I was in my late 50s when I made the decision to start the D. Min. program. At that point, my time was divided between two challenging occupations. For half of each week, I was engaged in the practice of law at a large law firm. For the other half of each week, I was employed as the assistant director of U. S. ministries for an association of churches.
As I look back on my D.Min. years, I realize that the journey was actually a very smooth one. The studies proved to be a relaxation for me—especially the residency week of class. As it worked out, the program fit nicely with my two jobs and was not a source or pressure or stress. It was a joy.
When new challenges flow, the Lord's grace always deserves the credit. In addition, there are often practical circumstances that aid us—a framework that has been set in place for us that makes it easier to succeed. I can identify two of the frameworks in my life that helped me succeed so well.
The first framework that helped me was my solid employment relationship with my employers. I had a 10- to 15-year history with both employers and had always been excellent in my work. In that context, I had earned enough points to negotiate a schedule that worked for me. I reduced income slightly, but gained the critical extra weeks I needed to engage in the course work. They understood and I understood that I simply had a third "employer" with a claim on my time. All three employers needed to be respected and honored.
The second framework that helped me was the mindset of completion with which I approached the D. Min. program. Rabbit trails may work when you are 28, but there is no place for them at 58. When I made the decision to start the program, I set myself to complete it. That was a great advantage for me, because waffling as to whether you will finish the program is a set-up for letting it slide. To complete a dissertation, you must be convinced that you are going to complete it. Once that is settled, then it is just a matter of choosing a practical topic that is related to your ministry and starting the process of writing.
I am very glad that I gave myself the opportunity to go through the D. Min. program at Northeastern. My ministry and my faith gained depth through that process.
How have you made time to pursue your own professional development?
M. Stephanie Zeller, D.Min. ’08, is the founder of Love Your Law, a ministry to churches and organizations to assist them in their understanding of law and tax. Her dissertation was: State Law and Church Polity: Amending the Law for the Incorporation of Elim Fellowship Churches.