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Pastoral Leadership in Church and Society: Collaborating for Change


Specialization Coordinator: Dr. Joseph Bessler

In the “Pastoral Leadership in Church and Society: Collaborating for Change” (PLCS) specialization, clergy leaders will reflect on theoretical and theological themes as they relate to significant cultural issues like gender, race, and interfaith relations while developing skills for leading churches and their institutions towards social transformation.

“Good leadership requires you to surround yourself with people of diverse perspectives
who can disagree with you without fear of retaliation.”
Doris Kearns Goodwin, A Team of Rivals

The way of Jesus calls for reconciliation and relationship building. Pastors can increase their own capabilities and expand the agency of persons in their communities through building transformational partnerships within congregations and with civic organizations for collective action in public life.

When pastors and/or congregational members feel the tug of engagement toward issues of social justice in the wider community then discussions of “church and world” take on added depth and urgency. At such junctures congregations and pastors must inevitably wrestle with issues of vocation and responsibility, assess priorities of pastoral care within the community and the witness of faith in public life, and discuss in quite serious terms what Christian ministry asks of each of us. Such conversations—in themselves quite difficult—are vital components in gauging both the energy and commitment required to embrace the work of social transformation.     

The following courses comprise the Collaborating for Change specialization phase of PLCS:

Preaching for Change  (DPLC 735)                

This course introduces students to the study of congregations and their social contexts as demonstrated in persuasive speech and preaching. The course includes study of examples of sermons from recent social movements that led to changes in public policy such as the women suffrage movement, the labor movement, and the civil rights movement. The use of multiple PTS faculty and others as guest speakers will be a major feature of this course. Taught by Richard Ward

International/National Immersion Experience  (DPLC 731)                   

Immersion in Washington DC, Faith and Public Policy studied through the Disciples Center for Public Life and similar mainline denominational agencies. This course examines the way of Jesus in relationship to public life. The course will connect history with contemporary efforts for collective action. The required immersion experience enables students to develop skills for building partnerships.  Taught by Kathy McCallie

Core Church and Society Seminar II  (DPLC 732)

Focused on actual practices of building conversational and practical connections across racial, other-religious, and religious/social-service agency lines, this course will connect the language and tactics of community organizing to address both the importance and possibilities of churches engaging their social and cultural contexts. Guest community organizers will be invited to participate in the course.

Elective Research Practicum (DMIN 898)

Each student, in consultation with the specialization coordinator of the PLCS and the DMin director, will select or design one course that relates to her or his proposed project.  This course may be chosen from MDiv course offerings at PTS (additional work will be required) or DMin Specialization courses for other specializations.  It may also consist of an independent study with an appropriate faculty member. 

The Application deadline for:

January enrollment is October 1st, application fee is waived if submitted by September 15th.

June enrollment is April 15th, application fee is waived if submitted by April 1st.  

Degree Plan for Pastoral Leadership in Church and Society

DMIN 807

Pastoral Leadership in Context

3 hours

DMIN 808

Biblical Message & the Praxis of God

3 hours

DMIN 809

Constructive Theology of Ministry

3 hours

DPLC 735

Preaching For Change

4 hours

DPLC 732

Core Church and Society

4 hours

DPLC 731

DC Immersion Experience

4 hours

DMIN 898

Elective Research Practicum

4 hours

DMPR 904

Project Development Seminar I

0.5 hour

DMPR 905

Project Development Seminar II

2.5 hours

DMPR 902

Project Proposal Course

2 hours

DMPR 902.01

Project Proposal Continuation Course

0 hours

DMPR 906

Project Course

2 hours

DMPR 906.01

Project Continuation Course

0 hours


Phillips Theological Seminary offers Christian graduate theological education
in service of intelligent, just, and compassionate religious and civic communities. We welcome
students to a safe space for truth-seeking conversations about the Bible, Jesus, and faithful living.
Courses available on campus and online for certificate, diploma, MDiv, MAMC, MASJ, & MTS
programs, and on campus for the DMin program.

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