What to Expect When You’re Expecting: A Doctorate?!!!

About 17 1/2 years ago, I started a graduate program at East Carolina University to pursue a master’s degree in general psychology with a concentration in industrial/organizational psychology. Less than a couple of weeks in my wife, Christi, informed me that we were expecting our first child. When it comes to having kids Christi and I are good at planning but not so much with timing.

My intention was to move from full-time to part-time employment to focus more on my studies. With the news that we were expecting our first child, I knew I would need to remain in my full-time position at work in order to have affordable insurance coverage for our family. The graduate program I got into did not allow for the option of taking classes on a part-time basis. So I decided I would both work and go to school full-time, not knowing if I would be able to handle it or not.

Just a couple weeks before finals that following spring semester, we delivered a happy and healthy baby girl. As a matter of fact Christi’s water broke while we were at a classmate’s apartment where he and I were trying to complete one of our assignments – probably one of Dr. Karl Wuensch’s notoriously difficult statistics and research design assignments. I completed everything on time that semester, and went on to complete the entire program on time too.

Cliff and Grace

About six years and two more kids later we moved into the parsonage at Banks United Methodist Church in Wilton, NC; that fall I started a Master’s of Divinity program at Duke Divinity School. As a student pastor, I completed the program in four years, rather than the typical three, in 2012. Since then, Christi and I have brought two more children into the world, and last fall discovered that we are expecting our sixth early summer this year. So what do you do when you’re expecting your sixth child? You start a doctor of ministry program of course!

Several months ago, I commented on a Facebook post by Rev. Dr David Watson, Academic Dean of United Theological Seminary (UTS) in Dayton, Ohio. Dean Watson posted that he and Dr. Justus Hunter, professor of Church history, were starting a DMin focus group called, “Living the Historic Faith: Christian Wisdom for Today’s Church.” I commented just to say that it sounded like an awesome focus group – very much needed – and that I would be interested in that myself if I didn’t have such a large family. Dean Watson replied that they would really like to have me and he wished I could find a way to join them. I don’t even think I replied back, but I definitely said to myself, there is no way I could do it.

United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, founded by Bishop Milton Wright, father of the famed Wright brothers, Wilbur and Orville, in 1871. Bishop Wright was a minister in the Church of the United Brethren in Christ.

Christi, my wife, caught wind of it and said I should at least think about it and see what might be available in terms of scholarships and financial aid. A couple weeks went by and, especially, after her comment, I did indeed think about it. I also started praying about it. Then I decided to shoot Dean Watson an email to see what might be available.

With the scholarship and other financial aid available, Christi and I believed it would be feasible for us, although our remaining expenses will still be quite significant. Nonetheless, I have sensed the Holy Spirit’s involvement in drawing me to this opportunity for such a time as this. Ironically, while I was preaching a revival for a friend and fellow pastor, I said, “No way! Absolutely not!” when he asked if I would ever pursue a doctorate degree. Well …

I just got home from my first week of intensive classes in Dayton. It was a great week, and I know, in spite of the work load, I’m really going to enjoy this DMin program. I’m incredibly excited to work with our mentors David Watson and Justus Hunter. By all indications, UTS seems to be a vibrant seminary. The leadership and staff obviously enthusiastically believe in the mission and value of UTS. They are graciously welcoming and eager to help students succeed academically, professionally, and personally. The UTS DMin program is designed with maximum support, guidance, and instruction for each student in mind. UTS is also welcoming of people from mainline, evangelical, and charismatic traditions. There is also a strong black church presence at United- the DMin program was started by the Rev. Dr. Samuel Proctor, an African-American Baptist church and civil rights leader. At UTS you will find people from a wide variety of Christian traditions: Methodist, Baptist, Nazarene, Pentecostal, and many others. One African-American pastor I met at the intensives this week is a Seventh-Day Adventist pastor from Alabama. UTS has a wide offering and excellent training for people from a variety of backgrounds, whether your interest is church administration, discipleship in the historic faith today, prophetic preaching or supernatural ministry and more.

Well, here we go again. I’m thankful for the opportunity and God’s provision. Pray for me and my family as I embark on another exciting educational journey. I pray that this journey bears much fruit for the kingdom of God as we seek to be equipped to help the people of God rediscover the historic faith and find the wisdom to live it fervently in the power of the Spirit again today.

If you’re thinking about a doctoral program, consider United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio. The great folks at UTS will do all they can to help you and to see how they can make it feasible for you. If you’ve been looking for ways contribute to the work of the kingdom financially, consider giving to help provide scholarships for seminary students. Pray and consider supporting UTS. Students like me greatly benefit from the generosity of people like you.

Again, I’m grateful for the opportunity to expand my capacity to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God and to make disciple-making disciples of Jesus Christ. To God be the glory!

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