Pastor searches and doctoral degrees

Discussion in 'General Baptist Discussions' started by TomVols, May 1, 2010.

  1. TomVols

    TomVols
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    Having served on a search committee for an associational missionary in Tennessee, and having never had to serve on a pastor's search committee (since I'm an ordained pastor), I was faced with resumes with all sorts of educational backgrounds. We had some with no college all the way up to PhDs. I'm wondering your thoughts on this question:

    Which of the following terminal degrees would you respect more, all else being equal, and why?

    (1)The Ph.D in a ministry field (Preaching, pastoring, etc.)?
    (2) The Ph.D in a theological field (Theology, OT, NT)?
    (3) A D.Min (Doctor of Ministry)?

    It would be helpful to know if you have served on a pastor search team
     
  2. StefanM

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    Academically, I would think that the OT,NT, or Theology degree would be preferable.

    I honestly don't see the point in a ministry-field PhD. A PhD in preaching, IMO, seems to be an overly narrow field. It's essentially a subset of communication and rhetoric. It would be the equivalent of getting a PhD in Political Speeches. It seems that the PhD in preaching is pursued primarily because the D.Min. isn't as respected.

    The D.Min. probably results in the most practical preparation for ministry.

    I would not necessarily "respect" one doctoral degree over another in the search for a ministry position. I think it depends on the situation. If a church or association is searching for someone with a high level of academic preparation, the PhD might be preferable. This could be the case for towns and cities known for academia, where having a pastor or ministry leader with a PhD could be beneficial for community outreach.

    If a church is primarily looking for ministry praxis skills, then the D.Min. might be a preferable degree. Experience, however, is likely more important.
     
  3. preachinjesus

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    I recently served in an advisory role to a committee not too long ago. They wanted the view of a minister in the field so they could sort through the mumbo-jumbo that ministry resumes are becoming glutted with these days.

    Someone asked this same question. This was my reply:

    A PhD is hands down more superior than a DMin. The bigger question is to ask a candidate why they got a particular degree. Why would you value a DMin over just having a Master's degree...so forth.

    This will help get to the heart of the person. Also, frankly, I know too many guys that got DMin because they enjoy hearing the word "Doctor" before their last name. (As a disclaimer, I have an earned PhD and I don't like being called Doctor PJ. I can't do a thing medically for people...)

    As far as the PhDs go, I don't know depends on your dissertation and research process. This is a probably a side note, but I haven't seen a good PhD in pastoral theology in a long time, usually ends up being more about counseling than anything else.

    If it came down to a preference probably a theological field then a ministry field. The thing is you gotta make sure the guy isn't too far into the academic world and forgets his primary role in pastoring is people...not dead theologians. If he quotes this commentary, that theologian, this Greek/Hebrew word, yadda yadda you might want to check into his pastoral style.

    Anyhoo, my advice to them...maybe to you. I dunno.
     
  4. TomVols

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    It's just intriguing to me as a pastor on the cusp of doctoral work. And having never served on a search team, but as a consultant a few times, I've not had to face this since the doctor - glut hit the market. I now see D.Mins serving as bivocational pastors. I'll share my committee's insights after we get more input.

    I agree that the pastoral PhD folks can be more into counseling and some of the PhDs in homiletics are a bit odd. But the D.Min projects are getting even more bizarre.
     
  5. sag38

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    A PhD is hands down more superior than a DMin.

    No offense but every Phd I've ever known when it came to comparing themselves to a DMin had similar to this to say.
     
  6. TomVols

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    It's late....maybe that's why I don't understand what you mean here. Explain?
     
  7. sag38

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    My grammer wasn't too good in this one. No PHd I've ever known had nice things to say about a DMin compared to his or her degree.
     
  8. preachinjesus

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    I have yet to see a DMin that is as comprehensive and thorough in preparing one for complete doctoral level work as a PhD.

