My journey through the D.Min.program was marked by growing insight and motivation to strive for excellence for myself and those to whom I minister. In particular, the coursework and dissertation project enhanced my view on ministry in an urban African American community in five distinct ways.
First, the Congregational Systems Inventory we employed in an initial class increased my understanding of the various dimensions of leadership and how excesses within any one of the seven dimensions, as outlined by the Alban Institute, can have significant impact on congregational vitality and operations.
Second, the research aspect of the program was an eye-opening experience and brought to me a keen awareness of the problems and issues facing the African American community and the churches that attempt to minister in an urban environment. There are many issues such as health, environmental, and social issues that are more prevalent within the black community and they make ministry much more difficult than in an average middle-class setting. I discovered there are no "magic bullets" and any attempts at making an impact must involve partnering with other agencies and organizations that have expertise in those areas.
Third, through the combination of the survey from the Alban Institute and the small focus groups I conducted, I have a better awareness of the DNA of my congregation. I also found, when comparing our results with median score of other churches throughout America, we are not very different from other congregations.
Fourth, this project increased my desire for self improvement and excellence in the ministry, while also leading my congregation to seek excellence and to live out its values on a day-to-day basis. In order for us to truly become "ambassadors for Christ," we must have a personal commitment and a bias for aiding others on this journey.
So even though I had reservations about the impact [the program would have] on my time, I was at the point that I really wanted to do it and now I am developing a more robust background for my teaching and preaching.Finally, this entire process of the project and dissertation taught me the process of viewing a situation, reviewing literature and history related to the situation, understanding its theological implications, and making informed decisions about the situation. This journey caused me to look beyond esoteric information and really delve into what is going on within a local congregation. Appearances can be deceiving, but when detailed data gathering, analysis, and comparisons are done in a structured, repeatable way, actions toward improvement can occur.
How has your D.Min. research informed your ministry?
Anthony D. Bonds, D.Min. ‘13, is senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church, Rochester, N.Y. His dissertation was: Urban Black Church Leadership: An Andragogical Approach to Developing and Nurturing Leaders Within the Ebenezer Baptist Church.