ATLANTA--The James and Carolyn McAfee School of Theology of Mercer University is accepting applications for its new Doctor of Ministry Degree Program. The first three-week seminar of the doctoral program is scheduled for July 6-26. The School will initially accept 15 students each year.
A great deal of research has gone into developing McAfee's Doctor of Ministry Degree Program. In 2001, Dean Alan Culpepper asked McAfee faculty member Dr. Ron Johnson to use his sabbatical at Princeton University to research other doctor of ministry programs and determine the essential components needed to develop one at McAfee.
"I studied literally dozens of programs across the country," said Johnson, associate dean of the Doctor of Ministry Degree Program. "I tried to draw on the strengths of those programs in creating ours. The draft was then circulated among people who direct similar programs for a critique. Then the dean and the faculty at McAfee made further suggestions and brought the program to life."
The doctor of ministry degree is a professional doctorate, designed to help students develop advanced skills in an area they feel is critical for their ministry. McAfee's Doctor of Ministry Degree Program focuses on faculty-student interaction, academic research and practical ministry application.
One of the program's main strengths is the built-in support system for the doctoral candidates. Each student will have a faculty supervisor and a field supervisor. The faculty supervisor will be a McAfee faculty member, while the field supervisor will be nominated by the student and approved by McAfee.
"Students select their own field supervisor, who must have doctoral credentials and be recognized as a proficient clinical practitioner in the area the student is studying," said Johnson. "The field supervisor is a person who has the expertise in the area the student is seeking to develop - someone the student can turn to for advice and guidance."
Although the doctor of ministry degree is considered a professional or practical degree, Johnson has worked to ensure the academic side is not sacrificed. From the beginning of the program, a student will select a thesis topic, which will be honed and sharpened to a pinpoint focus with the help of the student's faculty supervisor.
In addition to the thesis, students will be required to take three seminar courses, each lasting three weeks. The topics are "Understanding Contemporary Ministry," "Christian Spirituality and Scripture" and "Issues in Pastoral Leadership."
Students then complete three semesters of Individual Study in one of the following areas of concentration: spiritual formation, empowering congregations for transformation, the missional development of the church, preaching and faith communication, faith development, rethinking Christian faith issues, worship and the church, pastoral counseling, Baptist heritage, leadership in the ministry, and Scripture and ministry.
After a two-week research skills workshop, students begin work on their final project thesis, which must be completed within three years. The faculty supervisor closely monitors the thesis, approving each stage of the draft before allowing the student to proceed to the next stage.
"We ask them from day one to declare a concentration and begin preparing for the development of the thesis," Johnson said. "We want the doctor of ministry thesis to make a unique contribution to the field of ministry."
Students officially complete the program after their thesis has been submitted and approved, and they take an oral examination. On average, the program can be completed in three to four years, with only 11 weeks of work required in classes at McAfee. The program was purposefully designed for ministers to complete their studies without requiring them to uproot their families and their ministries.
The Rev. Charles Qualls, associate pastor of Pastoral Care at Second-Ponce de Leon Baptist Church in Atlanta, has applied for admission into the inaugural doctoral class at McAfee. "The Mercer brand is very strong in Baptist work," said Qualls, a graduate of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. "This is a degree that I have been looking to pursue. Having it in my own backyard has huge appeal."
Qualls sees definite benefit in the degree for his work in the ministry. "This degree is tailored to reflect the reality that I am serving a church and I am doing the work I want to do," he added. "The McAfee program offers a realistic way to get the doctor of ministry degree."
Quality is the watchword for Johnson and others at McAfee who are responsible for selecting students and implementing the degree program.
"We developed a program McAfee can be proud of," Johnson said. "The students will know they have been in a doctoral program. They will leave here with a body of research that will benefit them for the rest of their career. And they will have research skills that they can apply to other areas of ministry that they want to become more proficient in during their career."