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It’s a match made in heaven.

On one side: a pastor who finds neither acceptance from the secular world (which shunts pastors as irrelevant) nor appreciation from his own underpaying church (which makes incessant, meddlesome demands).  He flits from church to church, poor and generally not respected.  Thus, he needs respect and money and position.


On the other side: floundering seminaries struggling to stay financially afloat in a world of tight budgets and harsher spreadsheets.  These seminaries accept (almost indiscriminately) anyone willing to put down the tuition money, no matter what their moral or intellectual character. The cost, after all, of running a seminary is prohibitive.  Thus it needs students, students, students. 


Welcome to the Doctor of Ministry degree.


After three quick, easy, study-lite years, the pastor has attained his Doctor of Ministry degree.  His doctorate degree.  That degree gives the pastor a tremendous amount of respect now.  He is Dr. Pastor now, a real somebody.  More importantly, there is tremendous upside attached to his new title, and the ceiling on his earning potential has just been lifted.  Dr. Pastor has clout now, or Dr. Rev. Pastor, if you will.   Suffix Suffice it to say, he has respect, money, and position.


Seminaries are all too happy.  At minimal cost, the D.Min degree ushers in a wave of new students, and, more importantly, a flood of tuition money from a previously untapped demographic.  It is a stroke of marketing genius, cost-saving and profit-ratcheting.  Classrooms are sitting empty, just waiting to be filled at no real extra cost.  All the facilities, libraries, accommodations just waiting to be filled with these newly-found students chomping at the bit to put down money.  A real cash cow for the seminary.  And as market-driven as a used-car dealership.


Unfortunately, in this win-win marriage between pastor and seminaries, the losers are the churches.  The churches which needs to pay more now to Dr. Pastor.  The churches which often foot the tuition bill for a Mickey Mouse degree. 


David F. Well, professor at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, in his book No Place for Truth, offers a scathing review from one on the inside.


The direction that this degree has taken since its inception has not been very reassuring, however, and given its genesis, it would be surprising if it had.  The quality of D.Min. degrees undoubtedly varies a lot, but there are a substantial number whose academic or intellectual demands are not great.  What in many other professions are simply summer courses for updating, refresher courses mandated for continuing certification in the profession but with no significance for any degree, became the royal route that many ministers traveled toward a degree . . . But what draws ministers to these minimalist degrees, and why do seminaries offer them?  It strains one’s credulity a little to think it is only a love of learning that has produced this happy match.  After all, among those who have graduated with the degree, 78 percent expressed the view that they now expected to be more respected in the community, and 73 percent expected to be paid more.  The upshot of it all, in fact, is that some seminaries might have suffered an ignominious demise survived because of the D.Min. degree, and ministers who might have floundered in their careers have now gotten ahead . . . [Indeed], a significant number of faculty still have deep reservations about the degree because of its lack of definition and because of their unease over the financial motives that drive it.



Pastors, of course, always need to be learning and improving on their ministerial skills.  That can be done through conferences, workshops, books.  A plethora of material and opportunities are out there.  But when a minimalist degree is hung out there for financial reasons, and wrung-out pastors flock to it like bees to the hive, one needs to wonder at the what is truly driving the church today.


One Comment

  1. wow, well said, no wonder everybody and their uncle wants a DMin. easy doctorate and best of all, paid fr by the church while making full salary.

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