When Lakeya Stewart ’17 (School of Divinity) started her doctor of ministry in 2012, she had no idea she’d have three children before she would graduate. After a visit to the doctor’s office, she discovered she and her husband, Daniel, would be the proud parents of triplets. Already working as a chaplain in a nursing home, Stewart’s schedule was fully packed. With a supportive husband and daily routine, she expects to finish her rigorous program after welcoming Christina, Carson and Courtney into the world on April 24, 2016.
“I’ve discovered it takes more than being academically sound or intelligent,” said Stewart. “It’s more than just being a good student. Writing a dissertation and doctoral studies take self-discipline. Over these five years, I made certain things priorities, but sometimes it takes whatever is necessary to get it done.”
Stewart is examining the difference between toxic leadership and servant leadership amongst pastors. She’s found that pastors with insecurities tend to lead by being controlling, manipulative and instilling fear in others. Her dissertation examines how Jesus led, without coercion, and she says the project is equipping her to combat spiritual abuse by hosting workshops, speaking to church members who have been hurt by churches and pastors in leadership, spreading the message they are not alone and Jesus is there to walk alongside them and heal.
Researching and writing the dissertation took Stewart away from her home in Indiana to travel to Kentucky to conduct interviews for a few days. Her husband supported her as she wrote 150 pages. The two were married two weeks after she began the program in 2012. She advises anyone attempting a similar journey to follow their hearts, goals and dreams, but most importantly, seek God first.
“The most rewarding thing is to look back and see how far God has brought me. I remember coming to my first residency and thinking, ‘What did I get myself into?’ You see all of the classes you have to take and the dissertation, and it seems insurmountable. To now be able to look back and see that I’m almost there, I know God can bring me through this.”
Stewart plans to participate in Regent University’s Commencement in May with her husband and three children in the audience. The online program’s flexibility enabled her to work at her own pace and finish her degree around her schedule. She currently works at her church as director of a new generations ministry doing Christian education. She enjoys teaching and sees herself one day serving as a professor in higher education.
“I think the research and the knowledge I gained through my dissertation has prepared me,” said Stewart. “I feel like a scholar in the area and can reach people.”
Stewart will hold a doctor of ministry degree in Clinical Pastoral Education. She chose Regent after finding the university online and seeing that it offered this unique program. She says her professors were extremely supportive of her education while she balanced schoolwork and giving birth to triplets.