By Alan Rudnick:
Now, because of cost of graduate education, seminary graduates are saddled with debt. In the $40,000 to $60,000 range (on top of college debt). The pace of the rise of the cost of education has exceeded the rate of inflation: to the tune of 500% since 1985. Usually, when a professional incurs such a debt, their boss gives them a raise because of their higher degree. Not the case with pastors. Many pastors have the same credit hours as school administrators, but paid much less.
With this current reality of shrinking churches, downsized church budgets, less full-time pastor positions, and need for a generation of clergy to lead churches into a new culture, a shorter more focused distance modified seminary degree is needed. A distance modified 45-credit degree could shake up this bleak future for pastors and churches. Seminaries likeNorthern and Palmer are introducing these types of programs.
Here’s what the 45-credit “seminary” degree could look like:
12 credits – Bible (Learning the story of God’s people)
9 credits – Theology (Learning who God is and how God works)
12 credits – Leadership (Learning how to lead through conflict and change)
12 credits – Mission (Learning how to put into practice the entrepreneur mission of the Gospel in the community)
If a distance online-modified program were introduced, it would cut debt and cost. If denominations and seminaries realized they are training pastors for a religious world that does not exist anymore, then this proposal would help churches revitalize. Seminaries were so busy on training and educating biblical and theological grounded graduates that seminaries did not see the need to train individuals in how to help churches write the next chapter of their ministry. Currently, seminarians are not being trained in how to respond to the challenges of aging congregations, respond to the lament of downsized churches, understand how to revitalize aged buildings, help loss of congregational creativity, and address lack of interest in organized religion.