Why Go to Seminary?

Why go to seminary? Why not just take classes online, or learn what you can from your pastor? Why not just get busy doing the work of ministry and learn as you go? Why take the time, why spend the money, why uproot your life?

Andover Theological Seminary

These are the same questions (minus the online thing) Timothy Dwight had in mind when he stood to address an assembled crowd at the opening ceremonies of Andover Seminary in Massachusetts. Andover, the first seminary in America, opened its doors in 1808. Until its founding, aspiring ministers desiring theological education usually learned what they could through an apprenticeship with a local pastor. However, Dwight, the president of Yale College and grandson of Jonathan Edwards, believed something more than a liberal arts education and a mentor were needed to prepare future pastors. So before the first seminary class was offered in America, Dwight sought to answer the question, Why go to seminary? His answers may be 204 years old, but they can still help us today.

1. Time to Study

Dwight explained that the new seminary would give future ministers sufficient, undistracted time to learn. Too often, he lamented, men began their ministries “very imperfectly fitted for their profession,” because they didn’t have enough money to “pursue their studies through a sufficient length of time.” Andover sought to address this problem by providing instruction, use of books, and, “at least to a considerable extent,” housing and living expenses.

The times of free seminary tuition, food, and housing are long gone. Many today go into ministry “very imperfectly fitted” because they don’t think they can afford the years or money needed to obtain a seminary education. Of those who do attend, too many are burdened with excessive student loans. Seminaries that can keep tuition low and provide substantial scholarships and grants provide a great service to future pastors and their churches. This kind of investment should be a priority of every denomination and local church. By serving students in this way, churches will also bless themselves with pastors who have taken the time to prepare for ministry.

2. The Library

One of the greatest strengths of Andover Seminary, Dwight argued, was that it would have a library “sufficiently various, and extensive, for the purposes intended.” Full-time students have lots of time to read—more than they’ll ever have in full-time ministry. Broad and deep reading is one of the main purposes of seminary. Professors are there to teach and mentor, but also to force you to read. As you read, you learn and grow, you learn how to read, and you learn what’s worth reading.

You can’t afford all the books, journals, articles, and dictionaries you’re required to read. That’s why strong seminaries and divinity schools have extensive and growing libraries. A good library gives you access to vast amounts of knowledge and distilled wisdom you cannot find online. If you’re in seminary, take advantage of the library—you’ll miss it when you’re gone.

3. The Faculty

Mastering any one of the “branches of theological learning” (Bible, apologetics, systematic theology, church history, practical theology) is enough to exhaust “the utmost talents of a single man.” Therefore, Dwight observed, it’s impossible for a single pastor to teach all these disciplines to those he mentors. If there were a pastor “ever so competent,” his other pastoral duties would make it “impossible for him to command sufficient time to communicate the knowledge, which ought to be considered as indispensable.”

The seminary, on the other hand, has professors who devote themselves to a level of study and teaching that isn’t possible for a single pastor. Don’t misunderstand Dwight (or me). There are things your pastor can teach you that no seminary professor can. That’s why local churches must not outsource pastoral training to the seminaries. But there are also things that a good seminary can teach you that most pastors have neither the time nor ability to teach. In most cases, it takes both a good local church pastor and a good seminary faculty to train a good future pastor.

4. The Other Students

“All ministers ought to be friends.” And in order to develop friendships, they have to know each other. However, Dwight explained, when “ministers are educated separately and solitarily, this knowledge, in ordinary cases, cannot exist.” But at a seminary, “being educated together, being of the same age, pupils of the same instructors, tenants of the same buildings, engaged in the same delightful pursuits, and actuated, as we may reasonably hope, by the same spirit, they can hardly fail to be of one accord, and of one mind.”

Good seminaries strengthen the unity between churches by building bonds between ministers. The friendships you build while you’re in seminary will strengthen your ministry for years to come. The guy who sits next to you in 8 a.m. Hebrew class may someday lead his church to support your missionaries. The couple you meet at orientation may pray for you and your family for the rest of your life. The classmate you study with for a final may someday labor beside you for reformation in your denomination. So go to seminary, devote yourself to reading, and learn all you can from your professors. But don’t fail to invest time in relationships while you’re there.

5. The Doctrine

In making his case that such a thing as a seminary was needed, Dwight concluded by assuring his hearers, “The doctrines, which will be taught here, are the doctrines of the Reformation.” He went on to explain how Andover’s teaching would be biblical and orthodox and beneficial for building up the church. The seminary, Dwight assured his listeners, would exist for the benefit of the churches.

