A couple of years ago Tom Hawkes (our beloved Sr. Pastor) and I had a significant lunch. We discussed a variety of topics (personal life, work items etc). When we talked about professional development Tom brought up the idea of me entering into a Doctor of Ministry program (often referred to as a D Min) to study and develop in the area of counseling. Although I was reluctant at first (busyness, fear etc.), something Tom said just kept bouncing around in my head.
He said something along the lines of “Listen, counseling is your thing. I think God has uniquely gifted you in it. Further study would make you even better, which would make you better equipped to serve the church and I think God could use you to train others also.” So I went home and presented the idea to Mary and was very surprised by her reaction. What I thought she would say was “Back to school? Really? Are you crazy?” Maybe that is what I wanted her to say, But what she really said was, “Yes, I think you should do it.” After talking and praying with some friends and mentors, Mary and I decided that this was a real option, but the main question was when. Side note: it is hard to tell someone you are thinking about getting a D Min without them hearing you are thinking about getting a demon. Once we sorted that out most people were relieved and supportive.
Over the past couple of years the idea continued to come up, and earlier this year Mary and I thought this might be the year to continue the discernment process by talking with the session. This Spring the session voted to support this endeavor by providing time and money for me to pursue a D Min. So I applied, got in and am now officially a student at Westminster Theological Seminary’s Doctor of Ministry Counseling Program. Actually, by the time you read this, I will be up in Philly because my first class starts on the day this post will go out, August 1.
I wanted to share this news with you so you could know the details, celebrate with me/us and pray for me/us. So, here are some questions I thought might come to mind. Feel free to email me any others you might have:
Does this mean that the Kulps are leaving Uptown?
No! We absolutely love Uptown Church and part of the thing that makes this type of degree appealing is that it is specifically designed for pastors who are serving in full-time ministry. So…No, you aren’t getting rid of us that easily.
From the moment I started thinking through the idea of getting a D Min, I was thinking about Reformed Theological Seminary here in Charlotte. It just makes sense, it is here in Charlotte, I graduated from there and already know the staff and faculty very well, etc. However, when I started to look into programs, I realized that Westminster has a dedicated counseling D Min, and RTS doesn’t have that yet. When I talked with the pastors they all agreed that it was better to go to a place that had the specialty, because I was not just interested in a degree, but rather was very specifically interested in studying counseling. Additionally, the counseling philosophy that our church leadership most agrees with, often referred to as the CCEF model, originated at and is associated with Westminster.
Where is Westminster?
Westminster is located just outside of Philadelphia, PA and it is actually just 10 minutes from where I grew up. One of the blessings is that I will be staying with my parents when I am up there for classes. Which is also just a little odd 🙂
When are classes? How long will this take?
Westminster offers their D Min classes in August of each year. The plan right now is to take two each summer for 4 years and then the writing project will likely take another 2 years or so.
You are a pastor with five young kids…are you sure?
This is something that Mary and I have spent considerable time thinking through. As I mentioned part of our delay in starting was waiting for the right time. Although no time will be easy, we think now is a good time to get started and see how it goes. What I told the session was that I think I am called to this, but I know I am called as a husband, father, and pastor and I don’t want this pursuit to jeopardize any of those. I was really encouraged when this was the session’s biggest concern too. When they approved the idea their concern was reflected in their generosity and flexibility which made moving forward in a healthy manner possible.
What do you hope to focus on?
Each student must work on a project, and although nothing will be approved for some time, Westminster does intentionally get you started thinking about that from the beginning. Currently, the subject I am most passionate about is pre-marital counseling. The first idea I submitted included writing a new premarital curriculum that we could use here at Uptown and could be a tool that is shared with other churches too.
How are you feeling?
I am both nervous and excited. Learning and developing as a counselor is very exciting, the life balance and the workload (especially the writing) make me nervous. Ultimately, although I am both nervous and excited that I am moving forward because all throughout the process I tried to hold the idea loosely and to trust that if it was the Lord’s will, it would work out. In the end, I have been thankful to watch the Lord open doors and bring about support to the extent that if I did not explore this calling further I would feel like I was being disobedient and self-focused.
I am also feeling thankful. I am so thankful to be serving in such a healthy and supportive church. Honestly, I do not think I would be pursuing this course if I wasn’t at Uptown, and as I had done my reading and writing for my first class on pastoral ministry I have thought of names, faces and stories from Uptown the whole time. We are so thankful to serve here.
There may be other questions and if you have any let me know. Otherwise, thank you for being a wonderful church body. We love you and we are thankful to be starting this journey with you!
P.S. I will be attending my first two classes in the first two weeks of August, but Mary and the kids will still be here. I am confident that playdates and check-ins would be much appreciated 🙂
Author: Rev. Dave Kulp