Doctor of Ministry in Ministry Development

VTS is pleased to offer an electronic application form for the D.Min. program which you can complete on-line as the first step in the application process.  Click here for the application.
Our world needs wise Christian leaders who can use a variety of perspectives and tools to read and understand challenging situations, think on their feet, point to the Holy, and open paths of transformation in peoples lives.
Since 1975 we have been helping religious leaders do just that.
Pastoral leaders from many denominations come to our Ministry Development program
  • people who serve in churches, hospitals, the military, mission fields, and public sectors
  • people with 3 – 30 years of experience in religious leadership
  • people with proven skills and leadership, who want to wrestle with new challenges
Students in Ministry Development focus on the building and strengthening of Christian communities, and on the bridge-building and connecting of Christian communities with their surrounding neighborhoods, towns, and cities for the sake of common mission, the Common Good, and a living witness of God’s Good News.
Core courses for DMin in Ministry Development
Foundations of Christian Mission and Community Formation
Ministry in Context
Building Evangelizing Communities
Moral and Ethical Leadership
Governance and Mission
Students will also find a wide array of topical courses including “Leading from the Pulpit,” “Liturgical Theology for Congregational Mission,” “Dynamics of Conflict and Change,” “Intentional Missional Leadership,” “Human Emotions and Ministry,” “Holistic Environments of Integrated Faith and Learning,” “Fostering Cultures of Spiritual Guidance,” and other topical courses related to the building and bridging of communities.

Campus residency schedule*

Summer, year I: 3 week residency
Summer, year II: 3 week residency
Summer, year III: 3 week residency
*beginning 2017-2018 (Summer 2018)

Course Offerings

List of 9 items.

  • Requirements to apply

    Reflection on your ministry begins during this process.

    Requirements to apply:
      • Three years of full-time ministry are required for participation in the DMin program.
      • A Masters of Divinity (MDiv) or an equivalent graduate-level degree in a theological discipline is expected. Exceptions are made, depending on ministry experience and recommendations.
      • Be at work in full-time, continuing ministry
      • Strong motivation for professional and spiritual growth
      • A strong capacity for writing, reading, reflection and conversation in the English language.
      • Curiosity, humility, and courage to learn and try new ways of leading.
      • Preparatory readings and assignments

        These set the stage for on-campus sessions.


        The following books are required reading before arrival in January.


        The Practice of Adaptive Leadership, by Ronald Heifetz (and also The Work of Leadership, available as an online book)

        A Failure of Nerve, by Edwin Friedman

        Doing Local Theology, by Clemens Sedmak

        Practical Theology: An Introduction, by Richard Osmer

      • 9 total weeks of on-campus residencies at VTS

        Participate in 1-3 week long intensive courses and case study sessions spaced over 2 1/2 years.


        January (Year 1 – two-week session)

        Introduction to Doctor of Ministry Studies

        Ministry in Context Seminar

        Family Systems Seminar

        Case Studies

        Leadership Lecture

        Daily Worship & Biblical Reflection


        January (Year 2 – one-week session)

        Congregational Studies Seminar

        Daily Worship & Biblical Reflection


        Summer (Year 2 – three-week session)

        Three weeklong intensive seminar courses

        Case Studies

        Summer Leadership Lectures

        Discussions on theologies of leadership and mission

        Daily Worship & Biblical Reflection


        Summer (Year 3 – three-week session)

        Three weeklong intensive seminar courses

        Case Studies

        Summer Leadership Lectures

        Project Thesis Workshop

        Daily Worship & Biblical Reflection



        Ministry in Context:

        Explore organizational, developmental, congregational, and missional perspectives on ministry. Focus on dynamics of power and influence, social networks, patterns in attendance and membership, Christian practices, and connections with the surrounding social context.


        Family Systems:

        Gain a solid understanding of Bowen's Family Systems Theory and the work of Edwin Friedman. Use this knowledge as a framework for understanding the dynamics of the social systems which shape people's behaviors and responses to one another, as well as your role in ministry in light of the social systems which shape human actions.


