What Is A Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) Degree?

When people heard that I had earned my doctorate, most immediately assumed that it was a Ph.D.  That's entirely understandable since the Ph.D probably comprises the majority of earned doctorates.  People are usually also familiar with the M.D. degree that physicians earn.  Because they are unfamiliar with Doctor of Ministry degree, some may assume that a D.Min. is one of those degrees you get through the mail, or online for only $19.95, or some form of honorary degree.  The degree is more familiar to people involved in ministry.  

My degree is from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (GCTS).  It is built upon the Master of Divinity degree which is a 90 semester hour Masters degree.  This degree must be earned before enrolling in a D.Min. program.  The D.Min. from GCTS required participation in a two-week seminar each year over the course of three years.  Prior to each seminar, thousands of pages of reading were required in preparation for the classes taught during the seminar.  Between seminars there were papers to write, projects to complete, supervision of counseling requirements to meet, and more reading.  Following completion of the three seminars, a thesis-project proposal that explored some area of the doctoral candidate's ministry was submitted and accepted.  Mine was titled, "The Impact of Deployment on Intimacy in Army Marriages" based on my research and experience working with Army families in a time of war.  Following completion and acceptance of my thesis-project, I graduated with my Doctor of Ministry degree in May of 2014.  

I present all this not to persuade people to call me "Doctor" as a title of honor, but that people understand the rigorous study I have pursued to gain a level of expertise in my work.  Gordon-Conwell actually uses the title "Reverend Doctor" for its D.Min. program graduates, as a distinction from other doctorates.  I consider this significant because I purposefully chose a D.Min. program over a Ph.D. because ministry, not research, was my focus; even though my thesis-project was research based.  

In this age when anyone can publish their opinions in websites, blogs, social media, or response threads regardless of their level of knowledge, or ignorance, about the topic at hand, it can be hard to discern what to believe.  Yet, understanding the complexity of our world requires experts (whether through experience, education, or both) who can speak with authority on specific topics.  With the vast volume of sources, I am constantly asking, "Why should I listen to you?" as I process information.  This, coupled with a passion to understand people and relationships, compelled me to strive for a level of expertise that would most benefit those who come to me for help. 

The military that has been my life for the last 25 years relies on titles because they are descriptive of the person bearing the title.  Different expectations arise for Second Lieutenant West as opposed to Lieutenant Colonel West because of the knowledge and experience underlying those different titles.  Now that I am back in the civilian world, I still understand titles as descriptive.  Reverend Doctor Bradley West is a title that describes my education, knowledge and experience, but please don't call me that. Please just call me Brad.