Ten Reasons to Attend Seminary

Many of you know that I will begin as a faculty member at Northern Seminary, in Lombard IL, this Fall.  I will be teaching Synoptic Gospels, New Testament Theology, Paul, Kingdom of God, and the Ethics of Jesus — and I am very excited about teaching each of these courses. I began my career teaching seminary students, shifted to undergraduates for seventeen years, and now will move into the seminary again. This move has driven me to think and rethink what seminary provides the church, or what the church provides the seminary. Today’s post offers ten reasons for going to seminary, and I know full well that many today both find seminary irrelevant and contend they are “successful” ministers without seminary. I’ve heard not a few of said contenders say that they think seminary would have hurt them. I disagree mostly… and, yes, the MDiv or a seminary degree is the union card or accreditation level for many churches … so here then are ten reasons to attend seminary:

1. Gift enhancement. Seminaries will not “gift” a person but seminaries can almost always enhance the gifts God has given to a person. I have argued for years that seminaries work best when they are populated by ministers and not by folks who think or want, but aren’t sure, if they are gifted or called. What seminaries do well is enhance gifts.

2. Biblical and Theological enhancement. Seminary students will study the Bible, the whole Bible, and that will be a first for some. And, they already have a theology; seminaries can enhance that theology, both by way of subtraction (getting rid of some careless ideas) and addition (adding better ideas). Students have the opportunity to study great theologians, and pity the seminary that assigns textbook-ish theology books, and I’m thinking here of Athanasius and Augustine, Aquinas and Anselm, Luther and Calvin (and the Anabaptists like Hubmaier), and then into the modern era with Barth and Moltmann.

3. Personal enhancement. There was a day when seminaries assumed seminary students would be praying and reading the Bible and practicing the disciplines and attending church … they assumed formation was already underway. No more. Increasingly, seminaries are making spiritual formation — personal enhancement — a part of each course in the curriculum. I will be. 

4. Dedicated time. Let’s face it, to develop theologically as a minister you need time, and that’s what seminary does. In sociological terms, seminary can be a time of encapsulation: you are isolated from your work, your church, and you are holed up in a class with other students and a professor, and you wander into quiet libraries and you study — it is that dedicated time that seminaries can offer. Most pastors aren’t afforded the luxury to study in big chunks of time, so going to seminary, even if it is as a commuter, offers dedicated time. It probably won’t happen without dedicated time.

5. Access to specialists. One of the problems with seminaries is that they can take on the flavor of a research institution and its professors want to be left alone to do historical and technical research and write books and articles and monographs for the academic guild. I am proud to say at Northern, the aim is for the professors to be both specialist enough to be able to work in the guild but who are shaping their lives toward pastors, toward ministry, and toward the church. Seminaries provide specialists to ministers who need specialists on the topics of the day.

6. Fellowship with peers. How many — I’m asking ministers this question — of your friends are peers you gained in seminary? In my years of speaking and writing and teaching, I have observed that many pastors made their closest ‘ministry peers’ in their seminary years. I sat in the graduation at Northern Seminary and then watched afterwards to see how many of these students have become friends. Adult friends, especially those who are ministry peers, remain friends. At seminary you will find a collection of peers who will form a ministry fellowship for life.

7. Theological diversity. Some seminaries (names omitted) prefer to have faculty who all think alike. I’m 100% persuaded diversity, theological diversity, is the name of the game for seminaries. No two pastors think exactly alike and no two professors think alike, and having theological diversity (within some creedal constraint) that interacts with one another sets a pattern for ministry for years to come. Taking classes from professors who don’t agree with you, or who think differently, will make you a better minister.

8. Languages. Here we go: not all seminaries require Greek and Hebrew and Aramaic. But the professors will know those languages and you will be exposed to professors who read those texts well and who can show why it matters and how it matters and how it matters for sermons, for devotion, and for ministry. At seminary you have the opportunity to study the original languages. Take the opportunity.

