L to R: Mike Gorr, Dave Parrish, Steve Magneson, Scott Newman, Chuck DeGroat, Dennae Pierre, Shari Stewart, Donna Field.
Missing: Rawee Bunupuradah, Blaine Crawford, Heidi De Jonge, James Ellis, Kevin VanderVeen
In March of 2018 WTS announced significant changes to our Doctor of Ministry degree. The new model is cohort-based, meaning that a faculty member guides participants through learning focused around a particular theme. Prior to 2018, each D.Min. student followed his or her own focus of study with an advisor, which wasn’t necessarily related to what other students were studying.
The “Deepening Soul Care and Spiritual Transformation for Mission” cohort led by Dr. Chuck DeGroat is the first D.Min. class of this kind to graduate, and the new model is showing great promise. Out of 14 initial students, 12 completed their dissertations and earned degrees. This theologically and racially diverse cohort brought together students from all over the country, Canada, and Thailand. Together they explored aspects of spiritual formation for the sake of the mission of God.
“Almost immediately a real sense of cohesion and bonding happened,” says Dr. DeGroat. “The group was there to engage around a similar theme, but each person brought a unique story and longing. We became a close-knit community through the challenges of COVID-19, racial tensions of the summer of 2020, vocational disruption, and personal stories of family illness and death.”
The D.Min. graduates describe their time at WTS as transformational. Some are already presenting their doctoral work to a wider audience, like Rev. Heidi DeJonge, who turned her thesis, “Truthing in Love: Engaging Conflict with the Disarming Love of God,” into a video series for the church she leads.
To those thinking about taking the plunge into a Doctor of Ministry program, Dr. DeGroat says, “I don’t know of a program where a student would get more personal attention, mentoring, community, freedom to explore, and incredible resourcing from a seminary. We invite students into reflection in ways that challenge them and prompt growth.”
“Chuck created a safe space for us to simply be ourselves on our individual journeys with God. The sense of family and authentic community was an invaluable part of the learning process.”
“Dr. DeGroat was very intentional in designing our cohort to nurture strong relational networks that significantly enriched the academic process. I learned so much throughout the three-year program and grew immensely from the environment that allowed me to share deeply in the work of other cohort members.”
“Whatever was needed, Dr. DeGroat was there: the professor with the needed academic challenge, the coach diagraming the way out of a tight spot, the pastor bringing a lantern into a specific darkness, or a trusted friend who’d flat-out earned the right to speak hard and necessary truths to us. …I absolutely cannot imagine how such a cohort could have been more expertly led. If you’re seriously looking for an academic/personal/spiritual journey that will change so much more than your resume, look no further.”
“I’m graduating from this D.Min. cohort twenty years after earning my M.Div. from Western Theological Seminary. The D.Min. program was just what I needed to reflect on the past twenty years of life and ministry, refocus my calling, and propel me into the next twenty.”
To learn more about open and in-process cohorts, visit westernsem.edu/dmin