The Senior Ministry Project
The Senior Ministry Project is an in-depth exploration of a question or issue in ministry. The project encourages the student to develop research skills, the capacity for theological reflection that is essential to ministry, and experience in engaging a variety of publics in practical theological conversation.
The project serves as the culmination of the student's Divinity School work. While focusing on a well-defined issue, it should be grounded in the biblical, historical, and theological studies that are integral to the M.Div. curriculum. Ideally, it makes use of research and writing from previous courses and is informed by the student's practice and reflection in field education and fieldwork. To that end, it is wise to keep the senior project in view from the time a student matriculates in the M.Div. program: students should be attentive to the questions raised by their study and practice, and should select course work that will promote proficiency in a particular area of study or theological method, while nurturing curiosity, interest, and familiarity with an identified issue in ministry.
The Senior Ministry Project consists of three parts:
1. Participation in a project seminar during fall and winter of the third year.
2. The completion of an M.Div. thesis, or written presentation, in the winter quarter of the third year.
3. The public presentation of project findings in the spring quarter of that year.
Defining the Topic and Approach
The issue in ministry and approach to it are to be agreed upon and refined in consultation with the student's faculty advisor and the Senior Ministry Project seminar leader. Care should be taken in situating a topic to make maximum use of course work and the unique resources of the Divinity School's faculty and staff. Students are encouraged to consult numerous sources—faculty, teaching pastors, community experts, and fellow students, as they develop a topic. Archives of senior ministry papers from previous classes are available for consultation in the ministry office. Exploration of the issue should include review and critique of relevant literature. The approach to be employed in the project will in large part be determined by the topic and questions being posed. Among possible approaches are historical research, theological construction or reflection, program or curriculum development and assessment, and quantitative or qualitative social research.
During the spring quarter of their second year, students work independently, confer with the seminar leader, and consult other faculty members to:
1. Define the issue in ministry that their Senior Ministry Project will explore
2. Clarify their method or approach
3. Identify an advisor
4. Identify primary resources
A project proposal with approval from the advisor and seminar leader is due before the end of the spring quarter. The written proposal should include one or two paragraphs stating the issue in ministry and the thesis of the project, and one or two paragraphs stating the approach or method to be employed in exploring the issue, a 1- to 2-page annotated list of primary resources—texts and possibly resource persons—to be consulted, and the name of the faculty member who has consented to advise the project.
In the autumn quarter, students register for CHRM 42500: Senior Ministry Project Seminar, which meets periodically throughout the autumn and winter quarters. Work in progress is presented during the seminar. The M.Div. thesis is due on the last day of the winter quarter. One copy of the thesis is given to the advisor and one to the project seminar leader. Additionally, a copy of the thesis should be e-mailed to the Director of Ministry Studies to be archived and linked to the ministry Web site.
During the spring quarter, students offer public presentations of their projects. A brief description of the presentation design, with a presentation date, venue, and title, is also due on the last day of the winter quarter.
The M.Div. thesis is a written presentation that should demonstrate the student's ability to think theologically about a particular issue of societal, ecclesiastical, or human significance, entering into the contemporary discussions in its field in a substantial way and making a thoughtful contribution to the practical theological conversation. The paper should include an introduction to the issue under investigation and a statement of the thesis. Summary and reflection on relevant research should argue and inform the thesis or explain the problem and insight of previous research. In projects that make use of social science methodology, an appendix including questionnaires, tables, and so forth should be included. The paper should be 30 to 40 pages in length.
The intent of the public presentation is to foster creative communication, broader appropriation, and a deeper public discussion of senior ministry projects. The form of the public hearing of the project is mediated by the subject matter and the needs of its various audiences: project formats have included panel discussions, interviews, presentation/discussion, worship services or sermons with reflections to follow, curriculum description with opportunities for groups to experience some dimension of the learning material, arts exhibits with artist talks, one-act plays followed by discussions between audiences and actors. Presentations may be collaborative, that is, the work from several projects may be combined to create a forum for communication of the findings. Collaboration should be considered especially if there are many senior projects to be presented in a given year. Presentations are given during the spring quarter, but should be planned and ready to be publicized by the end of winter term.
The careful scheduling and thoughtful staging of the presentation are an important part of the practical theological process and should be engaged in early and deliberately. Presentations should be designed to solicit responses from appropriate faculty members, teaching pastors, community preceptors, lay workers, and so forth. Students are encouraged to plan presentation times and formats to maximize thoroughgoing participation by a healthy representation of publics; fostering robust attendance at the presentation is part of the student's responsibility, and part of the ministry cohort's responsibility to each other. Avoid presentation times that conflict with ministry classes or major Divinity School events, schedules that make it impossible for lay people to attend, or venues that are difficult for any one group to reach. Keep in mind commute times and parking issues; organize carpooling and provide adequate directions. Consider late afternoons, early evenings, dinners, Wednesday lunches, or noon sack lunches. Final scheduling of project presentations must be done in consultation with the Ministry Area Assistant and the Director of Ministry Studies. The Divinity School will promote the presentations in its calendar and weekly bulletin board fliers, but students are encouraged to learn the very useful skill of promotion as well.
The grade for the written presentation will be assigned in consultation between the Senior Ministry Project seminar leader and the faculty advisor for the project. The course grade will be based primarily upon evaluation of the thesis, but will also reflect participation in the seminar and efficacy and accessibility of the public presentation. Final grades for the course will be submitted after the successful public presentation of the project.