9. The New Perspective, etc. The blazing issues of the day, and the New Perspective on Paul is one such issue and I think of open theism and universalism as well, are often complicated enough that ministers simply don’t have the time to read and read and read to figure out what is going on. But what happens if the student can walk into a professor’s office or into a classroom and ask someone who knows and who can reduce it to 2 minutes and point you to what to read and how to think through the issue? Seminaries do this.

10. Who and not just What. When you are done with seminary you will be someone else. So the big advantage is not just what seminary did for your career but Who you became.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • http://communityofjesus.wordpress.com/ Ted M. Gossard

    Yes. Even though my theology is markedly different than the seminary I attended and graduated from, and even though I did myself and no one else any favors in working full time third shift and then taking morning classes, my seminary experience was important and formative for me in some basic ways. I wish I would have done much better by it, however. But good points here.

  • Jason Lee

    Data analysis in general seems to shows an undesirable effect of seminary education on ministers:

    “seminary-trained clergy will be more restrained by the norms of the profession and less restrained by the distinctive norms of the local congregation.”

    “clergy with no structured training devote 6.6 hours to prayer and meditation each week compared to 4.4 hours for those with seminary training.”

    Although there seem to be undesirable effects, it seems some things can help:

    “seminary’s emphasis on spiritual formation has an enduring and powerful effect on the time clergy spend in prayer.”

    From http://www.baylorisr.org/wp-content/uploads/dougherty_effects.pdf

    Such findings probably point to the fact that there is a lot that needs to be improved in seminary training rather than that seminary is necessarily bad for the church. There are probably other outcomes we could measure that would show negative effects of not having seminary training. I’m not sure what outcomes those would be…maybe a heavy reliance on emotion and pragmatic management techniques to the neglect of age old theology.

  • http://www.thecrossinaction.org Wally

    I think this list helps point toward how students approach education in general. What I learned in school and how I viewed school were very connected. A great list, and it makes me think of those pastors I learn from the most, all of which have seminary training, but seem to have come out with this kind of perspective. Seminary wasn’t a trump card, but a gift. Thanks Scot, i hope this encourages and challenges those for and against seminary to be thoughtful in their approach.

  • http://www.kingdomroundtable.blogspot.com Dru Dodson

    My time at seminary was formative – and informative. It was also expensive, stressed with a family to support, and the ideal end product seemed to be a clergy-scholar well suited to Christendom churches.

    I agree that theological education/training is crucial with all the benefits outlined. I would love to see more serious conversation about in-service theological training, about seminaries as research/resource centers supported by churches not student tuition and donors, about post-Christendom needs and the forms – and kinds of “clergy” – that will serve those needs. And, Congrats! on your new post at Northern – may you shape many for the task ahead!

  • scotmcknight

    Dru, I agree on the “clergy-scholar” perception. In Australia an administrator told me an alarming number of seminary students want to become professors and not pastors, which illustrates the role model that seminary professors are (become). I will be working on connecting classes and substance to church ministry.

  • http://www.miamifirstbrethren.org Ray Hileman

    Sadly, some seminaries (including, in my opionion, my denomination’s school) can take away good ideas and add worse ones. I appreciate your comment about some creedal restraints when talking about theological diversity, There are a few non-negotiables in our faith.

  • dan

    thanks for this reminder…needed it this AM!!

  • http://www.thoughtsofagyrovague.com Carl Holmes

    I start seminary today. It took me awhile. I graduated with my Theology Bachelors in 2007. Here is some of the reasons why:

    1) The amount of time spent on languages. I know that languages help in some form in understanding the underpinning culture. However, when you are looking at 40 to 60 credit hours, just for language, it is hard to justify. I know many a pastor who quit, or redirected, after attempting languages. And other than a fancy use of a word now and again in a sermon I have never met a Pastor who REALLY utilizes it now. Most have forgotten it!

    2) The MDiv, as a whole, is antiquated. Post Modernism is here, and it needs to be worked in and dealt with. The globe is getting smaller, and the ability to get around in it easier and easier. If we are spending inordinate amounts of time just studying ourselves, and not how we can work with other religions we are just becoming guarded and out dated.

