Doctor of Ministry Final Projects

Doctor of Ministry (DMin) students at Candler School of Theology each complete a final project for the DMin program. The heart of the final project consists of crafting an innovation in ministry practice in the student's location of choice. The design builds upon the issues and questions that arose during coursework, and the final product serves as an ideal example of how Candler prepares real people to make a real difference in the real world. The final projects for Spring 2017 are included below. Click on the title to view the project.

Author: Burks, Arlindall

Title: Ubuntu: A Restorative Justice Approach to Anti-Bullying

Date: Spring 2017

Faculty Consultant: Elizabeth Bounds

Keywords: Bullying, restorative justice, Nelson Mandela, Bishop Desmond Tutu, restorative circles, children as peacemakers

Abstract: The issue of bullying and its impact on the lives of children, families and communities is a social issue that transcends socio-economic, ethnicity, and racial constructs and has been identified by the Center for Disease Control as an urgent public health problem.[note] In response to the increasing numbers of bullying incidents, schools in rural, urban, and suburban communities across the United States have increased in and after school programming focusing on anti-bullying and the prevention of violence. Most of these programs are developed for middle and high school students where much of the reported bullying, especially cyber-bullying incidents occur. While some schools have increased the scope of punishment for students breaking the rules or employ a zero-tolerance approach, others have transitioned from the traditional retributive justice to a restorative approach to school discipline.

This project proclaims that restorative justice practices can be employed as an approach to the issue of bullying (cyber-bullying) and should be implemented in elementary schools. Elementary school is a critical time of human values development and restorative justice practices teaches children to resolve breaches, restore relationships, and provide life skills that go beyond the schoolyard and focuses on living in community.

Author: Cleaver-Bartholomew, Dena M.

Title: Reimagining Worship: Finding God in What We Love

Date: Spring 2017

Faculty Consultant: L. Wesley de Souza

Keywords: Worship, alternative worship, Christian formation, love, transformation, lay ministry

Abstract: The project was to create thematic worship events that integrate an alternative worship service with Christian Formation, are offered as a complement to traditional worship, are developed and led by lay people, and are given a framework by the priest or pastor. Each worship event is based in a subject the group of lay leaders love, and in which they find a connection with the Holy in their everyday lives.

The concept was that an alternative service would “change the culture of the Church without damaging what is already good,” thereby resulting in transformation. The process was designed to: engage lay people in identifying something they loved; help them either affirm or shift their perception of that facet of their lives as a place where they encounter God; provide a unique context in which they could offer their experience in a worship event; integrate worship and Christian formation in a way that was lay led, attracted the interest of others, and revitalized their faith, particularly as it is lived on an everyday basis. The worship events were named Finding God In… to highlight the myriad ways in which people might encounter God in their everyday lives.

Author: Cowser, Dedric Amad

Title: Plenty Good Room: Reclaiming Hospitality in the Black Church

Date: Spring 2017

Faculty Consultant: Noel L. Erskine

Keywords: Hospitality, Black Church, love of God and neighbor, creating space, community, seeing the world

Abstract: Hospitality and creating a space for belonging have been hallmarks in the Black Church tradition; however, one must acknowledge that the Black Church is not as central to the community as in generations past. Despite its struggles in recent years, the Black Church holds within history the principles necessary to recapture a vibrant spirit of Christian hospitality.

To contextualize the scope of research and analysis, this project focuses on New Beginnings United Methodist Church, a predominantly black congregation in Birmingham, Alabama. This project is divided into five sections. Section One, “Project Rationale and Goals,” articulates the importance of hospitality to the ministry of the church and the primary goals of the project. Section Two, “Contextual Scope of the Project,” provides a snapshot of the ministry context. Section Three, “Description of Research Method,” details the overall design and implementation of the project. Section Four, “Theological Dimensions of the Project Outcome,” is an analysis of Biblical and theological themes and principles that developed as a result of the project. Section Five, “Assessment and Project Outcomes,” includes an assessment of the project’s effectiveness and a summary of transformation observed in the ministry context.

Author: Davis, Leah Grundset

Title: From Generation to Generation: 30 Years of Alliance of Baptists’ Clergywomen on the Intersection of Preaching the Magnificat and their Baptist Identity

Date: Spring 2017

Faculty Consultant: Susan Hylen

Keywords: Alliance of Baptists, Baptist, Magnificat, women clergy, homiletics, preaching

Abstract: This paper engages the Magnificat as a formational text for six Alliance of Baptists' women preachers. All of these women relate the Magnificat to elements of their own Baptist identity. Their interpretations of the Magnificat highlight themes of Baptist identity, including embodiment in preaching, power and agency in the act of proclamation, and the principle of freedom. For many women clergy in Baptist life, their bodies have been seen as problematic.[note] However, when preaching Mary's Magnificat, a song that Mary sang when her body was seen as problematic by the larger religious world, these Baptist women grasped their full embodiment with power as sermons flowed from their lips and their hearts. They believed God had looked with favor on them, as they are created by God.

