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Ph.D. Application Update

Update: please see my March 06, 2009 post Advice about Duke Th.D. and Ph.D programs in theology

Original December 2006 post:

I am applying to Ph.D. programs in Practical Theology for next fall.  Most applications are due December 31st. 

I'm applying at the following schools (in no particular order):

  • Duke Divinity School (Th.D. - Practice of Leading Religious Communities and Institutions, Ethics, New Testament)
  • Princeton Theological Seminary (Ph.D. Practical Theology - Christian Education)
  • Fuller Theological Seminary (Ph.D. School of Theology, Practical Theology - Missional Leadership)
  • Luther Theological Seminary (Ph.D. Congregational Mission and Leadership)
  • Emory University (Ph.D. Person, Community, and Religious Life)

Each program is excellent and I am excited about them for different reasons.  In my area only 1-3 students is accepted per year at each school.  Anything can happen in the admissions process.  It is very competitive.  In the broader pool, you are competing with all of the church history, systematic theology, ethics, New Testament, and Old Testament applicants.  Some of them have never left the library and done a practical thing in their life and therefore look pretty darn good on paper. In this pool about 20 are accepted for 150 spots.  That is about average for these schools.  And even fewer get funding.  Did I mention that it is competitive? 

Everyone asks me what my top choice is.  I would like to be accepted to all five programs and then have the happy problem of having to choose where do go based on what they offer me and a zillion other factors . . . but did I mention that they are competitive and that therefore this is unlikely?

These programs all weigh heavily your GRE score (which I take December 15), your foreign languages, your references, your grades, where you went to school, your personal statement, and your writing sample.   See my comments on taking the GRE here

Perhaps some of you didn't know that I don't have a Ph.D. I'm 31 years old and I have only have my MDiv.  Amy and I are teaching at Taylor University in our second year of 1 year contracts.  We were able to slip in without the typical Ph.D. because there was a one year position that needed to be filled.  Surprisingly, another one year gap presented itself this year.  We are enjoying teaching.  Amy and I share 26 credits.  (One full-time load is 24 credits).  We teach different courses and share the parenting load.  It is great. 

I'm very excited about doing my Ph.D. in order to deepen and learn and prepare myself for further leading, teaching, writing and ministry.  I look forward to continuing to serve the church by equipping pastors and young people in the seminary and university. 

Amy and I also have a deep love for the local church.  It would not be surprising if we ended up spending more time in leadership of a local church.  Amy misses church leadership greatly.  She would likely serve as an associate pastor part-time while I worked on my Ph.D and we would continue to coparent.

My interests in studying include:

  • Ecclesiology
  • How young adults in their 20's are integrated into church leadership structures
  • How emerging church values are affecting megachurches
  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  • Pauline ecclesiology
  • New Testament ethics
  • Bridging theology and practice
  • Practical theology
  • The use of Scripture by church leaders to explain church strategies
  • How contemporary business models affect models of church

I would appreciate your prayers in the next month as I contact references, finish my sample paper, and take the GRE.  (And grade papers, teach classes, get transcripts . . . You'll also hopefully understand if the blog gets neglected a little. 

Grace and peace to you.



Give me feedback on my Ph.D. sample paper here.   

Other recommended links about the Ph.D. Application Process:

T Brookins on
Getting Accepted to the Ph.D: Preface
Saturday, March 29, 2008

Prof. John Stackhouse’s Weblog

Thinking about a Ph.D.?

Sean Michael Lucas, Chief Academic Officer and Associate Professor of Church History at Covenant Theological Seminary, has written a post about the phenomenon of seminarians getting sick of the church and falling in love with their professors and becoming infatuated with getting their Ph.D.  He tries to set them straight:Ministerial Students, Calling, and PhD Studies

There is a sober and comprehensive description of the New Testament Ph.D. process by Nijay Gupta, a Ph.D. student at Durham University: Interested in a NT PhD?

There are also a lot of links at Durham Ph.D. student Ben Blackwell's blog:

Durham Ph.D. student Kevin Bywater's Why a PhD?