    I have chosen a Masters in Ministry with Intercultural Studies as the concentration. I feel that in order to be best equipped to speak to my generation, and the ones to come, about Christianity and its truths that I need to be able to swim in the currents of other religions, beliefs, and people groups.

    I will learn some Biblical Languages. But it will not be the crux of what I do. The degree is still 40 percent theology. The other 60 percent being spiritual disciplines and Intercultural Studies.

  • Ashley Bailey

    As a Pastor’s wife and former Seminarian’s wife, I totally agree with all these points. His attendance at seminary even helped me, not by attending classes but by growing from fellowship with the community. We both loved the seminary experience, regardless of all the hard work and library hours (translate home alone hours) we put in. Good luck at Northern, Scot! NPU has lost an incredible professor.

  • Timothy Dalrymple

    I agree with Ted (#1). I wrote one piece that was critical of the prevailing attitude (at least at the time) at Princeton Theological Seminary toward sex and sexuality, but (as I indicated in that same post) I found my time there to be quite valuable. I formed strong relationships with a couple professors, professors who greatly inspired me, I formed deep friendships that persist to this day, and there’s no question that it allowed me to fill in the gaps in my understanding of church history, systematic theology and biblical interpretation. It was never my intent to become a pastor, and I have not, but I also found the courses in teaching and preaching helpful. If I had it to do over again, I would probably choose PTS again.

    It was interesting to me, in my senior year as an undergrad (when it was already clear that I meant to get a PhD and seek a position in modern western theology at a secular university, that the most anti-Christian of my professor-mentors strongly encouraged me to go to seminary rather than a two-year MTS or MAR. He thought a three-year program that forced me to get the fundamentals (languages, hermeneutics, systematics, church history) would be the best possible preparation for the specialization of a doctorate. Too many people, he thought, got their PhDs in theology and became “theologians” without really having studied historical or systematic theology. You could be an -ist theologian without ever having read Aquinas, or Anselm, or Calvin or Barth or etc. He thought this led to a lot of superficiality and disconnectedness in theology. I think he was right.

  • Phillip

    Good list. I would add that seminary becomes a place to own one’s faith. As the classes, perspectives, diversity, and Scripture (!) challenge our received faith, it forces us to critically (and appreciately) evaluate what we have been given, sort the pieces, and bring it back together. Ideally, the seminary will be interested in spiritual formation, which helps provide a safe context for the student have his/her crisis of faith as old ideas fall and new ones challenge, rather than having that crisis in the midst of their ministry. Also, beyond simply having access to experts, in seminary and afterward those people can also become trusted mentors we go back to from time to time once in ministry.

    I try to address ways to prevent the theological education-church divide and the theological-education-spiritual life divide, that sometimes occur in theological education (and several other matters as well) in my book, Finding Your Way: A Guide to Seminary Life and Beyond (at the risk of being self-serving here).

  • Shannon

    Scot, I just picked up your book the Blue Parakeet, and haven’t even gotten through the 1st chapter and I started crying. I know this might sound dramatic (it does to me), but I am 34, and reading your experience, as a kid, really hits my heart. I had an experience like that last fall. I am forever thirsty for the word of God and am so excited to learn the story I am a part of. I am reading the Bible with great passion, and cannot get enough of it. I have started “self educating” with works by Luther, Calvin, early church fathers, Stott, etc., and am starting my work on greek (we’ll see how that goes!) With that being said, I am a full time student, and mother of 2 small children, studying nothing near theology, but i know with all my heart that the Lord has a plan for me which involves deep study. I am going to finish my studies I have started and plan to formally pursue theology. I am not sure where or how I will apply my skills once done with school, but I will leave that with God.
    I understand this is not the most relevant post for the discussion above, but just wanted to express my new-found, life altering passion.
    I’d also like to thank you Scot, and our God, for the work he has done through you; you are an essential tool in His tool box. If you don’t like that analogy here’s one often used: thank you for being the hands and feet of our King and Savior, Jesus Christ!

