Journal of Christian Ministry | 2021: New Directions for DMin Education: Envisioning the Future
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2021: New Directions for DMin Education: Envisioning the Future

2021: New Directions for DMin Education: Envisioning the Future

Kurt N. Fredrickson is president of the Association of Doctor of Ministry Education and Associate Dean for Professional Doctoral Programs at Fuller Theological Seminary

The world is changing, dramatically. COVID-19 has disrupted our lives, our churches, our schools. Andy Crouch and others in  Leading Beyond the Blizzard: Why Every Organization Is Now a Startup, notes, regarding the pandemic, “this is a time to urgently redesign our work in light of what we believe is not just a weeks-long “blizzard,” not even just a months-long “winter,” but something closer to the beginning of a years-long “ice age” in which many assumptions and approaches must change for good.”[1] COVID alongside issues of systemic racism, and divisive politics are causing us to re-evaluate and re-orient many aspect of our lives.  Tod Bolsinger writes: “Christian leaders today are sitting in meetings, reading reports and conversing with colleagues about a brutal truth: All that we have assumed about leading Christian organizations, all that we have been trained for, is out of date. We have left the map, we are in uncharted territory, and it is different than we expected. We are experienced river rafters who must learn to be mountaineers. And some of us face ‘the most terrible mountain we have ever beheld.’”[2]  In our COVID world, this is even more so today.

We as directors of Doctor of Ministry programs have the opportunity to help our students, pastors and other leaders, working on the frontlines, to meet the new challenges of ministry, to imagine new ways of being the faithful people of God, to discover how to be and share the gospel in new contexts. Len Sweet writes: “The issue is not that seminaries are ‘too academic.’ The issue is that seminaries need new academics, a new model of academe that will make sense of what is going on around us based on what went on in the past, explore what the impact of change has been before and will be now, and suggest preparations that will enable the church to adapt.”[3]

Our DMin students, who enter our programs because they want to learn how to do the craft of ministry better, are eager to explore these new territories, even if they are disruptive. Our programs create a safe environment where students are able to reset their ministry for the new challenges ahead, retool to do that ministry, and to renew their hearts for the disruptive work they face.

The Association of Theological  Schools has been working hard over a number of years to develop new standards that meet the new challenges facing the church and our schools. These standards have now been written and formally adopted.  These new and innovative standards for DMin and other programs now guide our program in this disruptive time. The standards allow us to shape our individual programs in ways that meet the challenges facing the ministry contexts of our students.

The ADME conference this year gives us the opportunity to explore the implications of these new standards. Len Sweet will help us imagine a new day of theological education (the article in this issue of The Journal of Christian Ministry gives you a hint of his thinking), and Barbara Mutch and Tom Tanner from ATS will help us work through the implications of the new standards for our DMin programs.

We are serving in a unique and challenging time in history. This time demands creative and transformative theological education. Are we ready for task?  Eric Hoffer writes: “In times of great change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped for a world that no longer exists.” Let’s be those courageous learners!

[1] https://journal.praxislabs.org/leading-beyond-the-blizzard-why-every-organization-is-now-a-startup-b7f32fb278ff

[2] Tod Bolsinger, Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory (Downers Grove, InterVarsity Press, 2018).

[3] Leonard Sweet, Rings of Fire: Walking in Faith through a Volcanic Future (Colorado Springs: Nav Press, 2019).