I began examining PhD possibilities when Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary landed on my radar. It's cost effective and a little closer to my ministry in the West than many other seminaries. (And as it turns out, they are relocating, building a state-of-the art campus, and changing their name. You can learn earn more about that by following this link.)
However, after making a PhD prospectus visit something did not feel right. The PhD felt more removed from my ministry than I was seeking. It is extremely focused and I would probably greatly enjoy it; however, I was unsure it would serve my calling. It was on that trip however, when DMin (Doctor of Ministry) seeds were planted. But I struggled with this idea at first.
Many seminaries treat the DMin as either 'PhD lite' or 'ThM plus.' There are assumptions that the DMin is purely a cash cow for seminaries. Many hopeful PhD candidates argue that the DMin excludes opportunities to serve as a professor for a seminary. I've heard people say that it is not a serious degree and argued that the DMin is practical where the PhD is academic. While I can't speak for how other seminaries treat the DMin, I can say that nothing could be further from the truth at Golden Gate.
For starters, the GGBTS president, Dr. Jeff Iorg holds a DMin, not a PhD. There are many professors in seminaries and bible colleges across the nation who hold Doctorates of Ministry and teach in their respective fields. There are many more serving in successful pastorates. Many books and commentaries include the work of DMin guys and gals.
GGBTS is an ATS accredited seminary and an academic institution. They only offer academic degrees. The workload includes many seminars, not unlike the PhD. There is lots of reading, writing, and study. A major difference however, is that 8 of the 29 credits are an in-the-field, supervised, hand-on-ministry evaluation and study of the minister. Another difference between a PhD and a DMin at Golden Gate is the project. Rather than writing a lengthy dissertation on a narrow topic that nobody has ever previously conceived, the DMin candidate conducts an actual project in the field. He or she must academically (theologically and theoretically) identify, argue, and prove a ministry problem or challenge in his or her ministry, develop a solution, actually conduct the project, and than report on the findings. While the page count is limited to 100 perfectly written pages in exact Turabian format (plus large appendices), this is an academic process that requires an oral report and defense from an assigned committee. I'm told less than half the candidates that start the program finish and ever hold the title of doctor.
In all reality, the PhD and the DMin are just different. I recently heard a professor who holds multiple doctorate degrees describe it this way: The PhD is a research degree, whereas the DMin is professional degree. If this were the medical field, the PhD guy would be in a laboratory developing a cure for cancer while the DMin guy (not unlike the MD) would be in the hospital administering the cure for cancer. The DMin is the pastor working in the lives of the congregation and the PhD is writing the commentaries the pastor uses when he preaches. The PhD could write thousands of pages and be an expert on the doctrine of grace while the DMin is expected to gracious. Both are necessary degrees and in the end, they simply serve different purposes.
As I examined the focus of the DMin, I found it to be the best option for me. And as I looked at various schools, Golden Gate Baptist Theological seminary was the most appropriate choice.
*The above photo was taken and used by the US Air Force and is in the public domain.
** While I am presently DMin candidate at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, this endorsement is purely of my own opinion and was not solicited from GGBTS.