        Dynamics of Conflict and Change:

        Gain experience during this practice-oriented course on changing organizational communication patterns. Focus on the roots of problematic interpersonal and systemic dynamics, with attention to varied ministerial and educational settings. Short case situations prepared by students allow for in-class practice of new skills for engaging conflict and facilitating open communication more effectively.


        Human Emotion and Ministry:

        Study the latest perspectives from psychology, biology, pastoral ministry and leadership on basic emotion, grief, trauma, and change, and how leaders can work most effectively with emotion.


        Paul and the Churches in Conflict:

        Use Paul's epistles as guides to faithful engagement in the midst of challenges and conflicts in congregations and denominations, with particular attention to disputes in the Anglican Communion as a test case.


        Holistic Environments of Faith and Learning:

        Focus on the integration of faith and learning in worship, classroom teaching, and social outreach (e.g., service-learning). Examine, in a workshop setting, the developmental approaches to creating holistic environments that foster and strengthen habits in perception, thought, reflection, prayer, expression, and natural leadership.

      • Daily worship and bible reflection

        Each day begins with praise, prayer, and focused meditation or small-group discussion of biblical texts.

        Worship and Biblical Reflection


        Daily worship and biblical reflection are an integral part of the DMin campus experience. Participants in both DMin programs come together for daily morning worship that is drawn from a variety of Christian traditions. Readings from scripture focus on God's continuing work of redemption and transformation, and our part in that great work.


      • Study of place of ministry

        With a team chosen from where you live and work, study your context of ministry and its surrounding social context.

        Congregational Study

        At home following the first January residency, you will select and work with a Congregational Study Team to study the place of ministry where you serve. Our online course guides you through reading and interpreting your context of ministry using 10 different lenses or frameworks, including personal faith narratives, history, attendance and participation patterns, social networks, Christian practices and implicit theology, and connection with the surrounding community. The process concludes with a self-assessment of your own role as minister and leader. These studies are shared with other members of your D. Min. class when you return the following January.

      • Self-selected training

        Identify and choose training in a specific set of skills or capacities.




        During the course of the D.Min. program, you are expected to complete a focused leadership development training conference of your choosing. Choose a leadership development training conference that offers training in an area of leadership directly related to your particular ministry interests, goals, and needs. Training areas may include conflict resolution, community organizing and community development, marriage preparation and support, Christian education training, crisis intervention, board development, or other focused areas. Periodically, VTS will host an opportunity for D.Min. students and other leaders.

      • Case studies

        Learn to use this format to create disciplined reflection on your actions in ministry and leadership.

        Case Study Workshops

        Case Study Workshops are the heart of the Virginia Theological Seminary Doctor of Ministry programs. Case studies use an action-reflection approach that helps you examine your own practice of ministry in light of biblical, theological, organizational, behavioral, and developmental perspectives. You will prepare case studies at home, from real experiences in your last year of ministry and leadership that have taken you to the edge of your own competency or comfort. On campus, DMin colleagues and instructors reflect with you on each case, bringing multiple perspectives and insights to bear on these important situations.


      • Community of discourse

        Ongoing conversation with peers and instructors, informally and through telephone and videoconference sessions.
      • Project thesis

        Plan, execute, and evaluate an “experiment” in your ministry context that addresses a higher aim of Christian life, service, and leadership, culminating in the completion of your project thesis.

        Project Thesis

        Your project thesis is the culmination of your work in the VTS DMin program. Working with a committee of VTS faculty and DMin instructors, and with helpful insight and support from your DMin peers, you will develop a project – a sustained but focused act of ministry and leadership - that attempts to address a needed or desired development in your context of ministry. Shaped by insights from behavioral and theological disciplines, the project must address a larger concern about how to strengthen Christian ministry, witness, and faithful life, and how to engage effectively in the ongoing transformation of souls, communities, or societies.

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