I got a mailing today from the local seminary about their D.Min. program (that’s a Doctor of Ministry). I have long contemplated pursuing another degree (Shh! Please don’t tell my wife this) and the program looks right up my alley. The thought of being back in an academic setting really gets my brain juices flowing. Reading books and writing papers? Yes, please! I’m nerdy and I know it.
Of course, before I sharpen my No. 2 pencils, there are a few obstacles to overcome. Like time. I don’t seem to have a lot of that. And money. While $15,000 (give or take a textbook) is probably a good price for a D.Min., I don’t have that kind of loot stuffed into my mattress. And motivation. A series of courses sounds great now, but when I am up against an assignment deadline, and I also have to write a sermon and prepare a Bible study and come up with something intelligible to say in a newsletter column…well, suddenly the idea of furthering my education doesn’t seen quite as exciting. Just the thought of all that makes me want to drink one of those double-espresso thingees (in case you couldn’t tell, I’m not a coffee drinker).
But there’s a deeper question I’m wrestling with when it comes to my next academic pursuit (if it ever actually happens). Is a D.Min. the best degree for me? Or better yet, is a pastor with a D.Min. the best thing for the church? While the additional theological study would hopefully make me a better theologian or preacher, I don’t know that those are the areas in which I need the most help (my congregation might very well disagree) or the areas from which the church would most benefit.
Instead, maybe the best post-seminary degree would be an MBA. I could learn all the things about leading a church that we never discussed in seminary: how to read a budget, how to write a job description, how to manage personnel, how to raise funds. To be honest, I spend the majority of my week doing these kinds of things, not talking to parishioners about the Reformation or studying Job. I spent a semester – three months! – in seminary on both those topics, but didn’t spend an hour learning how to lead a Board meeting. Seminary did a great job of preparing me to be a pastor, not so great a job of training me to lead a church. And these days, it feels like those two vocations are moving further apart. We pastors have been left to figure this stuff out on our own, learning from our mistakes and hoping we don’t scare off too many committee chairs.
But maybe my move toward an MBA is a copout. After all, does the church really need MORE business acumen in its leadership? We pastors already run up against the wall of, “Well, at my job, we do it this way.” Sometimes that translates well to the church, sometimes it simply reinforces chauvinistic or authoritarian models of structure. Thanks, but no thanks.
What we need is a spiritual MBA, a degree that focuses on the administrative side of running a church, but infuses it with a faith-based foundation. What does God have to do with writing job descriptions? Crafting maternity policies? Running pledge campaigns? A lot, I would say. But unless you shell out big bucks to attend a bunch of Alban Institute seminars, there’s nowhere to learn about the relationship between administration and spirituality and how they can inform each other.
The local seminary is right across the street from a major university with a business school. Hmm. I wonder if there’s some way the two of them could have a sit-down together. The result could not only be a little more administrative help for us pastors, but also a little more spirituality for our future business leaders. What could we learn from each other about using social media, treating our employees justly, crafting attractive websites, building community on the job? Seems like we have a lot to offer each other, and I’m sure the church would benefit from it. Call it an MCA – Master of Church Administration. Hey, it’s no more absurd than a Master of Divinity, as if Divinity could actually be mastered.
At this point in my life, I’m not interested in pursuing a degree just to add letters to my name. My last name has plenty as it is. I only want to do something that will benefit the church I serve. If that’s a D.Min., great. If it’s an MBA, that’s fine, too. If it’s nothing at all, my wife would rejoice and my bookshelf would let out a sigh of relief. But I feel like we have to do something, or else the church will stay rooted in antiquated models of how it organizes, governs, and stewards its resources. We are called to be a city on a hill, but (mixed metaphor alert!) if we can’t lead our congregation members to row in the same direction, we’re just going in circles until we eventually sink.