Author: Edwards, Elizabeth Lobello

Title: Johns Creek United Methodist Church: Exploring the Midweek Meal as a Place of Belonging

Date: Spring 2017

Faculty Consultant: Jennifer Ayres

Keywords: Table fellowship, place of belonging, homemaking, intergenerational interaction

Abstract: Johns Creek, GA is a young, affluent city with no city center. Pockets of commerce and neighborhoods are scattered around the community. Over the past thirty years, Johns Creek United Methodist Church has developed with the city by creating ministries that serve the growing population. While there are numerous places for people in Johns Creek to connect to others, this project seeks to determine what makes the midweek meal gathering a unique place of belonging. Two themes emerge as unique parts of the fellowship meal: homemaking practices and intergenerational interaction. This paper seeks to explore the church and community, the midweek meal, and the importance of these unique elements.

Author: Everhart, Dana A.

Title: The Road from Presiding Elder to Superintendent to Strategist: What Lies Ahead?

Date: Spring 2017

Faculty Consultant: Anne Buckholder

Keywords: United Methodist, district superintendent, chief missional strategist, general conference

Abstract: "The Road from Presiding Elder to Superintendent to Strategist: What Lies Ahead?" deals with the need for clarification about the role of a Chief Missional Strategist in The United Methodist Church. In 2008, the General Conference of The United Methodist Church voted to include the role of Chief Missional Strategist to that of a District Superintendent. Over the next 2 General Conferences (2012 and 2016) more explanation was given to this role. Still the qualifications and gifts needed to serve as a Chief Missional Strategist are vague and unsure. At the same time to the paper offers a resolution to the 2020 General Conference in order to bring more clarity and direction. It is the hope of this paper to shine some light on this fairly new and vital role of the individual who supervises the clergy under her or his appointment.

Author: Forrest, Joleen M.

Title: Do, Love, and Walk: A Study for Faith and Leadership

Date: Spring 2017

Faculty Consultant: Lang Lowrey

Keywords: Faith and work, faith and leadership, experience of faith at work, theology of work, cultural studies hermeneutic

Abstract: Proprietary research and academic studies confirm that a majority of clergy admit they will sidestep conversations with congregational members about the members’ professional lives, sensing their own inability to engage in conversations about the workplace. Not surprisingly, at the same time church members perceive their career and workplace concerns are outside the mission of their church. This avoidance by both clergy and members creates and maintains a “gap” between faith and work and drives members to seek support elsewhere or avoid conversations with clergy. The existence of this “gap” between faith and work is confirmed by research among corporation which seek to separate spiritual desires from the workplace.

This project sought to document the research findings among practical theologians, social scientists, and theologians of the perceived divide between faith and work and propose an approach to bridge this divide through devotionals offered as blog post series.

Author: Hill, Jr., J. Lee

Title: A Black Narrative Pulpit: The Narrative Lectionary as a Tool for Christian Transformation

Date: Spring 2017

Faculty Consultant: Jehu Hanciles

Keywords: Narrative lectionary, biblical literacy, United Church of Christ, Black Church, Christian transformation, Black preaching

Abstract: This doctoral paper seeks to examine the use of the Narrative Lectionary in a Black Church, to determine if its consistent use contributes to greater biblical literacy and supports Christian transformation.

The paper presents a cultural and theological analysis of the congregation in which the doctoral project was set; a brief analysis of modern lectionaries, their formation, and the growth of their use in Protestant congregations, with a particular emphasis on the African American Lectionary. Resistance within the Black Church to lectionary preaching is explored, and I present an argument that the resistance is rooted in the early experiences of the Black Church—when, under the control and supervision of White oppressors, enslaved Black preachers were forced to prioritize Black oppression and powerlessness using recommended biblical texts.

Leaning on the work of Samuel DeWitt Proctor, I conclude the paper by resisting the resistance; examining the formation, history, goals, and claims of the Narrative Lectionary, and offering a substantive critical analysis of the development of a Black Narrative Pulpit at Christian Fellowship Congregational Church of San Diego (United Church of Christ).

