Guidelines for choosing topics

The main considerations arise on the field. Consider these questions:

  1. What is your current ministry context? Aim to do your project in contexts with which you are familiar. We are assuming that you already have a suitable ministry context, which is difficult if you are on a closed campus or spend all your time in routine ministry.
  2. What kind of ministry is really needed? If the ministry is not very helpful, why do it?
  3. What expertize does your supervisor have? If you have only one person to be your supervisor, he/she can't allow a topic if he/she doesn't have the particular skills in that ministry area.
  4. Is the proposed project feasible? Some factors:
    • Can you complete the project in the time available (one year full-time or equivalent part-time)?
    • Will it need injections of extra funds (unless getting funding is part of the project)?
    • Will it bring up complex issues that cannot be solved within the scope of the project? (Some proposed projects bring up issues that would be good Ph.D. topics.)
  5. Does the proposed project have a specific goal? Project proposals that are routine ministry are not acceptable because they have no specific goal. You need to have a specific goal for advancement.
  6. Is the proposed project ambitious enough? Simple projects that can be finished in a few weeks are unsuitable.
  7. Will the proposed project stretch you? Will you learn something new?
  8. Is the proposed project failable? Why bother if you will obviously achieve the goal? If there's no risk of failure, there is no value in success.
Things that are not barriers

Choosing suitable topics is probably the first hurdle.

VCI makes no specific restriction on ministry contexts and kinds of project. For example, students may minister in denominational bodies, local congregations, interdenominational organizations, or mission agencies. Your gifting may be in teaching, developing training programs, leading worship, children’s ministry, youth ministry, counselling, church planting, or pastoral ministry.

Some organizations view some kinds of ministry as superior to others, for example:

  • Denominational ministry and theological education are considered superior to pastoral care.
  • Pastoral care of adults is considered superior to youth and children's ministry.
  • Urban ministry is considered superior to rural ministry.
  • Pastoral care of large churches is considered superior to pastoral care of small churches.
  • Pastoring established churches is considered superior to evangelism and church planting.

In contrast, VCI sees all these ministries as equally suitable for the same level qualification.

Is your project idea right for your qualification?

Veritas differentiates as follows:

A project for an Advanced Diploma has these characteristics:

  • It impacts on a local church
  • It impacts on a branch or department of a ministry organization
  • It impacts on a local area
  • It impacts on a homogenous cultural setting or group
  • You will have to implement a specified range of structural changes.

A Grad. Dip. Project has at least one of these characteristics:

  • It impacts on a network of churches, not just one local church
  • It impacts on a whole ministry organization, not just a branch or department
  • It impacts on a region or country, not a smaller local area
  • It impacts on a culturally or socially diverse setting, not a single homogenous group
  • You will have to implement major changes in key personnel, structures, and/or growth. (Leading people through major change is very challenging, especially if you are the leader.)

Put side by side, the two lists are quite different:

Advanced Diploma of Biblical Ministry

Graduate Diploma of Biblical Ministry

  • Impacting a local church
  • Impacting a number of churches
  • Impacting a branch or department of a ministry organization
  • Impacting a whole ministry organization
  • Impacting a local area
  • Impacting a region or country
  • Impacting a homogenous cultural setting or group
  • Impacting a culturally or socially diverse setting
  • Implementing a specified range of structural changes
  • Implementing major changes in key personnel, structures, and/or growth
Examples

Each of these examples is given in two versions, one for Adv. Dip. and one for Grad. Dip.

Example A: Preaching and teaching

Adv. Dip.

In your church, you have noticed that the standard of teaching in home groups is very low. Some new converts are preaching with little knowledge of the Word of God. They are enthusiastic, but are not helping the churches very much. Some of them seem to see it as a way to gain influence over other people, and you doubt their motives.

You plan to run a preaching class for a group of them over the next year so that they can study the Bible and pass on what they learn.

This is a local program, so this project better suits the Adv.Dip.

Grad. Dip.

In your area, you have noticed that the standard of preaching in churches is very low. Some of the new converts are preaching with little knowledge of the Word of God. They are enthusiastic, but are not helping the churches very much. Some of them seem to see it as a way to gain influence over other people, and you doubt their motives.

You plan to run a preaching class for a group of pastors from the churches in your area over the next year so that they can study the Bible and pass on what they learn. You will have to negotiate with the churches to get their support to release their pastors regularly.

This project impacts a network of churches and is better suited to the Grad.Dip.

Example B: Pastoral care

Adv.Dip.

The new Christians in your house groups don’t get any pastoral care. They are only told that it is their duty to go to church and listen. They do, but they have many personal problems such as doubt, immorality, and syncretism. Some have suffered personal crises, lost loved ones, or have unanswered questions about Christian teaching. A few become disillusioned with Christianity and gone back to their old ways.

