Doctor of Ministry (DMin)
The DMin provides pastors and other ministry leaders the opportunity for advanced theological reflection on the work of ministry and sharpening ministry skills. The program is designed to develop the students’ capacity for professional leadership in the church and other ministries. The program focuses more on the practice of ministry than does the ThM.
A three-dimensional perspective guides the overall design of the program:
- Norms (DN) courses address the biblical and theological foundations of the Gospel, church, and ministry.
- Functions (DF) courses emphasize the professional skills for the practice of ministry, such as preaching, pastoral care, administration, and teaching.
- Contexts (DC) courses encompass the environment and realities of the modern world in which ministry takes place.
The program seeks to integrate these dimensions into a working whole for each student. Each course embodies all three dimensions in varying combinations and the student’s own ministry setting serves as a primary learning resource. Course assignments typically involve in-service projects of direct benefit to the student’s ministry.
The program emphasizes learning from group interaction among peers. Classes typically include students from a wide variety of denominations, ethnic and cultural backgrounds, locations, and points of view, providing a diversity that enriches each student’s education.
The program is flexible and able to meet the special needs of military chaplains, whose duty stations may change quickly or place them at a considerable distance from campus. Graduates of an approved professional military school may receive transfer credit.
The DMin director is the primary academic advisor and may be consulted on all matters pertaining to the program. An additional faculty advisor will be appointed to guide the student through the prospectus/project/dissertation process.
The Seminary seeks to develop students in this degree program in the following ways:
- Concepts. Graduates will interpret the Bible and draw on the church’s theological and historical heritage as they apply the Bible’s message to faith, life, and ministry in contemporary contexts.
- Calling. Graduates will identify, develop, and use their abilities and spiritual gifts to advance the church’s mission to worship and serve Jesus Christ.
- Character. Graduates will serve the church with evident Christian character and integrity in their personal and professional lives.
- Competence. Graduates will serve the church effectively demonstrating advanced understanding of ministry and theology, by using skills, tools, and methods pertinent to their vocational ministry.
- Vision. Graduates will develop a biblical vision leading to research or a project relevant to their ministry setting.
- Writing. Graduates will contribute to their field of ministry through written assignments culminating in a dissertation that contributes to their field of ministry
Student Learning Outcomes
1. Make appropriate use of relevant (a) Bible passages and (b) confessional standards, as they integrate their course material to their (c) ministry contexts.
2. Identify, develop, and use personal abilities, gifts, and gained knowledge to strengthen their church’s worship of and service to Jesus Christ.
3. Demonstrate growing Christ-like character through writing and practice of ministry.
4. Demonstrate clear understanding of ministry and theology and competence in applying that knowledge to vocational ministry settings.
5. Develop a biblical vision and a project relevant to one’s particular ministry setting.
6. Demonstrate strong writing and research skills.
Applicants must have completed an MDiv (or its educational equivalent, see below) at an accredited institution with a grade point average of 3.0 or higher. Applicants with a GPA between 2.75 and 2.99 may be considered for admission on probation; those with a GPA below 2.75 may be considered on a case-by-case basis. Applicants must ordinarily also have completed at least three years of ministry experience following completion of the MDiv.
Students with a master’s-level GPA of at least 2.0 who would like to pursue advanced doctoral study without pursuing a project/dissertation may apply for admission into the Advanced Certificate in Applied Theology (ACAT). Students must complete at least 15 hours of DMin-level coursework with a cumulative GPA of 3.0. ACAT students may at any time petition for admission to the DMin program without loss of academic credit, provided the grade for each course is a “C” or better and the cumulative GPA is 3.0 or higher; application should be made to the Post-Graduate Committee through the DMin director.
Students must complete 36 semester hours of credit as outlined below with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher. Only courses with grades of “C” or higher will count toward the 36 hours. Students must maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.0 to remain in good standing and maintain eligibility for financial aid. The program may be completed in as little as three years of part-time study. Except in cases of substantial transfer credit, candidates are not eligible to receive the DMin degree in less than two years. Students must normally complete the program within five years.
Transfer and Residency
At least 18 semester hours, including the two Foundations courses, two electives, and the project/dissertation, must be completed in-residence in Due West or Columbia. DMin students may take ThM courses for DMin credit but may not take master’s-level courses (although DMin students may participate in a master’s-level course as part of the requirements for an independent study). With the approval of either the program director or the advisor, the residency requirement may be fulfilled through some directed or independent studies as needed.