  • http://profanefaith.com Jon Wymer

    To point 10. Or we can read Scot’s blog.

  • Jason

    Thanks for this, Scot.
    I’m debating whether to apply for seminary for January. This will help me think through it.

  • http://www.jeskastkeat.com Rev. Jes Kast-Keat

    Seminary was one of the best decisions of my life. Thankfully I am ordained in a tradition (Reformed Church in America) that values good education and training for professional ministry. Seminary provides the space for transformation. I have a strong bias for theological training and believe it is important for those who seek to be a pastor or theological leader. Great post, thanks Scot!

  • rob

    Three thoughts: For me it was the personal transformation that made seminary truly worth it. That and the gift of a pool of peers who will always be with me in my ministry. And finally, learning the diffence between the modern and the post modern reality we live in, so I can try to understand the massive gap in generations and their exp. with the church. Everything else I think I could have learned somewhere else but these three made seminary worth the sacrfice.

  • http://www.andybraner.com Andrew Braner

    I couldn’t agree more. So many lay people give seminary a bad name. I’ve heard it referred to as “Cemetery” for all the ill that happens. I’ve heard people say it takes years to “unlearn” what seminary is teaching students. I’ve even been in conversations where the “priesthood of believers” argument is used for people not to go. But in my experience, seminary gave me a thorough look into the scriptures. It helped me understand all the conversations going on, so that I could know what the issues the writers were dealing with during the time the Bible was written. The foundation laid for me at the seminary level gave me a platform to leap from even though I went to a Christian School, a Faith based University, and worked in practical ministry from the time I got out of college. It’s important to know the “whys” of the faith before you can effectively and honestly help people navigate the Bible in today’s world. Thanks Scot. I appreciate your willingness to forge ahead for more training. We can’t ignore 2000 years of Biblical study just because we have unlimited access to Biblical information through the internet.

  • Jennifer

    I love my seminary expereince for all the reasons that you list. It was so personally transformational and life-giving. I am working in ministry today, but even if I never did, I would consider seminary (and all the debt it brought) to be well worth it.

  • http://www.gmeadors.com Gary T. Meadors

    All good points. I think there is another point that I observe to be neglected…even in Seminary curriculum…”To gain a comprehensive overview of the entire Bible within its own literary conventions.”

    You have emphasized theology, pastoral practice, and valued the languages…all to be commended (Bruce Metzger once shared a story about a movement to nix the languages at Princeton Sem and he was thankful that the lay leaders in their system nixed getting rid of them). I would just add an emphasis on future pastors valuing a “Bible consciousness” (sort of in analogy to the goal of creating “historical consciousness” of culture in college students).

    My observation is that that by-in-large biblical exposition has taken a back seat on Sunday a.m. and I cannot remember when I observed a Sunday School program that was committed to moving through Scripture in a reasonable cycle.

  • Carter Sample

    Carl,

    A few thoughts, take on some of your comments. Take them or leave them.

    1. As far as languages go, I know they are daunting, but I think they are entirely worth focusing on. As a person who dreaded them and was never very good at languages, I have to say it was one of the best things that seminary taught me. The point should never be to use a fancy word in a sermon. The most important reason to understand the languages is that it helps you actually understand the culture and language in far deeper way. I don’t remember everything about Hebrew and Greek, but I do remember a great deal about HOW the languages work. It shaped the way I understood the scriptures and how the cultures communicated. People (including me) love to hate on the time spent on the languages, but I would argue that it’s incredibly important.

    2. I’m not sure what you mean that an MDiv is antiquated. If you’re in an MDiv program that is not engaging Post Modernism, the New Perspective, Globalization, etc. then you need to find a better MDiv program. What you’re describing is not really a weakness of an MDiv, but a weakness of a poor MDiv program.