    With a few outstanding exceptions, most DMins are overheated MDivs with a vapid project at the end. Note I said "a few outstandig exceptions." I reallly believe that many DMins are just clergy advancement degrees. Where are the languages? Where is the comprehensive work with higher level theological issues? Where is the difficult and rigorous examinations?

    Basically many DMins just make sure you go to seminars, read a book or two per each, do a project, and just get through then viola you get a "doctorate." I'm just not a a fan.

    Not routing anyone's passion or calling or honesty...I think these schools just need to stop offering the degree en masse.
     
  9. sag38

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    Yep, my degree is better than your degree. After all my degree is superior!
     
  10. preachinjesus

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    Well that adds nothing...which isn't surprising. How about you engage with the points I've brought and the legitimate questions above.
     
  11. TomVols

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    I don't recall ever hearing a PhD say that a D.Min was something inferior.

    I see both sides of what's being intimated here. A large number of PhDs I know who are in church ministry say their PhD, especially in practical areas, did nothing to enhance their ministries. An even larger number of the dissertations I've read in these areas do nothing to enhance the practice or understanding of ministry IMHO. Of course, the goal of a dissertation is to increase understanding which always enhances practice.

    However, I'm equally critical of some D.Min programs. Their projects are so narrow that their applicability and usefulnes seems null and void. Some of the seminars might be useful, but they can be M.Div stuff all over again. Then again, how do we measure this, especially at seminaries where you can get a D.Min in preaching and a PhD in it too?

    My point is not to argue which is better. I'm asking what the opinion is, especially from a search committee person's point of view, when looking at a prospective pastor's resume.

    Recently in my rural association, anyone with an academic doctorate was made fun of and not given consideration for the vacant position of Associational Missionary. I thought that was unfair. The D.Mins were given preference since they were thought to be the practitioners and the PhDs were thought to be the guys sitting around waxing eloquent about the theory behind _______ but unable to relate. It just grated on my last nerve. I'm hoping this isn't universal. I see more and more research doctorates in the pastorate and this is a good thing all else being equal. I'm just trying to gauge the overall reception.
     
  12. Pastor Larry

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    They are two very different degrees. I have been enrolled in both. They serve different purposes to a large degree. I don't think there is any question that the PhD is a far better degree for those who have the mental tools, desire, and discipline to get it. The kind of reading, study, thinking, and critical skills used in a PhD are far past those in a DMin. But it is a lot of work, and very few are up to the task of a legitimate PhD.

    A DMin is a professional degree. It can be helpful. But let's be honest ... It is a money making degree to a large extent. It has no real academic function. It can be a joke, depending on where you get it and what classes you take for it, and what you write on.

    With either degree, you won't get anything you can't get on your own if you are willing to do the work, to "study yourself into expertise on a subject and write on it."

    Most guys who are poor communicators or preachers are not so because they have a PhD instead of a DMin. They are so because they are bad at communicating.

    If you want more education after an MDiv, the PhD is the best choice, but get a legitimate one. A ThM is the next best degree. A DMin is a (fairly distant) third. If you pick it wisely, it can be beneficial. But get the academics first. Most pastors are, IMO, far too deficient on academics/theology and far too dependent on practice. They think the secret of ministry is learning how to do something better, how to chase the next fad and incorporate it into their church. They do not see the abiding value of knowing and teaching theology in a way that can be lived.
     
  13. sag38

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    It is my understanding that a PhD prepares one for academic pursuits. A DMin is a practical degree. Both have their strong points and their weaknesses. For the two to play my degree is superior to your degree doesn't help. It's comparing apples to oranges. And Dr. PJ, IMO that's exactly the way you are sounding.

    In answer to the question about which one is better I think you would have to take that on a case by case basis. The degree doesn't always make the person. Rather, the person makes the degree in how he or she uses it. There are some PhD's who are so far advanced in their academic pursuits that they are of no practical value. They would do more damage in a local church than good. They are much better of in some institution making life a virtual hell for preacher boys seeking a MDiv. Then there are some DMin's who didn't seek the degree to further enhance their professional ability but to simply advance their career. After all, some churches will only call someone with Dr. in front of their name. The institution of choice and obvious simplicity of their projects.

