Steven Masters (D.Min. 2017, M.Div. 2007) has always enjoyed taking care of people. In fact, he retired from a career in the United States Coast Guard and began exploring how to make caring for people his vocation in the mid-2000s. He felt called into ministry and in 2007 graduated from Wesley with a Master of Divinity. After serving in the local church for multiple years, Masters felt he still was not quite serving in the role to which he was called.
When he first learned about Wesley’s Doctor of Ministry track Soul Care for Pastors, Chaplains, and Clinicians, he knew it was an opportunity he needed to explore.
“I’d known about the D.Min. program for years and years,” Masters said. “But when the Soul Care track popped up, I realized that this was what I had to do. So I researched it and asked God if this was what I really needed to do and then I followed my intuition and here I am.”
Masters now works as a hospital chaplain at the Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, Va., where he visits and cares for people every day.
“In my job as a chaplain for hospice and for persons in the hospital, the Soul Care D.Min. track fit very well because that’s what we do—care for the soul, especially for those in my line of work who are at end of life or dealing with chronic diseases,” he said. “I wanted to explore how we take care of people who are beaten down by life’s challenges. This track seemed to address many of the issues that I wanted to explore and that excited me to go forth and pursue it.”
Masters’ experience in the Doctor of Ministry program enhanced the ministry he was already engaged in within the hospital setting. He learned new skills that helped him become a better listener to a diverse range of patients and learned new information about the societal factors that impact the patients he visits daily.
The Soul Care cohort was likewise a valuable resource for Masters during and even after the program.
“Since four of us are chaplains, we have similar stories and deal with similar people on a daily basis, so we know what each other is going through,” Masters said. “We have a network of persons that we can rely on and can pray with, persons who can keep us going when we’re having a hard time, or help us connect to resources that we wouldn’t normally have contact with.”
Since graduating in May 2017, Masters has continued in his role at the hospital and is completing the process to become a board-certified chaplain. The knowledge and experience gained in his degree program will continue to benefit his current and future ministry. He recommends the program to anyone who wants to expand their horizons and take better care of their people, he said.
“I would recommend the Soul Care track just because it is not cookie cutter,” Masters said. “It really does expand your mind and thinking because it is so diverse. There are some classes I wish I could take over to spend more time with.”
Editor’s Note: Care for the souls of persons and congregations remains a significant ministry of the church. Communal and contextual models of care enliven the tradition of the care of souls today. Wesley’s Doctor of Ministry in Soul Care for Pastors, Chaplains, and Clinicians equips ministers with the theoretical and practical tools necessary for more effective and reflective ministry in care and counseling. With a strong emphasis on biblical and theological foundations combined with current theory and best practices, participants strengthen their ability to reflect as pastoral theologians as they respond to pressing human needs as skilled caregivers. The next track will begin in May 2018. More information is available here.