DMin Thesis Abstract – Transforming Vocations

A B S T R A C T: Doctor of Ministry Thesis ~ May 2015
Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University
Rev. Kendrick G. Crawford
M.Div. Brite Divinity School, 1996
B.G.S.
Texas Tech University, 1992
“Transforming Vocations – Journeys in the New Pastoral Economy: Conversations with clergy moving from traditional parish ministry toward ‘what’s next.’”

Jesus offers to us his own experience of crucifixion and resurrection as a metaphor for transformation in our lives. This theme is translated into a secular framework by Theory U. The common understanding in these and other narratives is that “the new cannot emerge until the old begins to fall away.” The prospect of this, however hopeful, is also frightening and lonely for those who experience it. Such is the lived vocational journey of clergy who are being called out of fulltime parish ministry into new forms and expressions. In some cases the new work is new only to them, while in others the ministry is being created as if for the first time. Particularly when this is the case, no one knows how to encourage or support these pastors. Often their work is not even acknowledged as pastoral, with the commonly heard concern, “Oh, so you’re leaving the ministry?” Added to this is the clergyperson’s own internal wrestling with what it means to honor their call and ordination in these new ways. Their own question is, “Am I still a pastor?”

The purpose of this practicum/project is to capture and represent the stories of this journey into the New Pastoral Economy – the emerging landscape of multivocality in ministry and often multiple streams of income. Additional goals are to identify key themes and experiences that can be waymarkers for clergy on the journey; to provide resources for the journey; and to propose future work that would continue this effort. My hope is that the project contributes to and advances the conversation and the practice of multivocal Christian ministry that will continue to emerge in the coming decades.

The practicum was conducted over a four month period of time. A group of six ordained clergy were interviewed using a modified enthnographic approach. They have experienced a variety of vocational transformations over the last decade. They represent a dozen current and former denominational affiliations. Each of them served in full time pastoral ministry in local congregations prior to discerning the call (being driven by the Spirit?) into the liminal space of emerging vocational manifestations. They are all still discovering and creating their own way, finding multivocal expressions of their original call. This is also my story, so the project tells portions of my own journey of discovery.

The practicum/project demonstrates the wide array of life stories that bring people to the discernment to step away from fulltime congregational ministry but NOT turn away from their sense of call and vocation. These are not people who are giving up on God, the church, or their own ordination. Rather, they are recognizing that faithfulness to these gifts from God requires that they leave the supposed security of parish life and a staff salary in order to follow the leading of the Spirit and become cocreators with God and colaborers for the incoming reign. Each participant expressed how grateful they were and how much the process of telling their own story was itself instrumental in their growing understanding. The project illustrates the critical need for more opportunities of storytelling and sharing, of community building among these clergy, and resourcing for them and the work God is calling them to fulfill.

Download PDF here: DMin Abstract – KGCrawford – Transforming Vocations

Update on My DMin Program

With gratitude for the support of the Elders, Board and congregation, I started my Doctor of Ministry studies at Perkins School of Theology at SMU in June of 2012 with two 3 week classes that ran concurrently, one in the morning and the other in the afternoon. Two major papers were due a week later.

In the Fall 2012 semester I have been enrolled in a course entitled Feminist, Womanist and Mujerista Theologies – the subtitle is simply “Women’s Theologies”. The primary focus of the course is on what develops when women do theology from their own point of view, rather than simply receiving without critical reflection what a male dominated church hands to them. The bible was almost entirely written by men, the cannon formed by men, and the primary interpreters of the bible for Christian theology have almost all been men. It is widely accepted that women and men experience the world differently, view their situations differently, even use language differently. So what happens when these differences are honored in the tasks of listening to scripture and doing theology. I explained in a sermon series during August how I was choosing to enter this class experience as a way to develop my ability to listen, hear, and ask questions of others (Learning to Listen ~ Learning to Hear, Learning to Ask Questions, and another related post about my school work and our church conversations: Learning to Listen revisited). My final paper for the class is entitled “Evangelicalism and Feminism in Conversation” and it explores the ways in which women find their voice and describe their experiences from within an evangelical church context.

My next classes are January 8-18. I am scheduled to take:

Evangelism and Discipleship for a Missional Church (DM9374)  – 8:30 to 11:30 AM. This course provides a foundation for the theory and practice of evangelism and disciple formation in congregations grounded in a missional ecclesiology. With Dr. Elaine A. Heath

AND:

The Ministry of Spiritual Guidance (DM9368)  – 1:30 to 4:30 PM. Spiritual Guidance is not simply a dimension of parish ministry. It is the key to recovering the mission of the church. This course offers a diagnosis of the situation faced by the church, the theological basis for change, the vocational assumptions necessary to that change, and conversations about the ways in which those changes might be effected. With Dr. Frederick W. Schmidt

I believe that these two classes will be important aids for us as a congregation as we think about deepening our ministry of discipleship here, including our conversation on the scope and sequence of our teaching ministry. The course on evangelism will help us to think about having spiritual conversations with our neighbors as a way to open space for the Holy Spirit to work in and through us to share Christ with those around us.

Speaking of preaching, my plan is to take Preaching from the Bible: Paul (PR8303) on Thursdays from 9-11:20am with Dr. Brad Braxton. As I noted last spring in my sermon on March 4th, I have been in an intentional season of reflection on my preaching. I have been preaching weekly since November of 1997. This class should provide a chance to both reflect on my present approach, as well as exploring other approaches.

The thesis phase of my doctoral work should begin next summer and take 1-2 years.

I began this Doctor of Ministry program because I believe in the ministry of the church in this community and wanted to further my education to strengthen that ministry.  I believe in what we are doing here. I believe in the promised future of this congregation.

We may be like Zechariah and Elizabeth, who was thought to be barren when God moved in their lives to bring them a son, and through them prepare the way of the Lord. We may be like Israel who groaned in Babylon for what felt like far too long. It has always been this way for God’s people. When things seemed most bleak, God appeared. Jesus brought Lazarus from the tomb, though Mary and Martha had all but given up hope.