Courses in pastoral care and specialized ministries are offered for M.Div., M.A., and Th.M. students to prepare them for ministry in congregations, medical centers, community service agencies, schools, and other specialized ministry settings.
As a field within the Department of Practical Theology, Pastoral Care and Specialized Ministries places emphasis on the practice and performance of ministry. It assists students in developing a range of skills and in acquiring increased competence in their use.
At the same time, it recognizes that there is more to ministry than the acquisition of skills. Ministry needs to be grounded in a sound theoretical framework derived from various sources, including theological and biblical insights, psychological understandings of human life, and social and cultural analyses of the context. Courses in Pastoral Care and Specialized Ministries seek to shed light on sources of suffering and resources for healing, using this particular focus to build up the life of the Christian community and to make the world more hospitable to human life.
The course offerings seek to develop in students the capacity to listen with empathy, to respond sensitively, to think psychodynamically and contextually about pastoral situations, to engage in theological and moral reflection, to offer spiritual and moral guidance, and to provide ethical leadership in a variety of cultural contexts.
The pastoral care and specialized ministries area has two full-time faculty. They are Professor Deborah van Deusen Hunsinger (Ph.D. Union Theological Seminary in New York) and Professor Robert Dykstra (Ph.D. Princeton Theological Seminary). Both are ordained ministers of Word and Sacrament.
An introductory course is offered each semester. These courses (PC 202, PC 203 and PC 204) offer a broad-based introduction to the field as a whole. Many students choose to take more than one introductory course, though none of them is understood to be a prerequisite for elective classes. Four or five electives are offered each semester on special topics, such as the use of humor in pastoral care, prayer, sexuality, poetry and the care of souls, addiction, death and dying, ministry to older adults, marriage and family, ethical issues in pastoral care, persons in pain, pastoral care of adolescents, women in pastoral ministry and others. M.Div. and M.A. students are required to take one course in the area, but many students elect to take several in recognition of the fact that they contribute directly to students' preparation for ministry. Th.M. students may concentrate in this area.
Ph.D. Program in Pastoral Theology
The Ph.D. in Pastoral Theology is one of three doctoral programs administered by the Department of Practical Theology. It is specifically designed for persons who intend to teach at the seminary level, but graduates of the program are serving in many different capacities and institutional settings, including the parish.
In contrast to the other two doctoral programs of the Department (Homiletics and Christian Education), there are many doctoral programs in Pastoral Theology currently offered in North America. For a listing of these programs, see the website of the Society for Pastoral Theology. This website provides descriptions of each program, degree requirements, financial aid, faculty areas of interest, and a sample of dissertation titles from recent graduates. These summaries indicate each program's particular academic and practical emphases.
The Ph.D. program in Pastoral Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary is recognized in the United States and throughout the world for its academic rigor. It expects that students will develop their capacity to read psychological texts both critically and non-defensively; that students will develop the ability to use theology and ethics as critical tools for assessing the beliefs, practices, and actions of Christians (individually and collectively); and that students will view the capacity for introspection or self-examination as integral for becoming an accomplished pastoral theologian.