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How to: Doctor of Ministry Program

November 15, 2021

by Greg Henson, President, and Steve Trefz, Kairos Affiliate Professor

The Kairos Doctor of Ministry program provides a wonderful opportunity for students to grow in their understanding of God and God’s work in the world while discerning how best to take the next step in their vocational context. Like most things in Kairos, we try to approach this program a bit differently than one might expect. In the following paragraphs, we are going to describe the structure of the program, why someone might want to participate in it, and how to get started.

Let’s begin by looking at why someone might want to participate in the Doctor of Ministry program.

Why Engage in the Doctor of Ministry?
Often times, the catalyst for considering a Doctor of Ministry degree is a felt need sparked by an experience in ministry, a call someone feels, or a question someone wants to explore in light of their particular vocation. Other times, it is because people feel led to dive deeper into a particular area of interest because they have a desire to grow in their understanding of what God is doing in the world and how they might join God on that mission. A few people begin a Doctor of Ministry program because they want to earn a degree that opens doors to teaching, leading, or consulting. In our experience, people flourish within the Doctor of Ministry program when their reasons for enrolling stem primarily from a desire to 1) know God more fully, 2) explore a question or opportunity present within their vocational context, and/or 3) invite others to join them on this endeavor.

In addition to considering the catalyst for one’s decision to pursue a Doctor of Ministry, it can be helpful to think about what the journey is going to entail. For some, it is the journey and its various components that are most enticing about the degree. Once enrolled in the program, students work with a mentor team to shape and reflect on the question or opportunity or call that led them to begin the program. Such conversations help give life to an idea for a specific action that can be taken in one’s vocational context (something we call a project). That project will guide the research and activity of the student while in the program.

After the question or opportunity has been refined, the student begins to do some research and learning to discover more about their topic of interest. In this initial discovery phase, students have the opportunity to determine the depth, scope, and relevance of the question/opportunity they identified. Sometimes, this process helps the student discover that their question/opportunity is not as pressing as they once thought, which leads to an adaptation of the question/opportunity. Other times, it confirms the question/opportunity. In either case, the discovery phase leads to greater clarity on who, what, where, when, and how of the project.

With greater clarity comes the opportunity to think more deeply about the biblical, theological, sociological, and cultural realities connected to the proposed project. Students work with their mentor teams to study each of these areas and develop two presentations that are shared with peers in the program. One presentation will focus on biblical and theological themes related to the project and the other will review sociological and cultural realities. Students in the program will also observe two such presentations and provide feedback. This process allows the students to continue to refine the work they are doing to prepare for their project. Students conclude the program by integrating their learning and reflection into a vocational project that uplifts the Body of Christ. To put it another way, they take that idea they had at the beginning of their studies and bring it to fruition in real life. After completing the project, they take time to reflect on the results of that project and then share those results in a written reflection.

The various aspects of a Doctor of Ministry invite students to follow Jesus and flourish in their vocations for the sake of the world. The Doctor of Ministry program is designed to be an opportunity to discover what God is doing in the student’s particular context, invite others to walk with them as they discern how best to follow Jesus on mission, and then respond faithfully.

The Three Phases of the Journey
Now, all of that being said, it can sometimes be helpful to see the various aspects of the program in a clearly defined list! The Doctor of Ministry program can best be envisioned in these three phases.

  • Program Entry Phase
    In this phase, students prepare for the rest of their journey. It includes two courses:

    • Starting Well
      Through their work, students build a mentor team, learn more about how Kairos works, and discover the various library, learning, and research resources available to them.
    • Effective Project Design
      While working through this course, students work with a mentor team to refine their question/opportunity and articulate it in a formal proposal. This work is aided by the participation in a self-paced learning experience called “Foundations Seminar.”
  • Integration and Directed Learning Phase
    In this phase, students engage in learning and research as they prepare presentations to share with their peers. This work is guided by the completion of three courses:

    • Integration in Ministry Context
      Students engage in directed learning experiences to gain a better understanding of the depth, scope, and relevance of their project.
    • Biblical and Theological Understanding
      Here students do the work necessary discover and articulate the biblical and theological framework for their projects. By observing and interacting with presentations of peers, students are able to benefit from the work of others as they deepen and refine their work. In addition to observing, students prepare a presentation on how their biblical and theological understanding informs their proposed project. After sharing the presentation with their mentor team, they present in front of their peers with the goal of gathering and incorporating feedback along the way.
    • Sociological and Cultural Understanding
      The process is the same as Biblical and Theological Understanding in that students observe peers, do research, and present their findings to their mentor team and peers. The only difference is that the research is focused on sociological and cultural realities that are relevant to their project.
  • Program Completion Phase
    In the final phase, students bring their idea to fruition by doing their project in real life and then reflecting on the results and next steps. This involves two courses, which are:

    • Final Project
      To complete this course, students take the idea presented in their proposal which was refined through the work of the previous phases and give life to it through the completion of the project/activity. After completing the project, students reflect on what they did, what happened, and what they learned.
    • Continuing Well
      Finally, students begin the process of formally completing the program. In this course, students articulate how their work will continue to evolve after graduation. This is also where they complete the documents and processes required for graduation.

How Has it Served Students?
Sometimes, the best way to learn about the value and process of a degree program is to hear a student or graduate talk about their experiences. We will conclude this short description of the Doctor of Ministry program by hearing from Shan, current student.

Why did you choose to enroll in Kairos?
I would say that Kairos chose me. I was not looking for more letters to go behind my name. However, on one of my home assignments, I attended the Hiller Lectureship [at Sioux Falls Seminary]. Just being in the room with students and listening to excellent lectures reignited my passion for education. I kept hearing the word “Kairos” all day. A week or so later, I contacted the seminary to ask about it. By the time I finished talking, I was hooked on the idea that I apply what I am experiencing and learning in ministry as a missionary on the field to an educational degree. As one who has always sought mentors, I was especially drawn to the idea of having three mentors walk alongside me throughout the journey, teaching and encouraging me.

How has the process been helpful?
Kairos has helped me to stay focused in my ministry. As a missionary in a country with a very small Christian population, I could be doing, and have done, an incredible variety of ministries. My project has helped me to dive deeper into the culture and my relationship with God as I seek to learn how to minister more effectively.

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