    I recommend to quite a few people to pursue a Masters in Ministry as you have. An MDiv is not for everyone and isn’t the only way to do ministry. Your critiques, however, of an MDiv seem somewhat misplaced. I received a MDiv with a emphasis in Intercultural Ministries. The dichotomy that you are describing doesn’t have to exist. Theology and praxis are both important and both inform the other.

  • Pat Pope

    Amen, particularly to #7.

  • http://www.nearemmaus.com Brian LePort

    Good reasons! There are still so many things the seminary offers that the local church is not equipped to give.

  • Vioneth

    I would add one more reason. At the seminary you can find your spouse. Seriously if you are in ministry you need a person who shares the same vision, passion, and call for the ministry.

  • http://gregorianslant.blogspot.com Fr. Gregory Crosthwait

    I had a late college conversion to the Christianity I professed at age 10. When I perceived a call to ministry, I needed seminary to learn the Bible and gain an introduction to Christian Theology and pastoral practice.

    I was deeply intimidated by the languages, but they turned out to be me favorite classes in the program. I took Hebrew too quickly and can’t use it now. But I can still hobble along in Greek (with much help).

    Five or so years back, I took on a discipline of translating the Greek of one NT passage from the liturgy each week. It’s become a favorite part of my work week and I can’t imagine preaching without it. I can really tell the difference on weeks when I fail to keep my discipline.

    God bless the language professors!

  • Percival

    There seems to be a reluctance for pastors to study the Biblical languages, which I can sympathize with. My background is in linguistics so my perspective might be a little different. Perhaps instead of a straight course in Hebrew or Greek seminaries ought to consider linguistic type courses. Maybe some do; I don’t know. I am thinking of courses that cover things like translation principles, a linguistic look at inspiration, ancient rhetoric, language families and linguistic change, sociolinguistics, pragmatics and interpretation, etc. Are there any seminaries who do this?

    I have heard a lot of educated preachers who knew how to conjugate Greek verbs but who were quite ignorant about the bigger picture of language. It’s like a botanist who can tell label all the trees in the forest but doesn’t understand how the forest ecosystem works.

  • Dan Arnold

    Scot,

    So much of what you list is exactly why I loved my seminary experience. The friends, the focus (even though I also worked full time), the languages (I LOVE the languages), the new way of understanding God, learning to communicate complex ideas, being exposed to a wide variety of theological views (my professor were Evangelical women and men from Episcopal, Baptist, Presbyterian, Orthodox, Wesleyan and Charismatic backgrounds); all of these are life long treasures.

    Yet, your first item would eliminate me. As far as I can tell, I am not called to a professional ministry, although with a caveat. If I am ever called to a ministry position, I’m pretty convinced it would need to be in a bi-vocational roll. I just don’t think it’s wise to allow my livelihood be dictated by others’ perceptions of my beliefs.

    See, I went to seminary because I had pretty much lost my faith – a faith that I would later learn was rooted in biblicism and a soterian Gospel. I could no longer rationalize the cognitive dissonance but I put off making a final decision about whether to completely walk away from being a Christian until after I completed school.

    To be honest, the kinds of questions I had could not be explored in the local church in the way that I needed to explore them. And while seminary was transformative, the down side is that now I have a faith that has been transformed but beliefs that exclude me from full participation in the church we attend. So, I’m still left with this nagging feeling of, “so what?”

    Yet, I do have a vision for a ministry which grew out of my seminary experience. I think of it as “The Community Church of the Island of Misfit Toys.” It would be about meeting at a round table, not in front of stage. It would be a place where questions are explored as a means to grace, not dismissed with platitudes.

    So yes, I too recommend seminary but I realize that seminary is not for everyone. And I wonder if the church would be capable of providing many of the benefits of this education to a broader audience without the high cost.

  • RJS

    Dan,

    Great comment – I wish I had the time and/or money to take seminary classes, whether for a degree or not. The biggest issues for me are similar to the ones you give (money is the bigger issue). The sort of typical shallow and unreflective faith of American evangelicalism simply would not stand up to the questions I needed to address. It was no longer possible to take a very high level approach to all of the disciplines I deal with professionally and a freshman intro (at best) approach to Christian faith.