    Of course, this comes from a lowly MDiv with no desire to carry it further unless someone would like to give me $10,000 to pay for a DMin and its associated costs. In the meantime, my classroom is the church field where I'm learning new things all the time in the school of hard knocks.
     
  14. StefanM

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    I don't think a candidate should be rejected solely on the basis of PhD vs. DMin (assuming both are earned from legitimate institutions).

    However, it probably would be more appropriate if the DMin were styled as a ThM or STM in practical theology. It has a similar length in hours, and it would recognize that the project/thesis is qualitatively different from the PhD/ThD dissertation.

    However, I suspect enrollment would plummet if this were the case!
     
  15. Pastor Larry

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    First, the idea that everything is to be of practical value is missing the point, I think. Second, a PhD is not of no practical value because they are so far advanced in their academic pursuits. The PhD is not the problem.

    But again, I don't see any way that a DMin can be compared favorably to a PhD (and I am speaking as one over half way done with a DMin). The PhD is just a superior degree. It's for a different purpose to be sure. But it's superior nonetheless. Just compare the requirements.

    I don't know anyone who looks at a PhD degree the same as a DMin. The DMin is viewed as a lower degree for a reason.

    But a DMin is not a ThM or STM. A ThM is an academic degree. A DMin is a professional degree. A ThM thesis is substantively different than a DMin project. A ThM thesis is more like a PhD dissertation than a DMin project.

    Were I to do it over, there is no question that I would get the MDiv/ThM/PhD. That's what I would recommend for anyone who is able to do it. But at my age and life situation, I just don't have the heart to do PhD work.
     
  16. Allan

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    My question is, when did having a degree become the prerequite for being a pastor.

    Don't get me wrong here.. I believe more study does help and sharpens the skills of those who train in them.

    Yet in scripture, I can't find it. I find other things but nothing about the amount of education in higher learning that one must have in order to be considered to be called to pastor. Actually I find the opposite in some instances (Peter and the other 10 apostles) and then there was the odd man out (born out of time) who had a great deal of education but said it was all worthless compared to the knowledge (he obtained later) of Christ. Yet still no actual formal training in Christian theology, sermon preperation, or missions work.

    I have known incredible godly and Godfearing men who were passed over for sake of the church getting to have the pleasure of a person in their pastorate with some letters before their name. I have also seen some of those same churches fall due to their leadership. When that 'simplton' pastor's church was growning in maturity and number.

    The issue I have is that many if not most churches aren't looking for the criteria scripture gives but new, superimposed creditials that leave those whom God has not allowed the opportunity to get a 'higher education', yet still called of and by God, and yet these same men God haas grown them in leaps and bounds as those in school. Why cast them off?

    Just look at the current spiritual state of our churches on the whoel and you will see that education in the pulpit isn't doing much to improve lifelessness in our churches that is growing.

    Again, I'm not against it, actaully I'm all for education but at the same time we have placed WAY TO MUCH emphasis and extra add-ons to something God never did.

    Yes, don't be a novice - but that does not equate to ThD, MDiv, or PhD's.
     
    #16 Allan, May 2, 2010
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2010
  17. StefanM

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    If the DMin changed to master's level, I would think that the nature of the thesis would change as well.
     
  18. kfinks

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    I served on the search committee for my current pastor. We established criteria that did not include any type of doctoral work. However, the pastor we called had a D.Min and was working (and still is) on a PhD. The degree really didn't matter to the committee. He had met the other criteria so well that he was already a standout among candidates.

    On a personal note, I really don't believe it matters. The differences are not enough to matter in most contexts. I would have a bit of concern if a man had started a degree but had completely dropped out.
     
  19. TomVols

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    FINALLY! Someone on topic! Thanks :)
     
  20. kfinks

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    And it only took 18 posts to get there.:smilewinkgrin:
     

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