You believe that the leaders of groups would benefit greatly from training in pastoral care. You plan to run a series of seminars in the church, and if any of them have a gifting in pastoral care, you will provide a second stage of training.

This is a local project, so it is better suited to the Adv.Dip.

Grad.Dip.

The new Christians in your area don’t get any pastoral care. They are only told that it is their duty to go to church and listen. They do, but they have many personal problems such as doubt, immorality, and syncretism. Some have suffered personal crises, lost loved ones, or have unanswered questions about Christian teaching. A few become disillusioned with Christianity and gone back to their old ways.

You believe that the pastors would benefit greatly from training in pastoral care. You plan to run a series of seminars in the churches, and if any of them have gifting in pastoral care, you will provide a second stage of training.

You will have to deal directly with each church in the network, so this project better suits the Grad.Dip.

Example C: Planting a church

Adv. Dip

You want to plant a small church in a nearby suburb. You already have a group of friends from your own church to be the nucleus, and the people in the other suburb are socially and ethnically similar to your home church.

This project is local and better suits the Adv.Dip.

Grad. Dip

You want to plant a small church in a nearby suburb, where you hope to reach people from another ethnic group. They are culturally different from you and your home church. You already have a group of friends from the area to be the nucleus.

This project is intercultural and better suits the Grad.Dip.

Example D: Working with the board of your church

Adv. Dip

You are the senior pastor of a large church. Your board has a problem of frequent disharmony and the board members do not work together well as a team. Part of it might have been two elders, Joshua and Luke, who are related and often disagree with each other.

The church members have not heard about the disharmony and still support the board. So far, the disharmony has not yet had any wider effects.

You see that it would be better to have two elements to the project:

  • Pastoral care of your board members so that their own personal needs will be met
  • Training in communication and teamwork as a board.

The program is quite local and the changes are not major. This is suitable for a Adv.Dip.

Grad. Dip

You are the senior pastor of a large church. Your board has a serious problem. Two board members, Joshua and Luke, are related and have been in a serious family argument.

The other board members have taken sides. Some see Joshua as a good leader who might have made an error of judgement. They think Luke is simply not good leadership material.

The other board members think that Joshua is just a crook and see Luke as the victim. Luke is quiet but does not back down.

The church members have heard about the argument and many are leaving. Some stay only through loyalty, but they are discouraged and have no spiritual energy.

You see that it will take substantial time to get a new board and lead the church through this difficult time.

Change management like this is very difficult and is suitable for a Grad.Dip.

Example E: Caring for your pastoral team

Adv. Dip

The lay workers in your church are getting stale and dry. They have had no further training for many years, and some are quite discouraged about the ministry. Many are lonely. Some have run out of ideas and are doing only what they learned five or ten (or twenty) years ago.

You plan to develop a support program in your church so that they can all develop. You don’t know how much it should be a mutual support network or some kind of further training, but you plan to let the group discuss it and decide.

This is local project and seems to be suitable for an Adv.Dip.

Grad. Dip.

The pastors in your region are getting stale and dry. They have had no further training for many years, and some are quite discouraged about the ministry. Many are lonely. Some have run out of ideas and are doing only what they learned five or ten (or twenty) years ago. Their wives also have particular needs that don’t get met in their normal circumstances.

You plan to develop a network of pastors in your region so that they can all develop. You don’t know how much it should be a mutual support network or a professional development group, but you plan to let the group discuss it and decide.

You can see that this will affect the whole network of churches. The project seems to be suitable for a Grad.Dip.

Example F: Helping people in need

Adv. Dip.

You are a senior worker in a ministry to women called East Side Ministries (or ESM). One of your main goals is to help women in poverty, especially widows with small children. Many beg for a living, but they often turn to prostitution where they can make more money. However, they are often beaten or cheated by clients, and a few have been killed. This then affects the children because they see this lifestyle as normal, and they perpetuate it.

East Side Ministries usually sets up houses for groups of women to live with their children. The women go through a recovery process and learn how to set up respectable small businesses.

You have been asked to set up a women’s house in another suburb to take the overflow, as your current house is now full. The project is local and is suitable for an Adv.Dip.

Grad. Dip.

You are a senior worker in a ministry to women called East Side Ministries (or ESM). One of your main goals is to help women in poverty, especially widows with small children. Many beg for a living, but they often turn to prostitution where they can make more money. However, they are often beaten or cheated by clients, and a few have been killed. This then affects the children because they see this lifestyle as normal, and they perpetuate it.

East Side Ministries usually sets up houses for groups of women to live with their children. The women go through a recovery process and learn how to set up respectable small businesses.

You have been asked to set up women’s houses in two other provinces. The project is wider than your local area and is suitable for a Grad.Dip.