Which brings the perennial question from students: Should I go to seminary?
As college ministers, it’s an issue we need to be well versed in. [Another post for another time – we also need to have well thought out advice on graduate school. More and more, students are pursuing graduate school- some rightly, some as a way to delay adulthood.]
My 2 cents: For most students I would say–
No, you should not go to seminary (right out of college).
When I was considering my options coming out of college, I got this wise advice from my pastor-
“Get some experience in ministry for a few years and then, if you feel it would be helpful, go to seminary. If you go straight into seminary you simply will not have context for all the information you are taking in. You will not have pegs to hang things on. And I think Campus Crusade offers the best 2 years of training in ministry.”
Seminary without ministry experience can be like reading a parenting book before you have kids. Or like when my wife and I attended a marriage conference as an engaged couple (which I’m not discouraging!): we sat there knowingly nodding our heads as the speakers talked about conflict and the difficulties of marriage. We had it all figured out. And we didn’t take any notes.
A couple great posts to help you (and your students) think it through.
The first is a bit controversial, the second a bit more traditional. Both are very helpful to consider.
Why You Shouldn’t Go to Seminary – Bob Thune
“First things first: theological training is a must for anyone called to the pastorate. So I’m not denying the importance of sound, rigorous theological training. I’m simply questioning whether seminary is the place to get it. Here are some of my concerns . . .”
“Christians have a nebulous perception that a seminary degree is like a union card for pastoral ministry. News flash: it’s not. In fact, in Acts 29, we find that church planters without a seminary degree are often more successful than those with a degree.”
“Seminary pulls pastors “off the streets” for 3 or 4 years to isolate them in a sterile academic environment. While this might be great for paper-writing, it’s really bad for missional living.”
“The seminary model is a tired one that needs to be updated for a post-Christian, technological age. Here’s a possible way forward . . .”
So You Are Thinking of Going to Seminary? – Kevin Deyoung
Three Questions Before You Go
1. Might you benefit from more experience in the “real world” first? Many students will graduate from college and head off to seminary. But for many students, seminary will be richer and more helpful with a little more life experience.
2. Will your seminary education be going toward some end which requires such a seminary degree? Graduate school costs money, money you probably don’t have. With so many Christian books, conferences, and online resources these days, you can learn a whole lot on your own. If you are going to seminary because you love Jesus and love the Bible, that’s wonderful, but you may want to consider if there are less costly, less time-consuming, less disruptive ways to keep learning and growing.
3. Are you prepared for a largely academic approach to learning? I am all for academics. I think seminary course work should be challenging. But writing long papers, taking tests, listening to lectures, and reading thousands of pages is not for everyone. Seminary is not like a three year Passion Conference. It is like graduate school. Know what you’re getting in to.
Three Questions as You Decide Where to Go . . .
Three Questions While You’re at Seminary . . .
Alright, I know I’ve opened up a can of worms. So what do you think?
What would you tell a college student considering seminary?
What do you think about the two articles by Thune and Deyoung?
photo courtesy of kern.justin