In 1808 there was only one seminary in America. Today there are dozens. But the fact remains that a seminary’s most important task is to pass on sound doctrine to the next generation of pastors for the benefit of the churches. Choose a seminary that takes this responsibility seriously, and you will bless both yourself and your future church.


All citations are from Timothy Dwight, A Sermon Preached at the Opening of the Theological Institution in Andover (Boston: Farrand, 1808).

  • Zac

    Wasn’t Harvard the first seminary in America?

    • Bruce

      Harvard was formed to train ministers, but in the liberal arts tradition. Harvard Divinity School began in 1816.

      • Daniel

        Although I really can’t say that most seminaries do or don’t focus on spiritual formation, I can say that the school I am at, Reformed Theological Seminary, has been integral to my spiritual formation. In that venue, I am challenged to study all scripture and build relationships (not just have discussions) with many different Christians at many stages of life.

        And one of the most invaluable parts is taking the time to build relationships with my profs who really are Godly men with very loving and pastoral hearts. (And they do tend to all have significant experience in the pastorate, as well.) You really can’t get all these varied relationships and experiences through the internet. After all, the apostles of Acts 4:13 may have been uneducated men (by Greek or rabbinic standards), but they had spent three years learning from God in the flesh. Except that no man is Jesus, that experience of spending three years building a relationship with one in whom the Spirit of God existed powerfully sounds like a good seminary experience to me.

  • Jeff

    The problem with seminaries past and present is that to a large degree they neglect spiritual formation. Producing pastors is reduced to study-time, reading, and the transfer of orthodoxy. So you could, and indeed often do, end up with men who are woefully inadequate as pastors, shepherds of the sheep, but who can write a good paper, read a daunting theological tome, and reasonably articulate sound theology, and thus occupy a pulpit. What pastors need most, and by extension churches, is men characterized by great likeness to Jesus. This is what seminaries cannot deliever and why we must cease viewing them as the primary production centers of pastors.

    • Sean Lucas

      Hi, Jeff: On what basis do you say that “seminaries cannot deliver” spiritual formation? Just curious.

    • http://www.forumfaith.com/blog Jacob

      Do you know of any way to specialize in Spiritual formation? I don’t think a class or school can (well, not very effectively at least).
      However, sound theology/Biblical study can (and should) lead to Spiritual formation.

      I have a fairly good basis to make this claim. I was in seminary for 13 years (at 7 different schools).

      • Zac

        Jacob, Talbot offers degree programs in spiritual formation or you can “minor” in it for the M.Div program. Just curious- where did you go to seminary?

    • hb allaman

      I agree, Jeff. There’s a lot of head knowledge to gain in seminary, but does it come at the expense of heart knowledge? And my biggest argument against seminary, as has been raised by several other commenters, is that no precedent was set for such a mechanism in the NT. In subtle ways there’s almost a precedent against it. Acts 4:13 comes to mind.
      Also, as I read this article, I kept thinking how out-of-date the arguments are. Two hundred years ago those called to ministry didn’t have ways to connect with others who were also called. Rural churches were the norm, even traveling pastors . . . a very solitary life in some respects. Seminaries made sense back then and were very helpful in bringing people (ahem, men) together to fellowship, learn, challenge, and uphold one another as they prepared for a life of leading their flocks.
      Today, we live in a MUCH different world. The internet. That’s my answer to most of the arguments set forth in this article. No one physical library can rival the resources available online. Any savvy faculty or modern theologian has his/her own website and some are quite approachable in that venue. Other “students” are all over the internet, all over the world. Anyone can strike up a conversation online on just about any theological subject and have a spirited and thoughtful debate with dozens of people from all walks of life. Doctrine has historically been viewed as an arena reserved for the learned, for the “ins” who know best, but again, the internet will play a pivotal role in the doctrinal debate going forward. The “top down” and hierarchical organization of the Church is becoming flatter every day, and as a result, seminaries may one day become chapters in the church history (e)books.
      This future is coming faster than we think, and it would serve the Church best if seminaries and the leaders of denominations find ways to smooth this transition, to look ahead and innovate instead of looking back 200 years with answers from men who could never have imagined our present day.

