Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

Bridging the Word and the World

11/12 2019

Why Get a DMin?

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Doctor of Ministry DMin degree church changeMany pastors sense that the church they were trained to serve and the church they encounter each day are two different universes. Things change. Change is part of life. Yet change in the church over the last two decades has been phenomenal. Even disorienting.

Some of us adapt to change easily. For others, it’s really difficult. For all of us, leaning into change is easier when we do it intentionally: in the midst of community and conversation.


That’s the main reason to get a doctor of ministry (DMin) degree: to gather and go deep with an ongoing community of learning as you lean into the change God has unleashed in the church. It’s an exciting time to be in ministry. It’s also daunting.


Why get a doctor of ministry degree?

In many ways, entering a DMin program is like returning to the well that first cooled your thirst. It’s an opportunity to drink from the living water that fed your venture into ministry. In this return to the water though, you know much more about the terrain you seek to cover: the wilderness, the parched earth, the verdant valleys. The possibilities, the hope, the drudgery, and the despair that are part and parcel of every pastor’s life.

Our professors love to teach in the DMin program precisely because the students come back to the well with this new knowledge and new awareness. They bring living questions and stark realities from daily service in complex congregations and creative ministries around the country. Professors in the DMin program learn from their students as much as the students learn from them. The banquet they serve to pastors in training at the master’s level is lent new flavors and remade by what they learn about ministry from students in the DMin. It is an exciting exchange!


DMin Education

Knowledge is wonderful in many different forms. In many ways, DMin education moves in the opposite direction of master’s-level education. Abstract ideas can be tantalizing and fun. Broad visions and passionate hope born of deep study has the capacity to energize us for new horizons. What is wonderful about the DMin though, is that you start with the concrete. Your context. Your questions. You bring the dailiness of ministry back to the well you first drank from, seeking with new urgency living water for the place, moment, people, and challenges in which you dwell.

You also form relationships. Deep, collegial relationships born of studying, learning, and exploring together. In our DMin program we place a huge emphasis on this ongoing learning in community. Every DMin cohort is led by a faculty mentor who serves as a guide and advisor. In addition, a cohort facilitator serves as a pastor to the pastors: leading group formation; planning times for worship and sharing; connecting the group between course weeks so that the learning and bonding continues even when the group has dispersed back to the work of daily ministry.

Why get a DMin? Because your journey of growth and learning is not over when you leave seminary and venture into the world of ministry. In fact, it is just beginning. A DMin is a return to the banquet that first fed you. A return that helps you continue to feed others in the call God has set before you.


The Rev. Dr. Denise Thorpe serves as Pittsburgh Seminary’s interim director of the Doctor of Ministry Program. New cohorts typically begin in January and June each year and focus on a number of topics including Christian spirituality, parish ministry, and science and theology. Financial aid may be available for those who qualify. Learn more about the Doctor of Ministry Program at Pittsburgh Seminary.


10/14 2019

What is a MAPS? God’s Directions Through an Aptly Named Degree

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master of arts in pastoral studiesIn the 2004 classic National Treasure, main character Benjamin Gates discovers a secret invisible map on the back of a rather meaningful piece of paper, the Declaration of Independence.

At Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, the meaningful piece of paper that is the Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies, or MAPS, degree may likewise contain a hidden map. We just haven’t seen anyone take the time to look for one yet!

More than just an amusing (and perhaps illuminating?) acronym, the master of arts (MAPS) degree at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary is a two-year, flexible graduate degree program that prepares students for leadership in various ministry settings.

What is the MAPS degree?

Across these two years of study, students in the MAPS program will complete 48 course credits, participate in a year-long field education experience, and complete a degree-specific integrative final project. This master of arts degree offers a grounding in core disciplines mixed with the flexibility of electives that fit one’s interests.