    As formal course work is not an option I have been studying on my own regularly for about 6 years. It has made a huge difference, but lacks the human touch, and the opportunity to bounce ideas.

    I can sympathize with your nagging “so what?” as well.

  • Katie N.

    Thank you, Scot! I’m headed to Bethel Seminary in the Fall; excited and nervous, but when the Lord calls, you follow. Blessings to you at Northern Seminary!

  • Fred

    RJS

    May I ask about the approach you are taking? I know there are on-line seminary courses available but they seem to assume that you will one day finish a formal degree at their location. I am trying to do the same thing (I think) but find the options limited, so I am curious.

    Maybe Scot should start a more formal JC with submitted papers, on-line discussions, etc. I would pay for that…not much, but something. ;)

  • Jon G

    RJS – ditto. As someone who wishes I knew “then” how much I would value a seminary education “now”, you’re thoughts really resonate with me. Now I’m in my late 30s, with 3 kids and have very little time or money to go to seminary (although I did try some online classes last year that were very helpful).

    Scot, it would be great if you offered at least one course a year to non-seminary students. But sometimes I feel that this blog does a great job of satisfying that need. ;-)

  • Scot McKnight

    Gary, I thought of having a line just on Bible and then add Theology, but I want to see Bible and Theology together … but I agree and should write in a line or two about reading the Bible.

  • RJS

    Fred,

    A rather unorganized follow my whim approach that is relatively unsatisfying. Some of it comes along with reading and writing here. And of late I’ve been investing enough time on this that I haven’t had the opportunity to pursue other topics though (Scot does all the interesting things).

    As a “professional student” (which is pretty much what all professors and scholars are) I am pretty good at independent study but the lack of interaction and people to bounce ideas off makes it harder.

  • http://www.anabaptistly.wordpress.com Chris Lenshyn

    While I fully agree the seminary is vital to the nurturing and theological development of ministers and leaders, it does however miss the point on a few things that are extremely important. To save myself a lengthy reply and a benefit to those who would just want to pass by this comment I blogged about this a few weeks ago. Be sure to read the comments below the post… quite valuable to the discussion.

    http://anabaptistly.wordpress.com/2012/05/03/why-i-may-not-go-to-seminary/

  • janie

    Reason # 11: Maybe your future flock deserves your best? (-:

    I’ve visited way too many churches where I, as a layperson, know more about bible, theology, church history, etc, etc than the pastor. I don’t mean I understand it differently — I mean they haven’t a clue about the issues. A pastor doesn’t have to be perfect or the smartest and most knowlegable person in the world but they should be conversant.

    I’m not saying some can’t and don’t learn elsewhere – but it sometimes seems to me that the bar is way too low in many churches/congregations, especially non-denominational.

  • Aaron

    I’m with Dru #4.
    I’m seminary trained and loved my education, but because seminaries are run just like secular universities, many students, like myself, enter seminary to get better trained for ministry and then graduate four years later with debt that will be with us for many, many years. Many churches don’t want to hire or pay living wages to “new” ministers, fresh from seminary, and so many of us with M.Divs are forced to look for positions out of field.
    So now I teach ESL and don’t make enough to support my family.
    I’d love for seminaries and churches to join together in a mutually beneficial way to make seminary less expensive and thus less economically crippling, while also providing doors for recent seminary grads to be able to enter ministry upon graduation.

  • http://rookiepastor.com Josh Tandy

    Love the time factor. Seminary serves as a great incubator for Rookie Pastors to form their identity in terms of theology and leadership.

  • ab

    As a wife of a Pastor who went through 3 years of Seminary to obtain his MDiv, I can unequivocally say how tremendously valuable his education was for him. It provided us both with access to great thinkers who pushed and prodded within the context of a strong community of students. That being said, we Pastor at a smaller sized fairly diverse church and if we lived on his salary we would be impoverished for life. This is true for most Pastor’s wives that I know– almost every single one qualifies for food stamps on pastor salary alone, yet churches require a very expensive degree. Seminary, while amazing and wonderful, put us into a financial situation that will not be rectified for many, many years, leaving us to wonder if it is worth that type of trade off. Yet, we feel called to ministry meaning he had to have the MDiv. Unless churches step up on the other end, Seminary in today’s economic climate is not only nearly impossible, it can be financially irresponsible.