Students may transfer up to 18 hours into Erskine’s DMin program from another accredited ThM, DMin, or PhD program. Only courses with grades of B (3.0 on a 4.0 scale) or higher may be transferred. The DMin director will determine to which areas (Norms, Functions, or Contexts) such transfer credit applies. Ordinarily, students may include no more than six hours of cross-registered courses. Transferred and cross-registration courses may not be used to satisfy residency requirements.
Students who are graduates of approved professional military schools may receive transfer credit for up to one-half of the DMin program requirements. For example, Army chaplains may receive such transfer credit for their Chaplain Officer Basic Leadership Course and their Chaplain Advanced/Career Course. The exact number of hours accepted in transfer will be determined by the DMin director in consultation with the Dean. Such transfer credit will count toward Functions and Contexts electives, leaving students to take two Norms electives unless granted an exception by the DMin director.
Only courses with grades of “C” or higher count toward the DMin degree. Students who receive a grade lower than “C” in a required course must repeat the course. Students who receive a grade of “C” or lower in an elective may repeat the course or take another elective (subject to distribution requirements). If the student takes a different course, the original grade remains on the student’s transcript and both grades are computed in the grade point average (GPA). If the student takes the same course again, both grades remain on the transcript, but only the higher is calculated in the GPA and the hours earned for that course are counted only once toward graduation. Students must pay full tuition for any repeated courses and students are expected to retake the entire course and not submit only the missing or inadequate work from the first attempt.
Admission to the DMin requires an MDiv (or its educational equivalent). For purposes of admission, the Seminary defines “MDiv equivalence” as including the following:
1. Possession of a master’s degree with at least 72 hours of graduate-level work in a related field from an accredited seminary or graduate school, with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0.
2. Applicants with a GPA between 2.75 and 2.99 may be considered for admission on probation; those with a GPA below 2.75 may be considered on a case-by-case basis.
3. Completion of graduate-level courses in each of the three major areas of Erskine’s MDiv curriculum (Bible, Theology, and Ministry). Students normally should have taken 18-24 semester hours in each area. Courses in the following subject areas are desirable:
Principles of Exegesis
Pre-Ref Church History
Ref/Mod Church History
Prolegomena to Theology
Systematic Theology (Loci)
DMin applicants who lack MDiv equivalence may be admitted provisionally if they have only minimal deficiencies (usually no more than two courses) and permitted to complete these while enrolled in the DMin program. Applicants with more substantial deficiencies will normally be required to make up the deficiencies before being admitted.
- DR 901 Theological Foundations for Ministry
- DR 902 Ministry in Context
- One Norms (DN) elective
- One Functions (DF) elective
- One Contexts (DC) elective
Five other electives (students may choose electives that concentrate on their area of study) ThM courses BI 801 and ST 801 can be taken for DMin credit as Norms electives.
- DR 090 Candidacy (non-credit)
- DR 010 Prospectus Writing Seminar (recommended, non-credit)
- DR 941, 942, 943 Project/Dissertation (6 hours)
Students may enter the program in any semester or term but are expected to take one Foundations course each semester or term until both courses are completed. Students should normally begin with DR 901 Theological Foundations for Ministry, followed by DR 902 Ministry in Context.
Classes are typically taught in five or six day-long sessions throughout the semester or term or in week-long intensives. All courses require significant work prior to their first class meetings. Course syllabi are available on the Seminary’s website approximately one month prior to the first meeting.
The project/dissertation is the culmination of the DMin program, consolidating the results of the DMin coursework. Students will normally identify a particular activity or project to be conducted with people in their own ministry setting, such as starting a major program, addressing a pastoral conflict or need, or leading a congregation to a fresh vision. Some students may elect to do a dissertation that is more concept-based, exploring some theological, historical, or ministry issue in detail rather than conducting an actual project in a ministry setting.
Students should begin preliminary planning for their project/dissertation early in their program. In particular, DR 902 Ministry in Context will help students learn to identify an appropriate project.
Before beginning the project/dissertation, students must be approved for candidacy by registering for DR 090 Candidacy (non-credit) in which they will submit a Prospectus for their proposed project/dissertation. This Prospectus must be written according to the standards outlined in the DMin Manual and approved by the project/dissertation advisor and by a faculty reviewer. Students should not register for DR 090 until they anticipate that they can write and submit the Prospectus
for approval. Failure to complete the Prospectus during the semester or term for which the student is registered will result in an incomplete in DR 090 and this will become an “F” if not cleared before the Academic Calendar’s deadline. Students should take the Prospectus Writing Seminar prior to writing the Prospectus and registering for candidacy. Students may not attempt candidacy more than three times; after three unsuccessful attempts, students will be dismissed from the program.
