Wait till the time is right.
Typically, D.Min. programs require that participants wait at least three years after earning the M.Div. degree to enroll in a D.Min. program. Though each situation is unique, many people would do well to wait longer. The reason for the required period of waiting is for the pastor to get a better grasp of what ministry is all about—what are the important questions for which he needs answers, or what are the gifts she may want to develop? For most, three years is not enough time to reflect adequately on all these concerns.
Make sure your motives are the right ones.
No doubt there are some who enroll in a D.Min. program because they like the sound of "Dr." before their name. Needless to say, this is not the best motive for pursuing the degree. Others who missed their call to be professional students may merely want to add another notch to their educational belts. Pursuit of the D.Min. degree should be driven by a deep desire to fulfill God's calling on a person's life and ministry through that person's becoming more proficient or knowledgeable in a particular area related to ministry.
Build on your strengths instead of trying to address your weaknesses.
It is impossible to find a pastor who does everything well, who pleases all people at all times. The most people can hope for in a good pastor is for someone who recognizes his or her strengths and weaknesses. Generally, there is a positive correlation between level of interest in a particular area of ministry and competency in that area. So choose a program that genuinely interests you, not one in which you think a good pastor ought to be interested. You can delegate to others those things you don't do well. But use the D.Min. program as an opportunity to develop even further in an area where you already have both interest and ability.
Make sure the institution's theological convictions and emphases are in line with your own.
A particular program may look good on paper. But any program, even those that are the most practical in nature, will be rooted in and guided by some kind of theological orientation. Your theological views need not be totally in line with the institution you are attending, but they ought at least to be fundamentally compatible.
Examine the design of the program before making your decision.
Most D.Min. programs are structured in ways that make it convenient for students to participate, even if they are coming from a distance. On-campus requirements are typically limited and manageable. But programs may differ substantially in such areas as traditional classroom instruction versus peer-based learning. Also, some programs are general and scholarly in nature while others are focused and practical. It may be a priority for some to assess the quality and immediacy of benefits to their congregation. Certainly, there is more than one "right" choice. But especially in an era in which there are so many options, it makes sense to consider several options in order to arrive at the most appropriate match.
Randy Frame, a freelance writer and editor, also serves as Executive Director of Marketing and Communications at Palmer Seminary.