Types of Research
The D. Min. dissertation identifies and researches an underlying issue, problem, or question related to the practice of ministry. It attempts to fill in a gap in the knowledge of ministry by critically reflecting on a ministry question that needs to be answered, a ministry dynamic that needs to be studied, a ministry hypothesis that needs to be tested, or a ministry issue that needs to be explored. The student typically begins with a broad area of concern or interest and then, under the guidance of the dissertation committee, ultimately narrows the focus to a specific, researchable question.
There are several different research models that can be used successfully in the dissertation. The following list outlines some of the most common types, but is not intended to be exhaustive. Students should work closely with their faculty mentors to determine the most appropriate research methodology.
The student develops and implements a ministry intervention in the local church and attempts to isolate and measure certain variables. For example, the student might develop and implement a comprehensive strategy for bringing systemic change to a local church and test the effectiveness of the change strategy.
The student studies an aspect of a church, ministry, or organization for the purpose of greater understanding and evaluation, guided by specific research questions. For example, the student might identify a church (or cluster of churches) that is especially effective at spiritual formation with young adults and attempt to uncover the reasons for their effectiveness.
The student uses surveys, focus groups, or other quantitative measures in order to cast a wide net and draw preliminary descriptions and conclusions about the contours of some aspect of ministry. For example, the student might survey fifty executive pastors about their roles, responsibilities, and ministry satisfaction in order to learn best practices for those in executive pastor positions.
Biblical, Theological, or Historical Studies Approach
The student employs the methodological tools of the appropriate theological discipline to research and analyze both primary and secondary literature related to an aspect of ministry. For example, a student might study the development, nature, and role of the sacraments from Scripture through Christian history as the foundation for articulating a faithful theology and practice of sacramental life in the church today.
Other possible research methodologies should be discussed with the faculty mentor. The range of potential research topics is virtually limitless, and the student should choose the research methodology that will be most effective in answering the research question.
Regardless of the methodological approach, the student is expected to move beyond mere description to a critical analysis of the findings in a way that enriches the church’s and academy’s understanding of ministry praxis. All dissertations must show a profound understanding of and interaction with the existing literature in the field so the student is building on what is already known and making a meaningful addition to that literature. NES recommends that students peruse high quality D. Min. dissertations that have been produced at NES and other ATS accredited schools in order to learn about various approaches and topics.