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Six Core Components of Successful DMin Programs

(Authors:  Elisabeth A. Nesbit Sbanotto and Ronald D. Welch)

The Doctor of Ministry degree was first approved by The American Association of Theological Schools (now ATS) in 1972, with significant growth occurring in the number and scope of these programs soon after its inception. The degree was never intended to be a super-sized MDiv program, nor was it created to be the equivalent of a theological PhD program. Rather, it was originally created in response to a strong demand for continuing education that would provide advanced skills for clergy.

Four decades later, how is the DMin meeting the needs of today’s clergy? A 2011 Barna Group study of 600 Protestant senior pastors (known publically as the Pastor PollSM) determined that the target market for DMin programs may be shifting to a younger demographic (age 28–46) than that of 40 years ago and from a wider variety of ministry occupations. It may be time for a reevaluation of the curriculum and ancillary components of DMin programs, including more affordable and flexible delivery modes.

A more recent study, conducted by the authors, used an online survey and interview process to gather the insights of 55 participants including industry experts as well as DMin directors and students at three institutions. It looked at delivery models, standards, and curriculum to determine whether DMin programs in the United States were meeting the academic and professional needs of their constituents and to identify core components of successful DMin programs.

Unification Theological Seminary (UTS) is not yet a member of ATS, but UTS presidents and administrative staff have been welcomed at ATS conferences over the last 15 years.