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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Ask the Matriarch — The D. Min D-Lemma

Our first question of the post-Lent season has to do with finding the right time to continue one's education:
I'm being heavily recruited for a new DMin program that is starting in my area. I've always sort of figured I'd do this one day, but I'm not sure now is the right time. Part of me says wait till the kids are older and more self-sufficient. Another part says both the knowledge and the credential will do me more good if I have it now, rather than ten or fifteen years from now. (I'm in my early 40s) I'd be interested in hearing insights and advice from those who have done the DMin thing. Is it worth it? Does timing matter?

Two of our matriarchs with D.Min.s responded with their own experiences, cautioning that without knowing the ages of your children or other factors in your life they can only share what they know. Jacque started her D.Min at age 36, and completed it four years later. She notes that no matter what time you choose to pursue the degree, there will always be things that come up that make you question your timing:
As it turned out I was writing my thesis when my father was dying with hospice care in our living room. There was a time I thought I could not continue, yet with my advisor's encouragement and support I made it.

Jan worked on her D.Min. in a program that ran over six years--and required two weeks a year "on campus" -- the program was three states away, but the structure of the program allowed her to complete it while raising three children under 10.
Actually, it worked well in that I got a little time each year when I wasn't cutting someone's meat/doing laundry/wiping noses, and I was able to focus 100% on the coursework and get it done before returning home.

One thing that Jan noted and Ann echoed is that the D.Min program provides a structure and an attainable goal for coursework that is, basically, continuing education. They also noted that while it's not necessary for most folks to progress vocationally (and often yields few, if any, financial benefits), some "big churches" seem to really look for "The Rev. Dr." title for their pastors. But pursuing the degree for personal fulfillment is a worthy goal. As Jan notes:
It was a good experience with practical benefits for me personally because I chose a program that addressed my personal interests/passions. Also, it gave me a new community of friends with whom I could share adult conversation at least once a year--and many of us also had kids so we shared some parenting talk too.

Jacque notes that you should be prepared for a very different experience with your D.Min. than you had with your M.Div.
We are almost always serving full-time in our ministries and in full-swing life with our families. As we began, our program, the Dean told us that if we had been accustomed to straight "A's" and very grade conscious in our previous degrees -- we needed to let go of that now. This was about something different. That was extremely freeing for me. My "grades" were excellent, but it wasn't because I was grade-conscious in the D.Min. program; it was because I was fully engaged in life and ministry, and the D.Min. program helped me to integrate all of it.

But not everyone can cut that careful balance you have to have, she notes, describing how several of her colleagues fell hopelessly behind. Some were dismissed altogether; others had to choose to drop out. Staying organized is one of the biggest challenges you'll face.

Good luck with your decision and God bless! Anyone else have feedback they'd like to share? Please do so in comments!


  1. What a timely question, because I'm also in the d.min. discernment process. The matriarch's responses are very helpful. If I decide to apply, it will be to a program that sounds exactly like Jan's. Looking forward to the rest of the comments.

  2. ok blogger is booting me off... we'll try again.

    timely indeed! i too am considering an advanced degree - but in another field than ministry. how do you balance FT ministry, family & studies? grrr..

    prayer. prayer. more prayer!

  3. Wow. It seems a good number of us are at a similar place of discernment right now! I too am considering a d.min. program. I look forward to others' additional words of wisdom.

  4. maybe we should begin (or is that continue?) a conversation about discernment... how do you "know"? what helps us to "figure out" if it is indeed God calling us to something or just us following a whim?

    so how would we begin that discussion and where oh where? cuz maybe it's needed...

  5. That's a neat idea, hot cup. Ask the Matriarch has kind of evolved over time to be more than a RevGal Dear Abby to be a bit of a Thursday chat where everyone contributes a bit. The questions over the winter have had a different focus but recent questions are probably more "open chat" friendly. Feel free to use any Ask the Matriarch thread as a conversation plate about that topic. It's one of the reasons I always invite comments!

  6. What does the Dmin get us? In most cases it just makes us over educated for the kinds of positions that are available to us. If you have a burning thing that you really want to do your doctorate on--then yes go ahead and do it.

    But if you are just going for the Dr in front of your name, forget it. It doesn't pay for itself

  7. muthah+ you crack me up! i think perhaps you are right on... but what if you're thinking about a move from one field to another? yikes... when is it "too late" to return to school? and is the advanced degree required in this new field? some say yes. absolutely. others say "maybe"... grrr... was anyone offering wine? i think i could use a hefty swig. cuz really if you're paying off one degree is it wise to head out after another one? (even if i'll have cool letters behind my name?) *gulp* *swigh* *belch*

  8. I think muthah+ is right about being overeducated in terms of the DMin UNLESS you have a burning passion in a particular area. I'd love to study preaching more, but at my age, not sure if I can afford it.

    hotcup, your comments intrigue me. I'd love to be a part of your discernment process. I would say it is NOT too late.

    Is it too late for me to be a writer?

  9. I don't have a DMin but I have a PhD and I'm chiming in to say it's NEVER too late to return to school. I started college at 30 and seminary at 49 both times as a single mother. I think desire is what is key--if you want it bad enough you can do it.

    And would I get a DMin? Maybe. Despite my age.

  10. oh ho ho ho ho... thank you diane and revdrmom for the "never too late"words of wisdom. THAT is encouraging!

  11. I was accepted into one D.Min. program, but after I saw the initial materials, I opted out as it looked like that program was out-dated. Accepted into a second program last year, but then was called to new parish and it didn't seem to be the right time. More importantly, I realized I had no passion for the second program. I think you should follow you passion. And if that is doing another degree, do it, but not because it gives you more initials behind your name. I may end up doing a D.Min, but I also may end up just doing more Con Ed on Leadership Development. Sheila

  12. just about finished with the dmin. And at this point, very glad I started - though I haven't always felt that way. Biggest motivator - the need for continuing ed and the desire that it not be little bits and pieces that were never connected to one another. Totally in agreement that if you just want the dr. in front of your name, it's not worth it. On the other hand - seriously cool stripes on the robe:)

  13. I'm in a DMin program now (end of first year) that's so far worked out very well. Much of the course work is online, with a 3 week residential "intensive" the first summer, and a 1 week class that you can take the first summer or defer to the 2nd year, which I am doing. Money's worked out fine, which is great. And the folks in the program have become like another family. Be glad to talk to anyone about specifics.

  14. I would have loved to had the luxury of doing my masters and "only" that - I am on-line, distance ed and on campus one week a semester... and working part-time, being a wife and mom. There is no such thing as "balance" but there is a sense of what is "most urgent" and that is what gets my attention. It's crazy. And it's all good.

    I will say, though, that if you have profs who have not been in the "real world" in a while, that you end up doing a lot of things which have nothing practically speaking to do with pastoring. If you are into academia and all that, you'll enjoy it. If the Masters was a means to an end, then I would weigh carefully how much "stuff" you want to do... If is is just continuing ed, you might find more master's level classes more to your needs and interests.

    Still paying tuition and looking forward to being DONE some day...

  15. I can in no way comment on the DMin or the church relatedness of an advanced degree. But with a MA and in my 21st year of working in universities, I firmly believe that unless one is PASSIONATE about a topic, grad school in that area is likely to kill any affection one may have for it.

  16. Er, that's "with AN MA."

    It was in English, after all.



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