Dissertation Projects DMin

Date of Award


Document Type

Project Report

Degree Name

Doctor of Ministry


Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary


Doctor of Ministry DMin

First Advisor

H. Peter Swanson

Second Advisor

James J. North

Third Advisor

Walter B.T. Douglas



This study was an examination of the counseling style of six pastors and to determine if they have a clearly defined method of informing their interventions.


The task of this dissertation was to design a curriculum to train a pilot group of six pastors in the Lake Region Conference to do spiritual diagnoses and assessments and to have a better psychological understanding of diagnosing in their pastoral ministry. They learned how to integrate spirituality and psychology into their counseling. They were also taught some DSM-IV concepts and how to use the Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF) Scale.

I worked with the six pastors over a three-month period. A pre-training questionnaire was administered before the training program and a post-training questionnaire was administered afterwards. Due to the small size of the sample, the results of the two questionnaires are not intended to be applied to pastors in general. Some general observations were made from the findings. My intention was test the psychological knowledge of the six pastors and to assess their biblically based approach to counseling.


I expected that pastors would have knowledge of psychological terms because they typically use them in counseling. The survey data revealed that they did not have adequate knowledge to do psychological counseling even though they were attempting just that. It was anticipated that the pastors would be able to make a clear differentiation between psychologically based counseling and scripturally based counseling. However, the results in the survey showed that they could not. While they claimed that they did both, the discussions during the workshops revealed some confusion as to how they applied the two disciplines independently of each other. It was believed that pastors would be able to identify pastoral diagnosis, but the survey showed a general lack in their ability to do so.

Pastoral counseling and diagnosis are a significant part of parish ministry. Yet many Seventh-day Adventist pastors are entering parish work with inadequate training in this area. Many Christians facing emotional and spiritual turmoil turn to their pastors first because of easy access and because they are typically not charged for pastoral counseling. Often-times, pastors who provide counseling do so more from a psychological approach than from a biblical perspective. Pastors must be able to recognize mental disorders as described in the DSM-IV and other clinical literature, but their primary responsibility is to diagnose spiritual problems that are described in Scripture. This endeavor is designed to help pastors who are already in the field to improve their skills through conference-sponsored training. This training program is designed to help create within the church a safe place for hurting people who through appropriate spiritual diagnosis can be led towards wholeness and reconciliation to God.

Subject Area

Pastoral counseling; Pastoral psychology

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.



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