Once students have completed candidacy, they will normally register for DR 941/942/943 DMin Project/Dissertation in the next three consecutive terms (fall, spring, and summer). Students may not register for DR 941/942/943 before completing candidacy. The grades for DR 941/942/943 will appear on the transcript as “NC” (no credit) until the dissertation has been completed, when a grade of “P” (pass) will be entered on the student’s transcript. Students who do not complete the dissertation within these three terms must register for DR 095 Continuation of the DMin Project/Dissertation (non-credit) each semester or term until it is completed. Students who do not complete their dissertation within two years after first registering for DR 941 will receive a grade of “NC” for DR 941/942/943; students who still wish to continue in the program must register for DR 941/942/943 again and pay full current tuition.
When the project involves working with people, students must secure the approval of Erskine’s Institutional Review Board (IRB), or, if the student is conducting research with an organization that has its own federally registered IRB, provide the DMin director with documentation of approval by that other IRB. The IRB serves a regulatory function that is essential to ensuring both ethical and legal standards regarding data and research at the institution as a whole. As a vital part of this Christian community, it is essential that the process of maintaining the highest standards be clear to all individuals. The IRB must review and approve all research with humans, animals, life-potentiating substances (including but not limited to genes and base-pair proteins), and materials relating to recent decedents. This includes all research involving talking to people, surveys, biomedical assays, interventions, analyses of personal information, etc. For more information, see the IRB webpage
Once the project/dissertation has been approved by the advisor and the reviewer, students must submit to the DMin director at least three copies of the final, corrected, approved, and unbound dissertation, as well as an electronic copy of the dissertation in PDF format (submitted by email). The dissertation must conform to the Seminary’s specifications for theses/dissertations and must be submitted by the appropriate deadline (see the Academic Calendar for specific dates). The oral review of the project/dissertation will be scheduled after the finalized copies have been received. The students will submit additional unbound copies if they desire more copies.
Students in the DMin program must remain continuously enrolled and are required to register each fall, spring, and summer without interruption (unless granted a temporary withdrawal). Students who fail to do so will automatically be suspended from the program and will lose access to library materials and the services of their advisors. Students who have not yet begun their project/dissertation must register each term (fall, spring, summer) either for a credit course or for DR 091 Continuation of the DMin Program (non-credit). Students who have completed candidacy must normally register for DR 941/942/943 DMin Project/Dissertation in the next three consecutive terms (fall, spring, and summer); students who do not complete the project/dissertation within these three terms must register for DR 095 Continuation of the DMin Project/Dissertation (non-credit) each semester or term until the dissertation is completed.
Students receiving financial aid should be aware that some program requirements (such as DR 090 Candidacy, DR 091 Continuation of the DMin Program, and DR 095 Continuation of the DMin Project/Dissertation) carry no academic credit and hence no eligibility for financial aid. Students receiving aid should plan their schedules to ensure that they are enrolled in at least three credit hours each semester or term (fall, spring, summer).
Students may request a temporary withdrawal from the program for a period of up to one year per request (and not more than two years total) by writing to the Post-Graduate Committee through the DMin director. During a temporary withdrawal, students do not have to remain continuously enrolled. Students who wish to return to the program must request reinstatement by writing the Post-Graduate Committee through the DMin director.
Students who fail to maintain continuous enrollment without receiving a temporary withdrawal will be suspended from the program. Students who wish to return to the program must send a written request to the Post-Graduate Committee through the DMin director and pay any applicable fees. The Post-Graduate Committee reserves the right to require a full application from those seeking readmission, especially if they have been out of the program for a substantial period.
Students who fail to complete the program within five years (excluding any time of temporary withdrawal) will be suspended unless they have requested and received an extension from the PostGraduate Committee. Any student who is suspended will receive grades of “F” for any outstanding work (including the project/dissertation). If subsequently readmitted, the student must register again for any such outstanding work and pay the appropriate readmission fees and tuition at current rates.
Students may request a one-year extension of the time allotted to complete the degree by writing a letter to the Post-Graduate Committee through the DMin director explaining the circumstances that have prevented them from completing the degree and outlining their plan and timeframe for completing all requirements. If the Committee approves the extension, the student must pay a substantial fee for the extension of time. If necessary, students may apply for another one-year extension. Under no circumstances will more than three such extensions be granted. If the Committee denies the request, the student will be permanently suspended from the program.