Students in the MAPS program will blend study of Scripture, Christian history, and theology—forming a unique understanding of Christian ministry. Through field education, students will learn to exegete and interpret various contexts as the location of God’s mission, right here in the Pittsburgh area. The integrative final project will ask students to draw from completed coursework in a way that supports their ministerial/vocational objectives.

The MAPS degree at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary can lead students to any number of vocational placements—from pastoral ministry to chaplaincy to religious education to faith-based, non-profit work.

What can I do with a master or arts degree?

Students can also earn the Graduate Certificate in Urban Ministry concurrently with their MAPS degree studies. Merit and need-based financial aid are available.

Dr. Leanna Fuller, associate professor of pastoral care, expresses, “The MAPS program is an excellent choice for students who wish to combine the fundamentals of theological education with the flexibility to pursue ministry courses that suit their particular interests.”

In National Treasure, Gates follows his gut and an invisible map to find a hidden wealth. The MAPS we offer at PTS may not lead to a hidden treasure, but perhaps it is the direction in which God is calling you. Let PTS and the MAPS degree help you along your journey in discerning who God is calling you to be and what God is calling you to do.


Chris Taylor, MDiv ’19 and admissions counselor, shares about the master of arts in pastoral studies (MAPS) degree at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. He first came to Seminary as a teen in the Miller Summer Youth Institute. After graduating from the University of North Carolina in 2015, Chris spent a summer in Acadia National Park and served as a youth director in Raleigh before moving back to his hometown of Pittsburgh to attend PTS. Chris has also been serving at Parkwood Presbyterian Church in Allison Park since 2017. You can often catch Chris watching Pittsburgh sports, Carolina basketball, reading a good book, or exploring the outdoors.


5/4 2019

Rachel Held Evans and Grace

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Rachel Held Evans

Rachel Held Evans (right) and Nadia Bolz-Weber at Pittsburgh Seminary


My wife, Erin, and I first became aware of Rachel Held Evans when we were serving in Florida. As we were working with youth from a number of churches, one of the teenagers asked us to read something called A Year of Biblical Womanhood.

It struck us as an odd request – odd enough that we bought a copy and started reading.

The book was engaging, insightful, and above all else, really funny.

We began to wonder about the author who would undertake such a project, a woman named Rachel Held Evans.

Ten years later, sitting in a dining room at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, we asked a group of pastors and seminary students to dream big. The Seminary’s Miller Summer Youth Institute 20th anniversary was coming up, and we wanted to know who they would like us to bring as a speaker.


They came up with three names. Rachel Held Evans, Nadia Bolz-Weber, and, if there was money left over, Bono.


We aimed for two of the three.

In contacting Rachel, we quickly realized that she was indeed someone we wanted to bring to celebrate the anniversary of SYI, and things fell into place quickly.

When the event finally arrived we were impressed with her content and presentations, but we had expected them to be good. What surprised us was something else.

The Grace of Rachel Held Evans

Rachel Held EvansLooking back on that event, there is really just one word that comes to mind regarding our dealings with Rachel. 


The memory we have of Rachel is how incredibly gracious she was. She spent time chatting with participants, signing books, sharing that same insightful humor that had first caught my attention all those years ago. (Nadia also came and was likewise wonderful to work with, but this post isn’t really about her.)

As we receive the news of Rachel’s passing today, SYI extends its sympathies and compassion to her friends and family, especially her husband and two young children. She was a blessing to our program and a delight to work with. Her legacy of insight, humor, and most of all grace has been a blessing to so many and will continue to influence people for years to come.​


The Rev. Derek Davenport ’05 is director of the Seminary’s Miller Summer Youth Institute and digital marketing analyst. Derek is also a PTS alumnus of the Master of Divinity (MDiv) Program and Master of Sacred Theology (ThM), between which he served at a church in Orlando, Fla., for five years. Besides working with youth pastors and young adults, he serves as a guest preacher in Western Pennsylvania, researches church symbolism on his website, and tweets at @DerekRDavenport.

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