By Leroy Goertzen, D.Min.
Ministry thrives where the unchanging Word of God intersects with a constantly changing world. Ministry is about reaching people — letting Jesus Christ transform our lives and communities.
Then again, is this simply a nicely stated ideal, or is it a living, breathing reality? Ministry is hard and full of difficult questions, challenging situations and imperfect people.
Seminary is not about answering every question a church leader might encounter; it is about developing a holistic biblical worldview and obtaining the right tools to understand those questions and discern the answers. It is about being prepared to apply biblical truth in a variety of social and cultural contexts. It is about speaking the truth of the gospel with humility and grace.
Like a number of other seminaries, Corban University School of Ministry (SOM) is dedicated to providing training that equips Christian leaders to study the Word of God with integrity, and prepares them to face the challenges of everyday ministry.
We offer three graduate degree programs designed to suit the unique needs of today’s pastors: Master of Arts in Christian Leadership, Master of Divinity in Church Ministry, and Doctor of Ministry in Strategic Leadership.
The latter builds on the foundation of a M.Div. and a pastor’s vocational experience in ministry. It provides advanced study in personal and ministry formation, expanding a pastor’s leadership capacity and effectiveness to take ministry to the next level.
10 critical questions
Before pursuing a D.Min. degree, seek solid answers to some
#1: Why should I pursue this particular degree program?
#2: What makes this seminary different from others?
#3: Do I agree or strongly agree with its statement of faith?
#4: What kind of accreditation does this seminary have?
#5: How many students will be in my courses or cohort?
#6: What are the residency requirements?
#7: How will the course requirements impact my ministry?
#8: How long does it normally take to earn this degree?
#9: Does the seminary offer financial aid for a post-graduate degree?
#10: Will I be able to use my VA benefit?
Additionally, I strongly encourage pastors to carefully study the descriptions of each required course because D.Min. programs can vary widely.
To become a more effective pastor, I highly recommend a focus on leadership. To that end, Corban University’s D.Min. program offers six courses that equip today’s ministry leaders for greater effectiveness:
• The Spiritual Life of a Leader: How Leaders are Transformed
• Personal Leadership Foundations: How God Shapes Leaders
• Philosophic Foundations of Leadership: How Leadership Works
• The Culture of Leadership: How Leaders Exegete Ministry Culture
• The Analytic Dimension of Leadership: How Leaders Develop the Strategic Plan
• The Human Dimension of Leadership: How Leaders Manage the Strategic Process
Upon completion of this leadership-focused coursework, D.Min. students undertake an involved research-oriented project that focuses on addressing a challenge or opportunity of ministry within their ministry context and experience. Typically, such students are required to: identify a viable challenge or opportunity in their ministry that deserves to be addressed; pose a researchable question and create a hypothesis that proposes a feasible answer; develop a biblical foundation for the project and interact meaningfully with literature in the field that informs our understanding of the central theme(s) of the project; conduct a methodology to test the hypothesis and evaluate and report the results drawing concise and accurate conclusions from the project that contribute to an understanding and practice of ministry; and submit a scholarly paper that presents the preceding points in a manner that meets high academic standards and can be presented publicly before one’s peers and constituents.
Corban encourages its D.Min. students to publish their papers as books that will benefit other pastors across the U.S. and abroad. We also urge our graduates to apply what they’ve learned and teach others to do the same.
When it comes to evaluating a particular seminary’s faculty, academic chops are important — but no more so than five other often-overlooked factors.
#1: What kinds of ministry experience does this professor have?
#2: Is this professor currently involved in local church ministry?
#3: Has this professor studied, taught and ministered cross-culturally and / or internationally?
#4: Does this professor know students personally, and is he willing to mentor them?
#5: Does this professor keep in touch with former students?
Take, for example, Jim Hislop, who earned a D.Min. at Willamette Valley, OR’s Western Seminary. When it came time to work on his dissertation, Hislop already knew his focus: how best to pass the baton from an older pastor to a younger one.
Instead of retiring, however, he went to work part-time at Western Seminary. Now, he’s sharing more than 30 years of pastoral experience with current seminary students — no matter what their age.
Whether you’re 30, 40, 50 or 60, the time could be right for you to pursue a quality seminary education. It’s certainly more important — and obtainable — than ever.
Leroy Goertzen, D.Min., serves as Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology & Director of the D.Min. Program at Corban University School of Ministry in Salem, OR.