D.Min. Program Celebrates 30 Years
December 29, 2004
Since the Doctor of Ministry program was created thirty years ago, North American Baptist Seminary has been able to offer top notch in-ministry training to students pursing doctoral work.
It all started in the 1973-74 academic year when North American Baptist Seminary hired Dr. Samuel Mikolaski to organize and implement a Doctor of Ministry program.
The program was designed as an in-ministry, thirty-hour program following the standards of the Association of Theological Schools (ATS), the accrediting association for seminaries. The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools and ATS accredited the program. NABS recruited ministers interested in enrolling in a doctoral program that would prepare them for higher levels of leadership and began classes the fall of 1975 in Detroit, Michigan, and Sioux Falls.
"I taught the first class in Detroit," said current program director, Dr. Gordon Harris. "It was an exciting beginning to what has grown into a mature doctoral program."
After working to implement the Doctor of Ministry, Dr. Samuel Mikolaski served as the program's director from 1974-76. The other influential directors of the D.Min. program at NABS include Dr. Ralph Powell, who served from 1976-82, and Dr. Richard Houts, who succeeded Powell in 1982 and served until 1996. All three built a strong, accredited Doctor of Ministry program.
Thirty years of project reports show the academic strength of this program. Graduates in many denominations around the world serve Jesus Christ with a mandate from the program. Pastoral care, preaching, spiritual formation, and evangelism will never be the same in their work. Faculty members of NABS have built strong messengers in a number of ministry occupations. Dedicated adjuncts have a world- wide influence through teaching doctoral work here.
The success of the current program comes through its flexible, in-ministry organization. One-week seminars are offered in cities throughout the United States and Canada, including Detroit, Michigan; Edmonton and Calgary, Alberta; Omaha, Nebraska; and Sioux Falls.
In addition to seminar dates and places, many other factors have contributed to the success of this flexible, in-ministry program. Colloquia promote projects in the candidate's place of ministry. Students pay for the program through monthly payments. The seminary also accepts Canadian dollars on par with U.S. dollars for Canadian students. Seminars create spontaneous cohort groups through developing friendships with peers.
Also, retired educators Dr. Paul Stevens and Dr. Larry Duff assist candidates as directors of project development. E-mail and phone conversations make it easy to stay in touch with participants.
"Since 1996, I have found the doctoral program at NABS to produce excellent leaders for Christ," added Harris. "I find the work satisfying and stimulating. Thirty years have fled quickly, but the results continue to blossom."
Meet Dr. Larry Duff
D.Min. Project Director
Dr. Larry Duff lives by the words on his favorite coffee mug: one day at a time. And when working with doctoral students at NABS and beyond, this is just his advice.
As a project development director for North American Baptist Seminary's Doctor of Ministry program, Duff shepherds students through the beginning stages of the dissertation process starting with an idea and ending up with a 60-page project proposal.
Duff states that when students start working on a project with him, there are a few simple rules to follow. Although the rules are backwards and upside down from traditional writing practices, they make sense. He asks that all students leave chapter one until the very end and follow a three-step process: transcript, edit, and edit. Dr. Duff also puts time limits on writing to prevent writer�s block and burnout.
"I get the best out of students that I can," Duff says of his work philosophy. He believes that taking students through the mentoring process equals a greater quality of work. "There's only one thing I ask of my students and that is that they mentor another student in return. They'll learn so much through the process," Duff added.
Just like the students with whom he works, Dr, Duff's background and expertise are diverse. Not only is he a project director for the seminary's Doctor of Ministry program, but he also works with 25-30 other students around the country, does occasional preaching, practices law, and is a member of the United States Supreme Court.
Duff believes he's had a lustrous career as a lawyer, educator, and now through his work at NABS. He ensures the research work being done by Doctor of Ministry students at North American Baptist Seminary is helpful for religious communities, churches, and for the secular world.
"I am pleased and proud to be a part of this program," Duff added.
Meet Dr. Paul Stevens
D.Min. Project Director
Dr. Paul Stevens has a fond appreciation for the Doctor of Ministry Program. And NABS' D.Min. Program Director, Dr. Gordon Harris, saw this fondness in him.
That's exactly why, when at a meeting of the Association for Directors of Ministry Education, Harris asked Dr. Stevens for help with NABS' program. Still one year out from retirement, Stevens agreed.
"Since I was [soon to be] retired as the Director of the D.Min. program at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and was familiar with the requirements of the program, I felt that I could be of help to Dr. Harris and NABS," Stevens said.
With a vast array of experience in education and ministry, Stevens brings a strong theological perspective to his role as a project development director. In fact, he directed the field education program on the undergraduate level in a college for two years and the field education program on a graduate level in two Baptist seminaries for 25 years.
Working with students, Stevens helps them to understand the purpose of the program and the project. He guides students through the writing process for their prospectus and final project as well as helping them understand the elements that must appear in both papers and the form and style in which they must be written.
"I enjoy working with students and want to continue some kind of a relationship with NABS as long as the school needs me and I am able to contribute meaningfully to the educational process of the students," Stevens added.