This past Friday I completed my first doctoral residency at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in the pastoral skills track. I am thankful for the pastoral staff, the personnel committee, and our church family for allowing me to have time for continuing education. I am also thankful for those of you who have felt led to contribute to my tuition. My parents were also very gracious in allowing me to stay at their house during those two weeks.

Some may ask, what is a doctor of ministry degree? One of my professors said that Ph.D. programs produce doctors for the church while D.Min. programs produce doctors in the church. I think this is a fair statement. As for the Gordon-Conwell program, the goal is to produce “passionate reflective practitioners.” The Doctor of Ministry in Pastoral Skills track addresses who the pastor is, and how a pastor works out their calling in the face of the challenges and opportunities in the local church. There are three themes that focus our time in each residency.

  1.  The Pastor as Preacher – Explores what it means to produce and preach a biblical sermon from different literary forms in the Bible.
  2. The Pastor as Caregiver – Explores how to respond to critical crisis and counseling issues with biblically-based care.
  3. The Pastor as Person – Explores personal theology of ministry with the aim of understanding personal spiritual formation, weaknesses and strengths, and how one best functions in ministry.

Over the next few years I will attend each residency in two week periods. This past week I attended the pastor as person residency. It was a refreshing time together as we studied and reflected on pastoral ministry. The mantra of the week was “pastors are just like everyone else, only more so.” We covered a variety of important topics in our pre-residency reading, paper presentations, lectures, and time together in reflection. Here are a few of them:

  • The call to ministry
  • Pastoral identity
  • Expectations in ministry
  • Spiritual formation for the pastor
  • Accountability and support in ministry
  • Boundaries for pastors
  • Rest and ministry
  • Stress in ministry
  • Sexual purity and ethics
  • Conflict in ministry
  • Narcissism and ministry
  • Perfectionism in ministry
  • Anger in ministry
  • Restoring pastoral ministry

The leaders of this doctoral track are Dr. David Currie (Ph.D., University of St. Andrews) and Dr. Ken Swetland (D.Min., Andover Newton Theological School). David and Ken were wonderful to be with, wise and caring men of God. We also had several excellent guest lecturers.

During the two week residency I also had several meetings with my doctoral thesis advisor Dr. Steven Klipowicz (Ed.D., University of Illinois). My interest in theological education and spiritual formation matches well with Dr. Klipowicz’ educational background. I am looking forward to working with and learning from him in this process.

My time in the residency was very formative and valuable. Beyond the wonderful education and theological reflection, I was also able to spend time with brothers and sisters in Christ from all over the world, and from various denominations and educational backgrounds. I would highly recommend this program to any pastor looking to continue their education.

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