DMIN & Black pastors reach new heights with Indiana Wesleyan ministry program.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Here is an article about the Doctor of Ministry program I designed. I created it to be innovative, rigorous and diverse. I am proud that my former doctoral students are now finishing their work and attaining their degrees. They are demonstrating grit (1 Corinthians 15:58) and grace (Colossians 3:13).

by JULIAN WYLLIE, Sep 2, 2016.

A new initiative launched in May at Indiana Wesleyan University is attracting a diverse group of students to the predominantly white school.

According to school statistics published by the Associated Press, 98 percent of students at the private Christian school in 2006 were caucasian. Today, that number has dropped to 91 percent.

The Doctor of Ministry (DMIN) program at Wesley Seminary, which will rotate its concentration each year, began in May with the Transformational Leadership concentration. The other concentrations of the program are Transformational Preaching (starting in 2017) and Spiritual Formation (starting in 2018).

Bob Whitesel, an award-winning writer, speaker and professor, is leading the first phase of the initiative and says the school’s new courses are built to increase racial diversity in enrollment by allowing working ministers to earn a degree while maintaining pastoral positions. Most of the program’s coursework is online, with two additional weeks of residential courses as a supplement.

Whitesel said the program currently has 10 Black students and five female students, out of 19 individuals total.

Charles Thurman, a current student, said the group has already traveled to Atlanta for one of the conference-style classes. The next two stops, Oxford, England, and San Diego, are scheduled for the next phases of the program.

“The residential courses are definitely a plus for networking,” Thurman said, citing the Atlanta trip as a valuable experience for him and other students. Thurman, who is considering writing his dissertation on African-American and multicultural leadership in ministries, said the program benefits by having Whitesel encourage diversity as a key to future success.

Whitesel, who is caucasian, said students in the doctorate program will need to be prepared for the challenges associated with a modern multicultural base of American churchgoers.

“Today’s pastors need more knowledge to make an impact. It’s harder to be a pastor today than it was 50 years ago,” Whitesel said. “We are looking at ways to innovate the church. We are learning how some churches are growing and how most churches plateau.”

Whitesel said taking students to places like Atlanta, England and the West Coast provides a multitude of perspectives about how societal influences will change how a ministry operates. For the Atlanta trip this summer, students visited Ebenezer Baptist Church and learned of Martin Luther King Jr.’s sermons to large congregations during the 1960s. They also met with Brian Bollinger, the executive director of Friends of Refugees, an institution serving Cambodians, Kenyans, Croatians, Liberians, Koreans and Iranians, among others.

“I wanted to take them to not just churches in Indiana, but churches everywhere,” Whitesel said. “We decided, ‘Let’s all go on a road trip and bring students with us.’”

Another student in the doctorate program, Mark Brown, described himself as part of the Baby Boomer generation looking to learn about prospective churchgoers of various minorities, including the Asian and Hispanic population.

He said he likes the program at Indiana Wesleyan because it helps him balance time as a student and daily work. In his opinion, other programs were not as practical and lacked the unique travel experiences for students.

“If this wasn’t online or formatted the way it is, I would not be able to study at a doctorate level,” Brown said. “I could never stop and live on campus for three years. Other programs either went to the same place three times or nowhere at all.”

Whitesel echoed this statement by saying, “When we started, we wanted to have the best of online. The students can go online and chat about the books and their papers with one another. It’s really this collaborative opportunity. I have one student who posts at 2 a.m., because he works at night and that schedule works best for him. Other students may post at 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. in real conversations over a couple days.”

Brown said he didn’t miss having a weekly classroom setting because he, like most of the students in the program, has other responsibilities, such as work and family. He described the current model as a “best of both worlds.”

Read more at … http://www.indianapolisrecorder.com/religion/article_df8e86b8-7063-11e6-9149-ab789409de2c.html

SPIRITUAL FORMATION & How Black and White Christians Do Discipleship Differently (& Natasha Sistrunk Robinson’s Analysis of What Every Church Can Learn)

Commentary by Dr  Whitesel: Natasha Sistrunk Robinson is a colleague in the Mosiax network whom I once tried to recruit for Wesley Seminary. I was privileged to endorse her book because it offers great help to the Church regarding how to disciple younger generations. Here she gives an overview into what every church can learn from the immersive manner in which the Black church conducts spiritual formation. I have long been a fan and student of the Black church realizing our too long separated judicatories have left the Church universal not only more fragmented, but also less wise.

Millennials are Leaving the Church, Who Cares?“ by Natasha Sistrunk Robinson, Missio Alliance, March 6, 2017.

…Solution Three: Focus on the Group and not the Individual

This year, Christianity Today published an article titled, “How Black and White Christians Do Discipleship Differently.” In it, they focus on Barna’s recent study regarding “Racial Divides in Spiritual Practices.” Concerning the state of discipleship, Barna reports that “black Christian leaders are more likely to say that ‘deepening one’s faith through education and fellowship’ is a goal of discipleship,” and mentorship as part of a group is a crucial part of fellowship.

This education includes the study of the Bible in a group, memorizing and meditating on Scriptures. Furthermore, they conclude that “Black communities tend toward communal rhythms of spiritual development” and that “one’s personal spiritual life had implication for social justice.” Finally, the report indicates that Black Christians place a higher value on their friends.

In short, the Black church tradition and African American culture in which I was groomed intentionally offers discipleship and mentorship within the context of groups or communities, instead of focusing on one-on-one mentoring or discipleship models.

