Project Documents

Date of Award

2014

Document Type

Project Report

Degree Name

Doctor of Ministry

School

Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary

Program

Doctor of Ministry DMin

First Advisor

David Sedlacek

Second Advisor

Ricardo Norton

Third Advisor

Allan Walshe

Abstract

Problem. A significant number of students in the Master of Divinity program, covering a time span from the years 2002 – 2013, have reported that they perceive that their relationship with God has either remained the same or has decreased while enrolled in the MDiv program. This academic program is sponsored by a number of employing conferences of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. A study identifying what factors are contributing to this perception of stagnant or diminished spirituality among a significant number of MDiv students would provide a basis for determining what steps can be implemented to effectively address this concern.

Methodology. The websites of 15 non-Adventist ATS seminaries were reviewed to determine the role of spiritual formation in their MDiv curriculums. In addition, the curriculums of three Seventh-day Adventist seminaries were examined to determine the prominence of spiritual formation in their MDiv programs. The undergraduate theology/religion curriculums of four Seventh-day Adventist universities or colleges were also studied to ascertain how pronounced spiritual formation featured in their programs. An email questionnaire was sent to six seminaries with three questions related to how students are spiritually formed in their MDiv curriculums. The three seminaries who responded were contacted thereafter by phone or email for additional information and clarification. MDiv students participating in a focus group were given a questionnaire which requested basic demographic information. This questionnaire also asked students to respond in writing to seven quantitative questions and two qualitative questions designed to determine the impact of the MDiv program on their spirituality. The quantitative responses were tabulated and analyzed. The qualitative written responses provided an introduction to an in-depth focus group discussion of four questions related to the MDiv program’s impact on their spirituality. The qualitative responses from the focus groups were analyzed for common themes that would serve as a basis for recommendations addressing this topic.

Results. The review of the curriculums from the 15 non-Adventist ATS seminaries revealed that there is no uniform landscape regarding spiritual formation in their MDiv programs. Those seminaries that placed significant observable value on the spiritual formation of their students often provide opportunities outside of the classroom for students to meet in small groups on a regular basis for spiritual reflection. These groups are guided by a seminary professor or other ministry professional. Providing mentors for students was also a prominent feature of such MDiv programs. Those Seventh-day Adventist universities which offered Master of Divinity programs typically require one course in spiritual formation. Of the surveyed Seventh-day Adventist universities or colleges offering B.A. degrees in theology/religion, there was one spiritual formation course stipulated by each institution to fulfill the degree requirements. The quantitative analysis of the questionnaire was based on a scale from one to ten with ten representing “very pleased” and one representing “not pleased.” For example, in response to the question dealing with how positively has the MDiv program influenced your relationship with God, the mean average of those who responded was 5.4 (Track One students) and 6.1 (Track Two students). Track One students are those students who have a bachelor’s degree in theology or religion. Track Two students are generally students who have bachelor degrees in some field other than theology or religion. Data analysis of the focus groups identified one predominant positive theme for Track One students and six growth themes. Track Two students identified four positive themes and five growth themes. The role of the professor, Seminary worship, and the course Foundations of Biblical Spirituality were some of the themes some students identified as positively impacting their spirituality. Prominent growth themes centered on the number of assignments such as the reading requirements that often amounted to what some termed “busy work.” A number of MDiv students would like there to be more of an emphasis on spiritual transformation in the program, not just on information. There was also a strong feeling that the nature and the delivery of the practical courses need to be revisited.

Conclusion. There are a number of steps that the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary can implement to enhance spiritual growth among MDiv students. Doing so represents an opportunity for the Seminary to more effectively impact the spirituality of Master of Divinity students.

Subject Area

Master of divinity degree, Spiritual formation--Seventh-day Adventists, Spirituality--Seventh-day Adventists, Students--Religious life

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