Since this COVID-19 crisis it has had an untold impact on Christian higher education. The real impact has been the real personal impact on the students and my professor friends. What got me thinking was my alma mater Southeastern University just laid off 34 professors. Let that sink it -- 34 professors lost there jobs. Wow.
During this time I started to rethink why am I getting a Ph.D? And I've come to the simple conclusion:
I want to.
I want to solve a problem.
And I like it.
I'm so for my friends that are like me working towards a ministry focused Ph.D. (Bible, theology, or ministry) and those who are thinking about it -- here's some thoughts that I really wrestled with. So hear me clearly, I really don’t want to be a wet blanket, a dream crusher and I say my comments as a doctoral candidate myself. I'm simply sharing my own questions and observations, so here you go, hope it helps.
3 Considerations Why You Shouldn't Do a Ph.D.
1.) Professional Life. Frankly there are very few jobs that pay full employment as a professor preparing people for ministry. They simply don’t exist and if they do it's tied to a one year contract and you can be let go at any point (broadly speaking, of course there are exceptions). That's a tough life.
2.) Financial and Professional Cost. If you do a ministry focused Ph.D. you should absolutely not pay a dime for that degree. You should either have a full ride, a foundation/grant/job or rich uncle to pay for it. The economics simply don't work. Why would you do a Ph.D. in New Testament or practical theology and pay $85,000 for it when you "might" get a job making $65,000, and be employed on a renewable one-year contract. Then go to compete in a job market that isn't there because Christian institutions of higher education are not growing, and you're going to end up being an adjunct professor for five different schools to cobble together $34,000 a year, teaching 10 courses, without insurances, or retirement ? Welcome the job market - If you're lucky.
3.) Ivy League. If you do a Ph.D. and it happens to be at an Ivy League you might be able to compete in the market but you have to be absolutely extraordinary. I personally know a few PhD’s from top 10 schools that were not hired on as full-time faculty. They are in fields like economics, public policy, and management science, and of course ministry. Now those friends of mine found work in business, government and research but they didn't find an academic post. My ministry Ph.D. friends are still looking.
The #1 Consideration Why You Should Do a Ph.D.
Personal Mission. You want to. You want to solve a problem. And you like it.
There is only one reason to do a Ph.D. and that’s because you want to. You want to add to the body of literature on a subject and advance human knowledge. AND you view your Ph.D. research and teaching as a professional hobby, something to fund your retirement, vacation money or you need to remodel the kitchen.
You don’t do it for a job; you don’t do it because you want to be called “Dr”; You don’t do it because you wanna impress your parents or your kids. You do it because you have a problem and you wanna solve it and it’s 100% for personal mission. (And hopefully you save the world in the process.)
Well there's my 2 cents. I hope it was helpful and gave you some things to wrestle through. If you disagree with me, that's ok. It's my day off, now, I need to go work on my dissertation. Love ya!
A economic theologian, pastor, & ceo