the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Doctor of Philosophy


In the Billy Graham School, the Department of Leadership and Discipleship offers the Doctor of Philosophy in the following fields of study: Family Ministry, Higher Education, and Leadership.

Program Supervision

Each student has two supervisors: a faculty advisor and a dissertation supervisor. The Doctoral Studies Committee of the Department of Leadership and Discipleship assigns the faculty advisor and the dissertation supervisor.

Faculty Advisor

At the start of a student’s program of studies, the student is assigned a faculty advisor. The faculty advisor oversees the student’s progress as he or she completes program requirements until the completion of comprehensive examinations.

Dissertation Supervisor

In the second year of studies, the student is assigned a dissertation supervisor. The dissertation supervisor will have research interests and expertise in the student’s chosen area of research.

Description and Requirements


The purpose of the Doctor of Philosophy degree program is to give students of superior ability an opportunity to prepare themselves thoroughly for effective Christian ministry leadership. It is designed for persons who have demonstrated significant potential for making contributions in research, teaching, and/or administration. It also is intended for Christian educators who are seeking to enhance their ministry in the church or in a denominational organization or to prepare themselves for teaching and leadership in Christian higher education.

Core Competencies

The Ph.D. in Leadership seeks the development of five core competencies or abilities in its graduates.

  • Ability to think as a researcher
  • Ability to think as an educator
  • Ability to think as a leader
  • Ability to think as a change agent
  • Ability to think as a Christian scholar

Program Admissions Requirements

Persons seeking admission to the Doctor of Philosophy program should reference the Southern Seminary Ph.D. Admissions Process. Prospective students may also contact the Admissions Office for more specific details regarding admission to the program.

Residency Requirements

The Doctor of Philosophy degree in the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry allows a student the flexibility to reside outside of the Louisville, Kentucky, area. The student must attend the seminars which are offered on the main campus semi-annually (December and June typically). The student must also have access to the internet as this program requires participation in an online learning environment in addition to the on-campus seminars. Access to a major research library in proximity to the student’s residence is required.

Length of Time Allowed

The Doctor of Philosophy program is designed to be completed in four years. This time frame includes all seminars plus the dissertation. A student must enroll every semester until the dissertation has been accepted. If a student requires additional time beyond four years, that student must petition for an extension of time. The petition must be submitted to and approved by the Doctoral Studies Committee of the Department of Leadership and Discipleship. Students who are granted extensions will be assessed an additional fee for each semester of extension beyond the four-year limit.

Under no circumstances will a student be allowed to continue beyond six years in the program.

Minimum Grade Point

In order for a student to receive credit for a research seminar, they must earn a “B” (3.0 on a 4.0 scale). Any grade below a “B” results in loss of credit for the course and the student is placed on probation. An additional research seminar grade below a “B” during the following semester results in termination from the program. Additional academic evaluations are conducted during the entire program of studies to ensure that the student remains capable of completing doctoral studies.

Curriculum Plan

Research Foundations

10 Hours Required

81020 Graduate Research Seminar 2

96800 Empirical Research Methods 4

For those conducting a social science-based dissertation-

96850 Analysis of Empirical Research 4

For those conducting a text-based dissertation-

Choose one of the following:

97020 Readings in Family Ministry 4

93090 Readings in Higher Education 4

91080 Readings in Leadership 4

Foundational Studies

24 Hours Required

97010 Theology of Marriage and Family 4

93575 Models of Student and Family Ministry 4

97000 Theological Anthropology and Human Development 4

95600 Teaching and Learning: Theory and Practice 4

95700 Biblical and Theological Foundations for Leadership 4

96100 Leadership and Management Theory 4

Advanced Research Focus

12 Hours Selected in One of Three Areas:

Family Ministry

12 Hours Required

93565 Issues in Student and Family Ministry 4

97005 Christian Formation of Children and Adolescents 4

97015 Marriage and Family Counseling 4

Higher Education

12 Hours Required

91020 Christian Higher Education 4

93420 Curriculum Theory and Design 4

93920 Current Theory and Practice in Adult Education 4


12 Hours Required

96300 Organizational Theory and Development 4

93610 Communication and Team Dynamics 4

96400 Change, Power and Conflict 4


6 Hours; Six Semesters Attendance Required

90000 Colloquium 1

Dissertation Research

16 Hours on Completion; 2 Terms Minimum

96920 Comprehensive Examinations 0

93980 Doctoral Dissertation Research/Writing 0

42490 Cooperative Program 0

This course is required of all students enrolled in any of the degree programs offered by the SBC seminaries.