    • Zac

      Jeff, have you gone to seminary? If so where? While I agree with you that many seminaries only shape the mind and not the heart I do not believe this to be the case everywhere. I am currently an undergraduate biblical studies major and almost all (if not all) of the profs here are very pastoral in nature, serve in pastorates, or serve in the church. I have many-a-time been convicted by the lectures I sit under and have left prayerfully.

    • Aaron Darlington

      While I certainly wouldn’t disagree that seminaries by and large miss out on spiritual formation, I can comment specifically about the seminary I attend. The Master’s Seminary shares a campus with Grace Community Church, and nothing is taught apart from spiritual formation. From the constant flow of rich biblical teaching down to every minor Hebrew quiz, the focus is on faithfulness to Christ. It has been a profound joy to have enrolled here from the very first day. Many students wake up between 3:00-4:00 in the morning to take extra classes that are not worth any credit to group together and encourage one another to better love our wives and families, and then to pray for an hour before Hebrew/Greek classes begin. There are Christ-exalting groups for our wives to learn from older women, understanding their ministry is as important as our own. Family support, scholarship help, an intense focus on faithfulness to Christ in class and out, major integration with local churches and the community, and an unflinching commitment to the authority and inspiration of Scripture and the sovereignty of God, have been the pillars of grace through which God has mercifully provided me with a *better* soil for spiritual formation than when I had been involved full-time in missionary work, as beautiful and enriching as that had been. God bless.

    • Neil

      I go to seminary currently and we have entire (mandatory) mentoring program devoted to spiritual formation for all students. We even have a Spiritual Formation concentration for those who so choose.

  • http://christmycovenant.com Moe Bergeron

    I happen to live just down the road from where this seminary stood and where these men labored to prepare others for the work of the ministry. All are gone. They are but memories. We need to ask, what has become of these institutions and where are the faithful children who were expected to follow in their train? Why were they set aside in God’s scheme of things?

  • Jeremy Kidder

    If seminary training is prefferable to training within the local church then why does Scritpure not teach this? Have we inovated upon Paul in 2 Timothy 2:2? I speak as one who has gone to seminary and understands that frquently they are needed because the local church is not doing its job to train up faithful men. But I firmly agree with Al Mohlar who says (as the president of Southern Seminary) that seminaries should not exist (if the church were functioning propperly) and that he hopes to work his way out of a job.

  • http://thesidos.blogspot.com/ Arthur Sido

    Missing in all of this is the simple reality that somehow men managed to minister in a hostile culture in the first century without the “benefit” of a seminary education and also without the burden of having spent a ton of money and time on a degree that is useless for anything other than professional clergy positions. So we find ourselves being told over and over that somehow going to seminary prepares one for ministering in the church and that rather than getting a job and learning from more mature men right where you are you should go to a clerical vocational school to be “prepared”. The church would be far better off having young men zealous for the Gospel stay where they are and learn at the feet of mature older men than scampering off to a school only to be hired by strangers at an entirely different church.

    • http://christmycovenant.com Moe Bergeron

      Arthur & Jeremy, Perhaps if we sent men to seminary who were already affirmed by the people of God as those men who were filled with the Holy Spirit and have already met the requirements of God’s Word in Timothy, Titus, etc., rather than well intentioned high school grads?

  • http://almostreadytogoamish.blogspot.com Neo

    Wow, good message that needs to be told loud and clear to a number of churches around Houston that I know of that are staffed with “hobbyist preachers”, full-time-Whatever job during the week and then pastor on the weekend…. yeah right.

    If you need to take a flight to Europe, are you going to want the guy flying the DC-10 to be the guy who only flies on weekends, but repairs televisions during the week? How much different the man entitled to shepherding and discipleship of God’s people?

  • Gerald

    I’ve been doing study via online through Liberty University for 4 years now. I will say that what this has helped do is I have learned a lot of the Bible, it’s contents, application, meaning, doctrine a lot better than I would have on my own cuz sadly it takes something pushing me to make me disciplined in studies. It forced me to make time whereas the world would have probably taken over my time. That all being said I am now at the crossroads of deciding to further my studies into the B.S. program for another 2+ years to receive a degree in Religion, or just let it end with the Certificate of Theology I am set to receive. (Cert is $90/credit hour vs. Degree program $300+/credit hour.) I have 2 issues with obtaining the degree. 1. Finances. I’ll owe another $10,000 at the end of my studies vs. the <$3000 I will at the end of my current program. 2. If I do not go into paid church ministry, then what will the degree help me at career wise? I'm called to work with youth, and I believe to called to do that FT, but FT paid youth ministry in the church is phasing out in a large degree. Either way, I'm not certain it is my calling to actually work in the church. I don't know. I do know that a degree isn't of more value than my experience of 10+ years working with youth to a prospective church. Or at least it shouldn't be. I agree 100% with the Al Mohlar comment above. It is my opinion that churches have become a place for just counseling, weddings, funerals, and some missions. All these things are great but I don't know that the passing on of the faith, or real discipling, is happening. I believe church as we know it in the states must change/adapt and become something different than it currently is. Sadly, I'm just not sure what that is yet but it's on my mind a lot.

