Keeping Up Scholarly Research as a Vocational Minister Beyond the Doctorate
Just over one year has passed since I walked onstage to receive my Ph.D. diploma. Since then, I’ve returned to vocational preaching—I was previously an associate preacher—and the schedule that accompanies that position. Nevertheless, I still find time to keep up a decently healthy reading regimen as well as write. Just after graduating and before moving—May 2016—I submitted an article for possible publication. Earlier this week I receive word from the publisher that they would nudge the reviewers along, so there’s one possible article awaiting publication if it’s received.
After I had graduated, I took several months off from reading and writing. As one might imagine, I had done a good bit of both for several years and needed a break. Once we were moved and settled in, around the fall or so, I began reading again. I had written blog posts, but nothing extensive. Now, I am back to wanting to write and publish once more.
Being a vocational minister often entails preparing several lessons each week. When one considers two sermons on Sunday, a Bible study class on Sunday, a Bible study class and short devotional on Wednesday, and five daily devotionals for our local radio program each week, I could easily spend all of my time in study. However, ministry entails more than staying tucked away with books and a computer. I also have hospital and funeral visitations to make, and I have made in-home visits to get to know the congregation. On top of that, I’m a member of the local Rotary Club which helps me network with other locals. I still Sabbath each week because rest is as important as work, though mine is typically on Monday. I mow the grass, work out with weights and jujutsu, and spend time with my family. Time management is something I’m rather good at so I can balance several things and a rather hefty workload.
A little over a month ago I concluded reading a few books on a topic that I’ve been writing personal essays on to teach in my Wednesday night class, which tends to be a deeper study than most classes. The essays are more for myself than anything because those articles help me to order my material since this is a relatively newer topic for me. I have just been urged to write and publish, so today I’ve been compiling sources and sent out emails asking for recommended sources of the influence of Plato on Alexander Campbell.
How will I ever find the time to research and write and scratch the scholarly itch I have? Luckily, every first Wednesday night is a singing night, as is every second Sunday evening. Being in the habit of preparing so many lessons each week, the reprieve from these two lessons opens up time for me. I can also speed-read and work through material quickly—something I learned when writing papers and a dissertation. Balance is necessary. I may have weeks where pastoral care is substantial, so I can only work on that and lessons for church. There may be lighter weeks when I can write more because pastoral needs aren’t as high.
The most helpful and inspiring read on this score of being a vocational minister and having scholarly pursuits arose from the book, The Pastor Theologian: Resurrecting an Ancient Vision. I purchased this book on holiday a couple years ago and read it the same week. It set in concrete the two sides of my personality: the minister and the scholar. My heart is wholeheartedly wedded to ministry because I believe it to be God’s purpose for my life. I’ve also seen the benefit to my mind when I engage in research, so because I have such a passion for the latter, I make it a priority—not to the neglect and detriment of ministry, but to its aid. The critical thinking required of scholarly research enables me to better humbly approach my Bible studies with reverence and discernment, rather than carelessness and arrogance. This is how scholarly research helps my vocational ministry.