Academic Requirements

In order to graduate with a Ph.D. degree, the student must complete 68 hours of academic study as follows:

10 hours in Research Foundations

24 hours in Foundational Studies

12 hours in an Advance Research Focus Area

6 hours in Leadership Colloquium (six semesters)

16 hours in Dissertation Research

Research and Statistics Requirement

Students are required to complete a master’s level course in research and statistics before the end of the first year of study. This course can be taken in December or June on the Southern Seminary campus, or students may take this course at another accredited graduate institution, provided they submit transcript evidence of a grade of C or higher. The tuition for this course is not included in either matriculation of program fees.

Language Requirements

Graduate studies in empirical research methodologies, statistical analysis, and computer applications serve as language studies in the Doctor of Philosophy program.


At the time of admission, a student may be notified of any academic deficiency and the requirements necessary to satisfy the deficiency. Any prescribed requirements for the deficiency must be completed before a student begins the program.


Doctoral colloquia are designed to be a forum for doctoral students and faculty. In these colloquia, issues and developments in the fields of family ministry, higher education and leadership are explored. Colloquium sessions also focus on theological, philosophical, historical and social science foundations. Students are required to take 6 hours of doctoral colloquia (course 90000) for credit.

Comprehensive Examinations

Comprehensive examinations consist of three written evaluations of the student’s ability to integrate and incorporate research findings in the research foundations and research praxis studies in the Doctor of Philosophy program.

Before taking the comprehensive examinations, the student must have successfully completed all research seminars and 6 hours of colloquia

Preparation for the exams begins during the final semester of course work. Comprehensive examinations are scheduled and overseen by the student’s appointed dissertation supervisor. The examinations last for three days. The student must successfully complete the comprehensive examinations before the dissertation prospectus can be approved and the student can enroll in doctoral dissertation research.


Each candidate for the Doctor of Philosophy must successfully complete a dissertation based on the candidate’s own systematic inquiry into an area of advanced research. The dissertation is intended to: 1) demonstrate the student’s competency in research methodology, 2) demonstrate the student’s ability to think critically and systematically, and 3) make a significant contribution to the literature base of the field of church ministry.

The process of writing the dissertation is not a sudden enterprise, but a progressive investigation of a line of inquiry begun in the research seminars.

In the Empirical Research Methods seminar, the student receives formal training in research methodologies. In the Advanced Focused Research seminars, students will develop their study of the literature base related to their intended dissertation topic.

After completing comprehensive exams (one of which is dissertation related), the student develops a dissertation Prospectus that will present the student’s research questions and strategy. The student’s Dissertation Committee supervises the dissertation writing process including the writing of the Prospectus. The student defends the Prospectus in an open hearing. The student cannot begin dissertation research until the Dissertation Committee and the seminary faculty accept the Prospectus.

Research methods utilized for the dissertation must be appropriate to the type of research being conducted by the student. On-campus, individual consultations are required of the student during the writing of the dissertation.

Dissertation Defense

The completed dissertation is defended in an open hearing scheduled and supervised by the student’s Dissertation Committee. To graduate, the student must receive a minimum grade of “B” (3.0 on a 4.0 scale) on the dissertation. A grade of “B–” (2.7 on a 4.0 scale) or below will require the student to rewrite the dissertation and defend it again. Failure to pass the second submission and defense of the dissertation will result in forfeiture of the Doctor of Philosophy degree.

The dissertation, upon completion, is submitted for copyrighting, microfilming, and binding.

Learning Outcomes

  • Students will be able to demonstrate a thorough acquaintance with literature in area of specialization and the ability to engage critically and productively in this area.
  • Students will be able to demonstrate conversance with the literature in the general field of study and fields closely related to the area of specialization.
  • Students will be able to demonstrate the ability to use standard research tools and methods in the chosen field of study.
  • Students will be able to plan and conduct research in the area of specialization and to communicate its results effectively.
  • Students will be able to demonstrate an understanding of the role of the professor inside and outside the classroom in institutions of Christian higher education.
That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.