Several of these articles are consistent when reporting that millennials value relationships and authentic conversation. Because communal relationships are already a high value for communities of color, this is an area where Christian leaders from the majority group can learn from leaders of color.

This survey of the Black church and their discipleship model reveals that discipleship can indeed take place within the context of groups. More specially, discipling and mentoring within groups offers a layered approach to discipleship that includes:

  • Bible reading and study,
  • Cultivation of spiritual disciplines like scripture memorization,
  • Positive peer pressure, peer-to-peer mentoring, and accountability,
  • A holistic Christian ethic that includes the pursuit of biblical justice, and
  • Grooming and training mentees for leadership.

Read more at … http://www.missioalliance.org/millennials-leaving-church-cares/

TRENDS & Millennials are Leaving the Church… But Black Millennials Aren’t. My colleague Natasha Sistrunk Robinson explains why.

“Millennials are Leaving the Church, Who Cares?“ by Natasha Sistrunk Robinson, Missio Alliance, March 6, 2017..

…But Black Millennials Aren’t

In his article titled, “Why Aren’t Black Millennials Leaving the Church,” Bryan T. Calvin drew on the 2012 PEW Research Center to make the case that Black millennials are not leaving the church, and there are specific reasons why they are staying. He writes, “In general, the numbers consistently show that blacks of all ages are more likely to maintain religious affiliation that whites.”

Why is this? He continues, “It seems that blacks are more invested in the practices and rituals associated with church life…Maybe the difference is that whites and blacks view the institution of the Church differently. Historically, the black church has always played an important communal role.”

Calvin continues his piece with another observation, “Talking about Millennials leaving the Church without specifying which Millennials is only half the conversation. And if the American Church is willing to enter into conversation beyond the racial lines that has often been drawn up around it, they may realize that the solution to their ‘problem’ of Millennials leaving is closer than they thought.”

Solution One: Embrace Diversity

Diversity seems like a buzz word and the lack of ethnic diversity in various arenas seems like am ever trending topic these days. I almost hesitated to use the wording here. Yet I persisted because I don’t know if the reality of the lack of ethnic diversity— including the lack of value of diverse voices, diverse experiences, and diversity in leadership— has sunk in to the psyche of the evangelical church.

The millennial generation values diversity while the evangelical church gives diversity lip service. The millennials have observed this hypocrisy and they are voting with their feet. The writing is on the wall. White millennials will not come back to the church unless there is authenticity and drastic change…

Solution Three: Focus on the Group and not the Individual

This year, Christianity Today published an article titled, “How Black and White Christians Do Discipleship Differently.” In it, they focus on Barna’s recent study regarding “Racial Divides in Spiritual Practices.” Concerning the state of discipleship, Barna reports that “black Christian leaders are more likely to say that ‘deepening one’s faith through education and fellowship’ is a goal of discipleship,” and mentorship as part of a group is a crucial part of fellowship.

This education includes the study of the Bible in a group, memorizing and meditating on Scriptures. Furthermore, they conclude that “Black communities tend toward communal rhythms of spiritual development” and that “one’s personal spiritual life had implication for social justice.” Finally, the report indicates that Black Christians place a higher value on their friends.

Read more at … http://www.missioalliance.org/millennials-leaving-church-cares/

African-American Church & A Religious Portrait of African-Americans

by Pew Research, 1/30/09.

“African-Americans stand out as the most religiously committed racial or ethnic group in the nation.”

While the U.S. is generally considered a highly religious nation, African-Americans are markedly more religious on a variety of measures than the U.S. population as a whole, including level of affiliation with a religion, attendance at religious services, frequency of prayer and religion’s importance in life. Compared with other racial and ethnic groups, African-Americans are among the most likely to report a formal religious affiliation, with fully 87% of African-Americans describing themselves as belonging to one religious group or another, according to the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, conducted in 2007 by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life. Latinos also report affiliating with a religion at a similarly high rate of 85%; among the public overall, 83% are affiliated with a religion.

Fig.1
The Landscape Survey also finds that nearly eight-in-ten African-Americans (79%) say religion is very important in their lives, compared with 56% among all U.S. adults. In fact, even a large majority (72%) of African-Americans who are unaffiliated with any particular faith say religion plays at least a somewhat important role in their lives; nearly half (45%) of unaffiliated African-Americans say religion is very important in their lives, roughly three times the percentage who says this among the religiously unaffiliated population overall (16%). Indeed, on this measure, unaffiliated African-Americans more closely resemble the overall population of Catholics (56% say religion is very important) and mainline Protestants (52%).

Additionally, several measures illustrate the distinctiveness of the black community when it comes to religious practices and beliefs. More than half of African-Americans (53%) report attending religious services at least once a week, more than three-in-four (76%) say they pray on at least a daily basis and nearly nine-in-ten (88%) indicate they are absolutely certain that God exists. On each of these measures, African-Americans stand out as the most religiously committed racial or ethnic group in the nation. Even those African-Americans who are unaffiliated with any religious group pray nearly as often as the overall population of mainline Protestants (48% of unaffiliated African-Americans pray daily vs. 53% of all mainline Protestants). And unaffiliated African-Americans are about as likely to believe in God with absolute certainty (70%) as are mainline Protestants (73%) and Catholics (72%) overall…

Read more at … http://www.pewforum.org/2009/01/30/a-religious-portrait-of-african-americans/