  • Questioning Student

    Scot (and anyone who wants to add!),
    How would you advise an undergraduate who does not feel called to any formal “ministry” but finds his academic and personal interests drawing him to a seminary education? I’m interested in history, philosophy, theology and religion and my mind incessantly wrestles with theological issues. I find myself most interested not only in early Christian history (thanks to Wright), Evangelical history (thanks to Noll and my background) and the intersection of Environmental and Religious studies but also all the theological questions (thanks to Wright again). You mention an “alarming number of seminary students want to become professors and not pastors.” (#5) Being a professor seems so improbable and far away…but I definitely lean that way more than towards a pastoral vocation. If not seminary, what should I do with my interests?

    It looks like Timothy Dalrymple (#10) went to seminary without intending to become a pastor…I wonder what he would advise?

  • Jaymes Lackey

    I am in seminary now… it is the best decision.

    Go to school. Check out Seattle Pacific Seminary!
    http://www.spu.edu/academics/school-of-theology/seattle-pacific-seminary

  • http://logicandimagination.com Melody H Hanson (@melodyhhanson)

    #8 Carl, you said “And other than a fancy use of a word now and again in a sermon I have never met a Pastor who REALLY utilizes it now. Most have forgotten it!”

    I attend a megachurch in Madison, WI where two of the pastors regularly help us learn the meaning of Greek and Hebrew terms (phrases and words mostly) and it enriches their teaching and my learning each Sunday. It does require the pastors to work harder, but seriously how can one expect to understand/interpret books that were not originally written in English without regularly studying in the original languages? I say that not having any background myself but it just seems obvious that languages are an important part of study and interpretation?

    Am I missing something?

  • Amos Paul

    As far as statistics about seminary graduates go–can we be completely honest here? How many of those statistics are going to be for people who weren’t ready or right for seminary? I’ve heard from a shocking number of people who went to seminary to ‘find themselves’, rather than pursue the calling that had already grown in their hearts. And, yes, some of those people end up in the job they’re most qualified for education-wise (clergy).

    Conversely, those who do not go to seminary but pursue the ministry often find it much more difficult to get jobs (lack of qualification) or start their own churches. They almost necessarily have to be driven and dedicated to what they’re pursuing.

    I’d say it’s like the difference between non-educated entrepreneurs and MBA graduates. Lots of people get MBAs ‘just because’ even if it wasn’t really ‘right’ for them, which really skews the statistic of how beneficial MBAs are to those already gifted with a drive and passion for business.

    Also, seminaries have probably even more diversity upon *how* they approach education and training than most other Master’s level academic institutions. Not all two seminaries are born equal, making studying the statistics for seminaries in general a very difficult thing to properly evaluate.*

    *I’d suggest finding statistics or researching statistics for specific seminaries, if possible.

  • http://abramkj.wordpress.com/ Abram K-J

    This is great stuff. I really appreciate the importance of reason #4, dedicated time. But one caution I have to hold in mind for myself is that “isolated from your work, your church…” could go either way. I am fortunate to be taking M.Div. classes in an urban ministry program at a seminary that values rigorous scholarship (and requires both Greek and Hebrew!). But what’s unique about the urban campus is that almost every student comes to class already involved in a ministry or pastorate of some sort. So the classes are very much integrated with the work and ministry we do.

    But, yes, “isolation” in the sense that it’s good sometimes to step out of the day-to-day of ministry and work and reflect more deeply on the things of God… this can be a very good thing!

  • Jack Weinbender

    Language study was the single most augmenting element to my seminary education. Don’t short yourself. If your class books come from Cokesbury, you can read them later.


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