Author: Hunt, Joshua Martin

Title: A Light in the Electric City: Toward a Contextual Ecclesiology at First Baptist Church of Anderson, South Carolina

Date: Spring 2017

Faculty Consultant: Karen Scheib

Keywords: Ecclesiology, contextual ecclesiology

Abstract: Both First Baptist Church of Anderson, South Carolina, and the community in which the church exists have changed over the years, but the changes have been largely independent of one another. This has resulted in a church and community that do not understand each other and are not integral to the life of the other. This project undertakes an in-depth congregational analysis to understand how and why the disconnect between the church and the community developed. A congregational analysis that pays careful attention to the history, demographics, congregational self-understanding, and denominational polity of a congregation leads to a clearer articulation of contextual ecclesiology. Such an ecclesiology provides the theological rationale for developing programs to address the disconnect between church and community.

Author: James, George Richard

Title: Embodying Resurrection: A Theology for Church Revitalization

Date: Spring 2017

Faculty Consultant: Steffen Lösel

Keywords: Church renewal, Church revitalization, resurrection, local church history, theology of church renewal, theology of church revitalization

Abstract: This project supports the thesis that successful church revitalization entails that a local congregation understands itself as embodying the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The paper presents how the church as “the body of Christ” shares in and embodies the promise of resurrection in its life now. The paper focuses on three texts from the Luke-Acts sequence (Luke 7:1-17; Luke 24:13-35; and Acts 9:36-43). The paper articulates a theology for church renewal that draws deeply from these scriptural narratives, along with the academic work of scholars such as Jon Levenson, Kevin Madigan, N.T. Wright, and Rowan Williams. The paper serves as the basis for a study to help a local church explore its own stories of resurrection as they work to revitalize their congregation.

Author: Kelley, Matthew Lloyd

Title: Encountering Violent Texts in Scripture: A Study in Communal Hermeneutics

Date: Spring 2017

Faculty Consultant: Joel M. LeMon

Keywords: Exodus, violence, community, hermeneutics

Abstract: This project explores how pastors trained in biblical scholarship can expose lay persons to scholarly exegesis in a way that is both precise and accessible, so that lay persons are empowered to do the work of hermeneutical meaning-making in community. The case study involves four violent episodes from Exodus 11 through 17, with exegetical presentations focused on putting the text in context and highlighting relevant features of the text when leading a group of lay persons in considering how these stories influence the way they deal with issues of violence in the modern world. In reflecting on practice, special attention is paid to the necessity of balancing personal and public implications found in the text when facilitating small group discussion, as well as how unpredictable factors like current events can change the course of even the most carefully planned studies.

Author: Kwon, Choongho

Title: Interfaith Understanding in a Midwestern United Methodist Congregation: An Analysis, Assessment, and Action Plan

Date: Spring 2017

Faculty Consultant: Deanna F. Womack

Keywords: Interfaith, congregational study, Islam, mission, community organizing

Abstract: This project is an interfaith ministry tool developed out of ethnographic research about Christian-Muslim relations in a local community. Part one is a congregational study of the Avondale United Methodist Church in Kansas City, Missouri, based on Nancy Ammerman’s Studying Congregations. The study exegetes the theological stance and cultural background of the congregation and their social context. Part two is a community study explaining the identity of the Bosnian mosque and their social context. Part three explores three specific action programs to contribute to deepening interfaith relations between two congregations and developing collaborative mission programs for the local community.

Author: Lower, David Elton

Title: Collaborative Preaching: Occasional Co-Preaching with Church Members

Date: Spring 2017

Faculty Consultant: Ted Smith

Keywords: Collaborative preaching, preaching, worship, congregational leadership, ecclesiology, discipleship

Abstract: The traditional sermon is an individual act, and therefore a limited medium for the proclamation of the gospel that is a pronouncement and calling for all. The truth sought by Christian preaching is the good news, definitively revealed in Jesus the Christ, of God's relentless and redeeming love given for all. That gospel message which preaching delivers is collective in its content and in its address. An occasional practice of collaborative preaching-working with an appropriately gifted member of a congregation to develop and deliver a sermon - helps communicate the gospel as given to all of us, for all of us to share. Preaching collaboratively allows the sermon medium to complement the collective qualities of the gospel message, like mutual relationship and the priesthood of all believers. The benefits of occasional collaborative preaching to congregations, preaching partners, and pastors justify the practice as a faithful investment in building the Church.

