On My Professional Doctoral Candidacy at NOBTS

As most of you know, I recently applied for and was accepted into the Professional Doctoral Program (ProDoc) program at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS). Two weeks ago, I completed the first workshop for the ProDoc program, and I am currently working to prepare for my first seminar which will meet late next month.
 
  Now that I have a good grasp on the details of the program, I feel comfortable answering many of the questions I have received from church members regarding my candidacy. My family and I covet your love, prayers, and support so your understanding of the process is very important to us. Here are my answers to the questions church members ask most frequently regarding my decision to pursue the Doctor of Ministry (DMin). If after reading this you still have questions, please feel free to contact me, and I will do my best to answer.  
 
1. Why do you want to get a doctorate degree?
 
A. I don’t. I want to be the very best pastor I can be for the people of First Baptist Church of Wiggins. The longer I serve in this office, the more aware I become of my deficiencies as a leader and my need to grow as a professional. The best way I know to get better is to work through a structured program that will force me to grow. This burning desire to grow into a better leader is what inspired me to apply for and enter the ProDoc program.
 
2. What is a DMin?
A. DMin is short for Doctor of Ministry. The difference between a DMin and a PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) is that the DMin is a professional doctorate whereas a PhD is a research doctorate. DMin candidates earn their degrees while serving in a ministry position. DMin students study the needs in their current ministry context, develop a plan to meet one or some of those needs, implement the plan, and then publish their results. I felt drawn to the DMin because, not only does it help me to grow for the future, it is also a great benefit to my ministry right here at FBC Wiggins.
 

3. What is your specialization?

A. NOBTS offers fourteen specializations for the DMin degree. I chose to specialize in Pastoral Counseling. I chose Pastoral Counseling because I believe it will most benefit my ministry to you. In all my years as a Christian and as a master’s student, I learned how to study and understand Scripture. However, ministry is not just about understanding scripture. To be good at ministry you have to be able to understand people. The pastoral counseling specialization, will certainly equip me with skills I need for counseling opportunities, and it will also teach me everyday skills that will help me relate better to my people, my staff, and the lay leaders in the church.
 

4. What will be required to complete your degree and how long will it take?

A. DMin students are required to attend three workshops, take six seminars (at least three of which must be taken within the chosen specialization), and to develop and implement a project in ministry. The workshops are generally two days long and the seminars are three or four days long. My general plan is to take one seminar per trimester and one workshop per year. It should take around three years to complete the program.
 

5. How will you manage your duties as pastor with your responsibilities as a student?

A. As I told you in my trial sermon in March of 2015, my calling to my family always comes first, second comes my calling as your pastor. For the next three years, I will add a third priority to this list, namely, my calling to grow as your pastor. If I see that my response to God’s call to grow impedes on my calling as Pastor of FBC Wiggins or my calling to my family, then I will adjust my timeline for completion of the DMin and plan to take fewer seminars per year. There is no penalty for my doing so. Also, keep in mind that the DMin is designed for ministry professionals, so NOBTS grants consideration for my busy schedule as a senior pastor. If a conflict arises, such as a death in the church, that prevents me from attending a seminar, the professor will assign extra work to make up for the “seat time” I miss in that seminar. Finally, I plan to use the days allotted to me in my church covenant for professional development to account for the days I will spend in class at NOBTS. I will use my vacation days in the rare instance that I go over my allotted days for professional development, and I should never have to miss a Sunday.
 

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One question I have not been asked is “What can FBC Wiggins do to help you?”Here is my answer for those who are interested:

 

  1. Pray for us. It is going to be a challenge, but I have learned that growth is always challenging. It is going to take hard work and discipline. Pray that I can be faithful and that my family will remain supportive as we walk through this together. Pray that we’d be found faithful.

 

  1. In a couple of years, when I begin my project in ministry, I will need your help. My project has to be directly related to my current ministry context. I will not be able to finish the work without your help and participation. I will keep you updated on my progress by giving regular reports at the end of each trimester. Stay informed so that you can know how to help me through this process. In the end, I will be a better pastor and FBC will be an even stronger fellowship of believers.