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.


10/23 2019

INSIDE THE PTS CURRICULUM: Introduction to Contextual Analysis

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The “Inside the PTS Curriculum” series gives you an inside look at what students are learning in their courses at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Each article focuses on one class, its subject matter, what students can expect to learn, the required texts, and the kinds of assignments students can expect. We’ll let you know whether the course is required or available for the Master of Divinity (MDiv), the Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies (MAPS), or Master of Theological Studies (MTS). Each article will include the professor’s bio.

This week’s course is “Introduction to Contextual Analysis.”

contextual analysis

About Introduction to Contextual Analysis

During this term, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary students will be learning about ministry contexts with Dr. Scott Hagley in the class “Introduction to Contextual Analysis.” This course is required for students in the Master of Divinity (MDiv) degree, Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies (MAPS) degree, and Graduate Certificate in Missional Leadership and open to students in the Master of Theology (MTS) degree program or the other certificate programs.

This course offers an orientation to the ways anthropological and sociological approaches to the interpretation of culture contribute to theological reflection with and within particular socio-cultural contexts. Focusing on a particular neighborhood and/or institutional environment, students will become familiar with the techniques and develop the skills to critically consider the missiological, theological, and ethical dimensions of a Christian community in relation to the wider society.

During the course, students will gain an introduction to the socio-cultural dimensions of theological work while gathering, interpreting, and working with qualitative data. They’ll explore the different hermeneutic considerations one brings to research, including awareness of one’s own social location. Students will be introduced to the role fieldwork can play in theological reasoning and construction as well as the histories, concerns, problems, and possibilities within the neighborhoods adjacent to Pittsburgh Seminary.

Assignments include a book review on theology and cultures, fieldwork presentations, and a final integrative essay. Students are also required to read Studying Congregations: A New Handbook by Nancy Ammerman; Ethnography as a Pastoral Practice, by Mary Clark Moschella; and God’s Long Summer: Stories of Faith and Civil Right, by Charles Marsh.


About the Instructor

Dr. Scott Hagley received a B.A. in youth ministry and communication from Bethel University, an M.Div. from Regent College, and a Ph.D. (with distinction) in congregational mission and leadership from Luther Seminary. He formerly served as director of education at Forge Canada in Surrey, British Columbia, where he worked to develop curriculum for the formation of missional leaders in hubs across Canada. Dr. Hagley also served as teaching pastor at Southside Community Church, a multi-site church in the Vancouver metro area organized around neighborhood-based missional communities. He was a consultant and researcher with Church Innovations Institute and has lectured at denominational meetings and retreats on topics such as missional communities, faith, and spiritual formation. His most recent publication is Eat What Is Set Before You: A Missiology of the Congregation in Context.


10/17 2019

What does church planting have to do with the refugee crisis?

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church planting refugee crisis responseEven hundreds of miles from the coasts, here in Pittsburgh, we are hearing a lot about borders and walls, citizenship and belonging, laws and trespasses. There is anxiety in the air—who are we as a country, and what is our relationship to those who come across our borders? Who are “we” and who are “they” and how will we meet each other?


Respectable Sheep and Unruly Goats

Anxiety is something that faith communities know a lot about—particularly this question of who is in and who is out and what it means for our communities. In fact, unfortunately the church is famous for it. Misuse of Matthew 25:31-34 results in the (now vintage) Cake song’s poetic simplification, “Sheep go to heaven, goats go to hell.” Somehow that simple statement comes with a clear imagination of who are the respectable sheep and who are the unruly goats. This misses, of course, that the distinction the text makes between sheep and goats is how they live, not where they were born or to whom they were born (see verse 35-41).


Church Planting and the Refugee Crisis

Church planting—that is gathering communities in newly imagined ways of Christian living—offers an interesting response to this tension. What if, instead of gathering as those who are “already” sheep, we gather around the “sheep-like” practices: giving food to the hungry, welcoming the stranger, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, and visiting the imprisoned? Can we become sheep in those practices? What will this mean for the space where we meet each other? Well, it may be that we become the hungry in our sharing. We may gather together as strangers and share life with the underclad. We may get sick with germs from the sick, and we may even become imprisoned or count the incarcerated as our members.

In short, mixing it up with the world by starting outside of an established group of Christians, there are ways in which we might start to look like the world outside our boundaries. We might begin to resemble those we might feed or cloth or welcome or visit in prison. Which can feel pretty scary. But if you look back—that needy and scary world outside from Matthew 25—that world we might loathe to become is finally concluded to house the presence of the Christ we claim to serve. The same Christ we say we are trying to imitate.


The Rev. Karen Rohrer, M.Div. is the director of the Church Planting Initiative at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, founding co-pastor of Beacon Church in Philadelphia, Pa., and, as it turns out, a real Cake fan ever since they were cool 20 years ago.

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