Our congregation had reached a plateau, and I needed someone to believe in me and the congregation I pastor. In God's great economy, I was led to this place of learning, challenge, and hope.
My first doctoral class was a challenge, to say the least. However, God was working both in me and on me to bring about a wonderful plan of spiritual development, both personally and professionally. I can safely say that I am not the same person I was when I entered the D. Min., and neither is the congregation I serve. We have both changed for the better. Ultimately, it was God Who executed the deep change. Pragmatically, it was this program that brought it about by posturing me to receive the grace that brings change.
As the D. Min. unfolded, there were so many welcomed components that are built into the structure that were opened to me, like the petals of a blooming rose. For example, the network of colleagues that one forges is a much needed and desired asset from which church leaders benefit. Colleagues bring different skill sets, backgrounds, and areas of expertise to the collective D. Min. table. I have consulted my D. Min. colleagues many times regarding various ministry issues, and have found that there is wisdom in doing so.
The class settings are designed to both challenge and encourage. I use the term "challenge" because the D. Min. is not a free pass, nor do we want it to be. The class facilitators encourage dialog and discussion, which in turn helps build a better foundation for ministry praxis and missional effectiveness. I have found that there is no growth in the comfort zone. Moreover, nothing changes until something changes. The structure of the classes is one that, by default, pulls one out of the small circle of comfort to the greater circle of uncertainty, where God is waiting to further cultivate the soul.
Each book that is read, each presentation that is made, each after-class activity, will coalesce to forge new growth that will, in turn, bear new fruit in the participant's life. In addition, an unexpected lagniappe that I discovered is that the personal growth one receives spills over into the local context of ministry. My spiritual development deepened the spiritual life of the congregation I serve. My professional development expanded the horizons of local ministry. In summary, it is not merely the participant who benefits; the local ministry context also benefits.
If you are looking for a place that is a welcomed oasis in the desert, the Anderson University Doctor of Ministry is such a place. Here you will develop both personally and professionally. Here you will acquire a network of resources that will further equip you to lead your congregants, clients, or constituents. Here you will be challenged to discover that symphony of music within you that longs to be released. Here you will change.
To any pastor, counselor, missionary, chaplain, or other leader in the body of Christ who needs further development in order to serve the church well, please do as I did: say "Yes" to the D. Min. here at Anderson School of Theology. I assure that you will not be disappointed.
Marshall Stokes, D.Min. 2009