Author: Mattox, John Wayne

Title: Patchwork: Building Christian Community through the Introduction of a New Worship Service as a Means of Renewal in a Historic United Methodist Congregation

Date: Spring 2017

Faculty Consultant: Thomas W. Elliot

Keywords: Church renewal, liturgical renewal, worship, ecumenical worship

Abstract: Can the introduction of a new worship service create a Christian community and serve as a means of renewal in a historic United Methodist congregation? This project is an exploration in the creation of a new worship service as a means of renewal and ecumenical Christian community building that is Wesleyan in theology, Ancient–Future in format, and built around The Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations as Identified by Robert Schnase.

Author: McBrayer, Joseph

Title: Boundary Leadership: Creating and Implementing a Digital, Video-Based Curriculum for Collegiate Ministry

Date: Spring 2017

Faculty Consultant: Elizabeth Corrie

Keywords: Leadership, boundary leadership, curriculum, collegiate ministry, community, small group, Emory University

Abstract: This doctor of ministry final project focuses on the creation of a digital, media-rich small group curriculum to teach principles of boundary leadership--an adaptive leadership practiced by people on the margins between areas of authority and power. It details the observed characteristics of boundary leadership as described by Gary Gunderson: webs of relationship, resiliency and self care, imagination, a capacity to see patterns, and organizational intelligence. It details the project purpose and the creation of video interviews, the small group curriculum using stylized DSLR filming techniques, and small group pedagogical methods appropriate to a collegiate ministry setting. The paper also notes the observation of interviewee’s other common characteristics of curiosity, art as boundary leadership, and the importance of self care and spirituality in their work at Emory University. It goes into technical detail about camera work and audio capturing in an interview setting and also covers interpersonal communications in interviews. Boundary leaders, with their strengths in relationship building, resiliency, creativity, curiosity, imagination, pattern recognition, and organizational intelligence are needed more than ever to help our communities navigate the chaotic times and immense opportunities for transformation in our communities, our church, our nations, and our world.

Author: Pace, Jr., Phillip Lynwood

Title: Understanding Community: Engaging Oxford College Students in Loving God's World

Date: Spring 2017

Faculty Consultant: David Jenkins

Keywords: Community, incarnation, revelation, town and gown relationships, contemplative practices, belonging

Abstract: This article addresses town and gown relationships, those complicated interactions between colleges or universities and the communities in which they are situated. More broadly, it is a practical offering for the church and the way the church relates to the world. In particular, the focus is on the relationship between Oxford College of Emory University where I am the college chaplain and the city of Oxford, Georgia. Research demonstrated a gap between these communities - in the interactions between them as well as in the potential for creating belonging between Oxford College students in particular and the local community of Oxford, Georgia. My doctoral project addressed that gap through a course taught in the Fall of 2016, Understanding Community: Oxford Encountering Oxford. In the course students were required to move their bodies into the local community to see a community once invisible to them and to engage in loving God's world primarily through interviews with local residents. Theological themes of incarnation and revelation played a major role in this project, and are addressed here, especially with regard to implications for the church and its ministry in the world.

Author: Roberts, Adam Michael

Title: Doing the Pastoral Work of Well-Being with African-American, Male Collegians: Identity, Context, Rage and Construction

Date: Spring 2017

Faculty Consultant: Gregory Ellison, II

Keywords: Race, racism, identity, college

Abstract: How can a white, male Chaplain create context sensitive programming that supports the well-being and academic success of African-American, male collegians? Building on the work of social psychologist Kipling Williams and theologian Gregory Ellison, II, this project gathers a group of seven African-American male undergraduates at LaGrange College for a series of focused conversations on their own identity, the context in which they live and study, the rage that a [...]

Author: Schofield, Stephen Curtis

Title: United to the Lord: Introducing a Contemplative Prayer Practice in an American Protestant Church to Remedy the Lack of Intimacy with God

Date: Spring 2017

Faculty Consultant: Ed Phillips

Keywords: Contemplative prayer, intimacy with God, union with God, spiritual life, lectio divina, prayer in the spirit

Abstract: This paper analyzes whether the introduction of a contemplative prayer practice in an American Protestant church will help participants develop greater spiritual intimacy with God. Scripture bears witness that God desires to have an intimate, personal relationship with us through the indwelling Holy Spirit (John 14:15-27). Christ instituted the Church and apportioned spiritual gifts to each of its members to build up the body in a loving relationship of unity in the faith under the headship of Christ (Ephesians 4:7-16). Recent polling data reveals that a majority of Americans believe that churches have lost the spiritual aspect of religion and many look elsewhere for spiritual intimacy with God. In response to the need within the Church for deeper spiritual intimacy with God, I introduced a comprehensive contemplative prayer practice into both worship and ministry programs of the Dahlonega United Methodist Church. The two primary methods I used to help introduce contemplative prayer into the Church were moments of silent prayer and a form of meditating on Scripture called lectio divina. This project analyzes the results by interviewing persons who have participated to see if these practices helped them develop intimacy with God. This study revealed that these practices greatly helped persons to hear and encounter God, feel one with God and develop intimacy with God.

