that might suit your needs better. A DMin program requires commitment on the part of church and pastor, enough time to do the work and complete the program, and careful scheduling of courses. Are any of you considering a DMin, and if so, what decision-making process did you go through? I’d love to hear from you!
I forgot exactly where I heard that saying — When God closes a door, He opens a window — but as corny as it sounds, it’s true. Last year, I dropped out of the “Missional Leadership” Doctor of Ministry program track at Fuller. The program is great, but the process we were to lead our church through was not working at our church for reasons that are unimportant here. But, my point is, after spending a lot of time, study, and money, I decided it would be in the best interest of the church for me to discontinue that line of study. Fuller was very accommodating, and I did not lose any credits in the transition, but it was still a disappointment to not be part of that cohort.
I am halfway through the DMin program, so I need two more seminars to finish. As I looked at other course offerings, none of the courses Fuller was offering seemed to be a good fit for me. A couple of weeks ago, Fuller posted a new course — Missional Ecclesiology. That’s a good fit for me with my previous missional leadership courses. “But, wait, there’s more,” as they say on TV! The course is to be taught by N. T. Wright, who is one of my favorite authors and theologians. And, I’m in! This is The N.T. Wright who is the Bishop of Durham, the author of a new book, Surprised by Hope, and of the magnum opus, The Resurrection of the Son of God, plus about 4 dozen other books. The course is offered Feb 23-27, 2009 at Fuller, which is also perfect timing. So, as they also say, “God is good…all the time!”