Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Why I Am Going Back To School

   I start my first class in a Doctor of Ministry program next week. I was accepted to study at Columbia Theological School, located in Decatur, Georgia, and the first class starts September 10. Columbia is the second largest Presbyterian seminary in the US, only after Princeton. The schedule for this Introduction Class is Monday afternoon to Wednesday at Noon, on the second week of September, October, November and December. If you are wondering if a DMin program is rigorous, consider this as an answer: I am to complete two papers, totalling 10 pages in length, and read 78 pages from a theology textbook...all before I arrive on campus. There will be seven classes in all and they’ll require around 48 nights away over three-four years. Yet, despite the time away and the extra work, I am excited about the opportunity. Let me explain...
   I am not going back to school because I didn’t get enough of college the first time around. Did  you know I was in college or graduate school eleven straight fall terms from 1992-2003? While I received a BS, an MBA and finally a MDiv in that span, I was thoroughly done with school at the end. Since then, I have loved reading books that are not required and have loved attending conferences and classes that don’t finish with an exam or a grade. I am not going back to school because I have missed taking tests or writing papers, that is for sure!
   I am going back to school because I know I have a lot to learn. I first heard Bill Gates, the brilliant founder of Microsoft, refer to the necessity of being a lifelong learner back in 1997 and the idea stayed with me. I want to study and read and process from the great minds throughout Christian history, and sit at the feet of today’s scholars and professors who challenge me to excel and dig deeper.  
   One primary reason for starting an advanced professional degree, different than the Master’s 
degree required to be ordained a UM Elder, is how practical it is. Every class and every assignment is intended to translate directly to ministry in the local church. Going back to school helps me to better lead Epworth. You see, we are very close to hurdling one of the biggest obstacles to our future, namely a lack of visibility in this community, with the property purchase on the expressway. When that happens, we need to be already moving on the next steps and next actions. It is one thing for people to know where we are. We are soon going to want them to know who we are. That is where our leadership is headed next. I want to be prepared for the great things ahead.
   I first shared my thoughts with Wayne Morris, our church’s Staff-Parish Relations Chairperson, 
back in April. He actually assisted me in the application process with a letter of recommendation. He and I shared it with the SPR Committee in May, and with the Church Council last month.  Both groups offered warm feedback and encouragement. To be honest, I have been surprised at the number of people who have popped their head in my door or written me notes to wish me luck. It is so awesome to feel loved. The feeling is mutual. We love Epworth. I am excited about the chance to study with Epworth in mind! I covet your prayers...and is anyone interesting in proofreading?

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