Author: Thomason, Benjamin Todd

Title: Eucharistic Eating: A Model for Bridging the Divides of Our Time through Intentional Table Fellowship

Date: Spring 2017

Faculty Consultant: Ellen Ott Marshall

Keywords: Eucharist, food, dining, communion, Lord's Supper, social divisions

Abstract: In this paper, I argue that learning to share meals with “the other” (i.e., those who do not normally share the orbits of our lives) in the spirit of the Lord’s Table and in imitation of the example of Jesus is one of the most powerful and practical things we can do to help shape a more just and egalitarian society. I lay out both a theological argument and a practical framework for engaging in table fellowship across social boundaries. An exploration of Jesus’ own “table ministry” follows a summation of the continued role of food as boundary in the contemporary world. The Eucharist is then examined as a model for engaging in intentional table fellowship and the bridging of today’s social divides. After establishing why intentional table fellowship should be a regular part of Christian faith practice, I will demonstrate how individuals and families can learn to share food across social boundaries by showcasing seven groups, both inside and outside of the church, that are challenging social divisions through table fellowship. Their example will allow us to begin clarifying what effective and transformative table practice in the name of Christ looks like.

Author: Thrasher, Jordan Sims

Title: Constant Connectivity and Community

Date: Spring 2017

Faculty Consultant: Kevin Watson

Keywords: Social media, fasting, spiritual discipline, community, technology

Abstract: Modern culture currently finds itself in the middle of a technological shift in communication. The Internet, with its broad reach and capabilities, has completely changed many aspects of our lives together. Its changes include how we practice our faith and how we interpret the Bible. Many cultural critics also find that constant connectivity is altering the way people learn and engage in relationships. Preachers need to take this shift seriously in interpretation and proclamation of the Bible, but also in the health of their church communities. People are learning and engaging with one another in differing ways. The technological shift needs to be understood and community practices need to be realized. In the hopes of restoring balance to social media’s influence, I propose a fast from social media using Biblical instructions on fasting. Participants will fast from social media and reflect on its role in their common life. By so doing, a sense of community is restored and dependence on God is realized. By helping people restore a good balance of new technologies in their lives, people can more readily engage in community and relationships with one another that are less tenuous, and more fulfilling.

Author: Walker, Carmen Avery

Title: As We See Ourselves: Transforming the Inward Focused Congregation Through Differentiated Leadership and Focused Teaching Strategies Toward Works of Service To The Community

Date: Spring 2017

Faculty Consultant: Teresa Fry-Brown

Keywords: Inward focused church, differentiated leadership, focused teaching strategies, tandem teaching, church transformation, pastoral leadership shift

Abstract: This project tackles the difficult issue of transforming an inward focused congregation. The journey of transforming the church, who is primarily concerned with in-house issues as opposed to becoming a vibrant community partner, reveals some internal congregational issues. The main root causes of this behavior are fear, denial of true condition of the congregation, the resistance to change by leadership and conflicts of pastoral leadership style. These challenges hinder church growth and thwart outward community involvement.

Using self-assessment surveys, community roundtable discussions, interviews and small group discussions a strategic plan of action is formulated. Additionally, the pastor engaged in an in-depth analysis of the leadership style to shift into position to lead the congregation in the work of transformation.

A tandem teaching/preaching strategy coupled with focused small group prayer are used as tools to refocus the congregation toward a new level of spiritual maturity and biblical literacy. This new educational system brings this congregation into a new confidence in sharing their personal relationship Christ community-wide.

Author: York-Simmons, Noelle Marie

Title: Rendering Visible: Answering the Call to Preach Racial Justice in White Congregations

Date: Spring 2017

Faculty Consultant: Robert M. Franklin

Keywords: Prophetic preaching, Civil Rights Movement, Black Lives Matter

Abstract: In an era of declining attendance in mainline Protestant congregations, many pastors are giving up opportunities to preach social justice in favor of keeping congregations happy. By looking to two white preachers of social justice in the Civil Rights Movement, William Sloane Coffin and Frank Mason Ross, and comparing them to two white preachers, Casey Kloehn and stephen Muncie, who have preached Black Lives Matter, the paper seeks to identify several tools for the preacher interested in preaching challenging, difficult messages of social justice to his or her congregation while still maintaining a functional pastoral presence and nurturing a Christian congregation.