Seminaries: Training People to Repair Phone Booths

In the video above, the realities of seminary today are explicating, and it should be a chilling watch for most anyone involved in the business. It is for me, teaching as I do at one mainline seminary and one evangelical seminary. And I’ve watched the ponderous process of curriculum change at both of those seminaries, overseen by the Association of Theological Schools, an organization not known for its flexibility.

These are hard times. Change will need to come a lot quicker than it is…

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  • Joey Richard

    This almost makes me rethink going to Seminary.

  • Nate in Minneapolis

    It was striking to be sitting in the parking lot at Luther Seminary, to see Bockman Hall pop up in the video and look up and literally see the real Bockman Hall right here from the exact same angle. It’s a good video talking about some very real issues. I have a slightly different path after graduation with “guaranteed appointment” as part of the United Methodist ordination / appointment process but even that has it’s own levels of controversy.

  • Adam Metz

    Thanks for pissing in my Cheerios . . . lol . . . you are exactly right in saying “Change will need to come a lot quicker than it is . . .” seminaries are noticing it, but slow to change.

    • silicon28

      Don’t miss the fact that Tony is saying what he is… while still teaching within the same “system” that is part of the problem. While I don’t begrudge him the income he needs to feed his family; he’s a part of the system that’s fighting the change he says needs to come…

      • David White

        How do you figure seminaries are part of the problem? That was certainly not the gist of the video. How are seminaries fighting change?

  • Zach Lind

    It reminds me of folks getting degrees in music.

    • Dan Whitmarsh

      As one who has an undergrad degree in music, and an M.Div. . .thank you.

  • jasoncoker

    Every time someone tells me they’re going to seminary, I tell them to get an MBA instead. Or an MFT. Anything, for God’s sake, but an Mdiv.

  • Gerry Michalski

    Phone Booths….interesting….Yesterday I drove through the inner-city where there is huge poverty… and something took place that stunned me. I watch 4 people at 3 separate phone booths using the phones (probably because they cannot afford cells). People still need the phone booth! #Justsaying.

  • Ben Kramer

    These people should be applying in Canada. There are always churches looking for pastors up here. Our problem is finding enough people still willing to take the jobs given the way many pastors are treated these days.

  • JohnWesleyHelpUs

    Or, you can start/plant a church. My father planted numerous churches as did many other immigrant pastors. Don’t expect a job out of a seminary, but expect God to lead you to a ministry. In this day and age, a missional mindset and outlook is needed more than ever.

  • Andrew Dowling

    In the future (I’m talking 30-50 years) most pastors will have to do their jobs on a voluntary or part-time basis. It being a career will be a thing of the past.

    • silicon28

      I agree with your point – but not your timeline. Many of us pastors now are earning our livings out there in the “real world” and our ministry is completely voluntary. The career path of the past 100 years is already dead and gone; just too many of us haven’t realized it yet.

  • toddh

    Good news for religious professionals is hard to come by these days.

  • Bo

    In my opinion, God is calling the church to reinterpret what it means to be the church, at least here in America. With fewer people attending mainline churches and mainline churches in numerical decline, we have to figure out a way to take the gospel to the nonbelievers if the nonbelievers aren’t attending our churches. I think it is very interesting how we are realizing what the Israelites learned during the Babylonian
    captivity that being the church (or Temple) is something more than just a

    That said, I believe if you’re going to seminary, consider how your faith and hermeneutic can transform people into a living faith–in and outside of a church building. If you can handle that consideration, then seminary is for you. If church is only a building or you are uncomfortable sharing your faith in your community, then I’d encourage you to be an awesome layperson in the church and denomination of your choice. God needs laypeople as much as God needs pastors.

  • An Mdiv or whatever the traditional seminary path is doesn’t actually equip a person w/ the core competences necessary for leading a group of people from where they are to where they need to be – the primary role of and value added by a pastor, in my opinion… This is my assessment and experience. And this is why I quit the seminary track and took a different path that better equipped me in the “secular” as well as religious landscapes.

    • Jason Houlihan

      What path did you take?

      • One that lead me out of “traditional” church and “traditional” seminary to Bakke Graduate University to complete a grad degree in Civic Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship, to start my own family, to start my own business(es) as well as into church planting and into various community development contexts, and then full circle back into a traditional church context – all without an Mdiv and now w/ one foot in both worlds. A journey!

  • Al Cruise

    Truth is, the face of Christianity in North America that is seen and heard by the public, is the right wing, politically motivated, fundamentalist evangelicals, led by the current crop of neo-Calvinists. They are turning people off in droves and they will take everyone else in the business down with them. A stock market real estate expert recently said, Church/Religious properties will be flooding the market in the next few years.

  • Steve Hackman

    Couldn’t help blogging on this as well after seeing the video:

  • From your title one would think that the video had something to do with existing seminary courses being hopelessly dated. But its point seemed to be, simply, that there are more graduates than jobs. How would changing the curriculum change that?

  • BradC

    I’m an old school emergent friend, seminary trained, former pastor – now a
    business owner and church attendee.

    I’m not surprised to hear this – have been watching this trend for 15 years
    now. The growth of the evangelical mega-church masked things a bit, but church
    attendance has been in decline for some time and therefore less jobs for pastors.
    Many left the mainline churches to attend the generic seeker churches and it appeared
    to be a period of growth, but it was just movement in the type of church people
    attended not really growth. Some of the decline is simply demographics – the
    baby boomers with young children built the numbers of churchgoers, but most are empty nesters or retired and not going to church as often. The mainline church was the first affected by the aging boomer, but the seeker style church is now affected by this and their numbers are in decline. Some will point to the
    super-mega church and suggest it is a sign of growth, but overall a smaller
    percentage of people go to church today as compared to 20 years ago.

    IMHO: The big contributor is the philosophical transition not the
    demographic one. The post-modern turn really destroyed “absolutism”
    and this has significantly affected organizations that are defined by a set of
    absolutes or a set of “correct beliefs” or othodoxy. Most denominations exist
    to preserve a set of absolutes – you go to seminary to learn them, you become
    ordained through a process that confirms that you hold them, pastors are
    trained to be teachers and teach the untrained this set of correct beliefs. The
    problem isn’t the denominations or seminaries – it’s the thought that absolutes
    exist at all!

    The irony
    is – the fix will come as hard working theologians/philosophers work through
    the emerging milieu and develop theology that works in the current world and a
    new understanding of what it is to be the church.