In a previous post, I wrote that one of the reasons I chose a DMin program is because it is designed with practitioners in mind and also because it is led and taught by pastor-professors.
The second reason for why the Doctor of Ministry is my program of choice, and specifically at Talbot, is because the programs are designed for cohorts of students.
To be sure, not all DMin programs are created equal. Some have longer/shorter credit hours, some are taught primarily online, and some are taught mainly by adjunct professors. Many of these differences shaped why I chose Talbot as the school to attend. But that is a post for another time.
Yet one thing that most DMin programs share in common is a cohort-track. I say most because some do not. There are some excellent schools that offer individual and tailor fitted programs. So they offer a range of doctoral-level subjects throughout the year and students can pick and choose whatever they want to do.
The advantage of a program like this is that it has increased flexibility – you can pick your own subjects based on your own interests, schedule, and capacity. But the disadvantage is that you do not travel through the program with a group of people.
I am convinced that one of main ways we are formed as human beings is by relationships. This is why in-person theological education will always trump online education. There is a time and space for online studies, and I’m really glad that institutions are pivoting and adapting to the market. But even the fastest internet and the best devices in the world cannot replicate hands on, shoulder to shoulder, and life on life formation.
Therefore, most DMin programs (like the one I’m enrolled in) accept about 15-20 students per cohort and they undertake this journey together. They communicate online throughout the semester, they attend the intensives together, and they sit under the same professors and undertake the same subjects together. This is repeated year after year until the program is over. There is something powerful about that because other people have an amazing ability to:
- Teach us something new
- Reveal blindspots in our own thinking and practice
- Encourage us to keep being faithful
This is especially true for the formation of pastors. I have an amazing network of pastors and friends in Sydney. But I am confident that coming in contact with other pastors from different contexts will strengthen my thinking and doing of pastoral ministry.
I am excited to meet fellow pastors. To hear about what God is doing in and through the lives, to observe the things that they are doing, to hear from their victories and mistakes, and to have them speak into my context. This is one of the things that many PhD programs lack – especially UK/Australian programs. Many really good North American PhDs have cohort based programs. And I know that some UK/Australian programs try their best to create a similar sort of environment. Christ College and the ACT as a whole certainly tried its very best with its HDR (Higher Degree by Research) seminars and they were excellent. But there isn’t the same degree of frequency which impacts depth. And it is a gathering of academic specialists who are concerned about their dissertations. That’s not a bad thing. In fact, it is absolutely appropriate. But it is different to a gathering of pastors who are seeking to sharpen their skill to fulfil their calling.
*The featured photo is the Alton and Lydia Lim Center for Science, Technology, and Health at Biola University. You can visit this page to find out more about the inspirational story behind their lives and gift to the university.