Pastor, First Baptist Church of Berwyn, Berwyn, IL; Rehabilitation Counselor, State of Illinois Department of Human Services, Joliet, IL; Adjunct Professor, College of Arts and Sciences, Aurora University, Aurora, IL; Adjunct Professor, Moraine Valley Community College, Palos Hill, IL; Faculty Mentor United Theological Seminary
What is your ministry context?
Currently, my ministry context is all that I do. I pastor a multi-ethnic/multi-cultural intergenerational congregation in Berwyn, IL a western suburb of Chicago. The church was birthed in 1894 and is 110 years old and was formed 16 years prior to the founding of Berwyn. We are mission oriented and provide many opportunities to countries around the globe through Heifer International and locally through the Night Ministry – a homeless ministry.
I also consider my ministry context the work I do as a Rehabilitation Counselor through the State of Illinois Dept. of Human Services, Division of Rehabilitation providing much needed services to medically disabled, mentally ill, and/or elderly individuals through the Home Services Program. Illinois is one of four states that have been providing this service since 1980.
Furthermore, my work as an educator at Aurora University teaching Ethics and Problems of Philosophy, Moraine Valley Community College teaching Humanities, and as a faculty mentor at United are considered ministry areas as well. I consider myself to be following in the footsteps of Jesus and many others who had a tri-vocational ministry that encompassed the church, community, and academy.
What do you like most about teaching (mentoring) at United?
What I enjoy most about teaching and mentoring at United is the community of learners in the various focus groups and D.Min program overall. I can read, reflect, and study with some of the brightest minds in ministry. These individuals include the mentors, faculty, and students, as well as the topical plenary discussion leaders from the church, community, and academy. By reading the project papers/dissertations and learning about different contexts of ministry, assists my growth as a pastor, educator, and community minded individual.
Tell us about a significant project you’ve worked on outside of teaching (mentoring) for United.
The most significant project I have worked on outside of United is the continuation of the project that was conceptualized while as a student. My life’s work, in part as a Christian educator is to continue to hold workshops/seminars that provide for the building up of other pastors and Christian educators in various churches. This lead to the creation of Damon R. Jones Christian Education Ministries, which seeks to empower and strengthen Christian Educators to be prophetic in their teaching to transform students into good stewards who act out their faith in the community.
Why do you believe in United?
I believe in United because it offers the student a contextual-based education for the working individual. The program is very unique because it provides for the creation of several communities of learning, which enhances the skills of all associated with the seminary.
Any advice for current and incoming students?
I would advise students to do three things.
Manage your time well, especially if you are a bi-vocational or tri-vocational pastor, community activist, or educator. What you do and how you prepare in the first three phases impacts your project implementation, dissertation, and final examination process. Do the work when it is due to leave you time for corrections and editing.
Get to know your peers and other colleagues in ministry. Do not just know the peers in the same focus group as you are in, but become acquainted with peers from other groups and other phases. This will provide you not only with friends and colleagues for life, but will enhance your learning by utilizing them as resources.
Listen to your mentors of the specific focus group. We are here to assist you in navigating the program. Do not listen to all voices outside of the group because there are nuances to each group, but we all have to follow the essence and spirit of the United D.Min handbook. When in doubt, refer to your mentor and communicate with them appropriately and your time and money will be well spent for 2 ½ years leading you to this terminal degree.