Whew! What a week. The "dissertation-writing and church-based research class" that we took this past week on campus was pretty overwhelming. It was a very helpful week, though, but it is simply the beginning of a long journey that will, God willing, culminate with graduation in May 2008!
I wrote earlier this week on Wednesday right after one of the most important points of the week for me. I had just become more clear about my research focus (after a day of class discussion on students’ topics), a process that I’ve been thinking about (to one degree or another) since beginning the program three years ago. During these two years I’ve gone through a couple of ideas (storytelling as a leadership skill and spiritual leadership). Interestingly, both of these may very well play a part in my current focus.
The highlight of the week, though, was the lunch we had with Dr. Russell West. Joleen and I took a class he taught last July called "Developing Leadership in the Local Church." On Friday of that week (just before making the long trip home), the three of us went to lunch to discuss possible dissertation topics. During the week, Dr. West had expressed openness to working with us on our projects (the school assigns us a faculty mentor to work with us on the dissertation project).
In preparation for this past week on campus, we made arrangements to meet with Dr. West again. Once again, we met for lunch on Friday before heading home. We met at Romano’s Macaroni Grill (our favorite Italian chain, but that’s another story). It was a tremendously helpful time for both Joleen and I. We left with much clearer direction for our projects!
So in case you’re wondering what the next 17 months might look like, here’s the basic time-line …
- By 03.16.2007, a rough draft of Chapters 1-3 (out of 5) is due; this essentially represents our "proposal." This may very well be the most important deadline of all. Everything that follows seems to depend on this one. (FWIW, students that do not gain approval within one year, must retake this class. This year, there were 20 of us taking the class for the first time. There were approximately 10 students taking it for the second time! Actually, about 70% of people who start doctoral programs in the US do NOT ever finish. Yikes. Perseverance is the keyword!)
- During the summer of 2007, we will attend a "proposal hearing" to gain approval for our topic/project ideas.
- In late summer and/or early Fall, following approval, we will conduct our proposed ministry projects in our respective contexts; at the completion of our projects (now called "interventions"), we will write Chapters 4 and 5 which reflect on what we learned from our projects and point to possible future research ideas for others to carry the research further.
- In early 2008, we will meet with a D.Min. committee to defend our dissertation.
- Assuming we survive this process, we anticipate graduating on 05.24.2008, a little more than 16 months from now!
We’re excited about this journey and pray that it will be a huge growth opportunity for us and the congregations we serve. We would appreciate your prayers during this experience!