  • http://livingsenttoday.blogspot.com/ Brian Considine

    The only problem I see with seminaries, beyond those stated, is that they don’t train pastors in how to actually make disciples or train for missional formation. Must seminary trained pastors simply are taught how to hold on to “sheep” instead of releasing missional leaders to impact the world for Christ. Seminaries serve an outmoded ecclesiology and while they produce a head full of knowledge will never produce a heart of love for God and others.

  • Mark Rogers

    Hey all. Most of the comments so far are focused on the importance of the local church in raising up future pastors. To that point, I figured it might be helpful to highlight the following paragraph from the article:

    “Don’t misunderstand Dwight (or me). There are things your pastor can teach you that no seminary professor can. That’s why local churches must not outsource pastoral training to the seminaries. But there are also things that a good seminary can teach you that most pastors have neither the time nor ability to teach. In most cases, it takes both a good local church pastor and a good seminary faculty to train a good future pastor.”

    I agree that the local church should play a major (even primary) role in training future pastors (I should have an article focused on that side of things up soon). But I think training in both a faithful local church and a good seminary is usually preferable to just one or the other.

    • Tom


      I think the primacy of the local church is an important point. While I appreciate the seminary education I am receiving (and realize I am learning much that my pastor would never be able to teach me), I am thankful for the opportunity to serve and minister to real people and apply what I am learning in seminary to my immediate ministry context.

      In addition, I am thankful that I have a full-time job apart from seminary and my church involvement that allows me to live life as a member of my congregation. Quite frankly, I think it would do young seminarians a world of good if they learned a trade or profession and worked in the real world for several years before they entered the cloistered halls of seminary.

      Sure, time management is a must for someone who works full-time, actively serves in the church, has a family, and takes seminary classes, but I think it provides a helpful perspective to young pastors and allows them to be more flexible in their ministries (i.e. gives them the flexibility of being tent makers).

  • http://www.lambblood.com Rick Owen

    Balancing thoughts from 9 Marks Ministries: http://www.9marks.org/answers/how-important-seminary-training

  • http://www.grace-llandeilo.org.uk Simon Bowkett

    I’m sorry to be so ‘down’ on some really good brethren who hold views like this, but I’m really not sure how valid these five points are.
    In the first place they are entirely pragmatic rather than Biblical. The Biblical model for ministry training is after all found in 2 Timothy 2:2 and the pages of the Synoptics. It’s a pattern that may well have sprung from the Lord’s contextualisation of His message in first century Jewish culture and from Paul’s rabbinical past, but it’s compelling nature arises from it’s utterly Biblical warrant.
    In the second place, most of this stuff simply doesn’t hold any more even on a pragmatic basis … and it’s not just that a lot has changed in the 204 years since these comments were made.
    So …
    1. Time to study. I want to argue that if a man can’t study alongside his secular 9-5 job he certainly won’t manage it in the ministry. Let’s teach trainee pastors to read a couple of books a week ALONGSIDE their existing responsibilities and THEN they might be able to keep it up in full time ministry, with the pressure that this will put on them.
    2. The library? The internet is my library … I just wish somebody would work out how to make Athens access feasible for Pastors!
    3. The faculty. If the academic scholar were the Biblical paradigm for the authentic interpreter of Scripture, then this comment might hold. But he isn’t. The Pastor is. It is the Pastor/ Teacher who is the Biblically authentic interpreter of Scripture. OK – specialisms exist. Some guys phone me about NT Greek exegesis and hermeneutics. I would phone somebody else about … loads of other stuff ‘cos they’re better at it than me! But we don’t need ivory tower experts to train practical Pastors. We need men in ministry teaching ministry … because that’s the Biblical model, and that is the pattern that produces the product churches need.
    4. The other students? – yes, this is a strong argument. Friendships are REALLY important in ministry. They’re really important in Biblical ministry. But they weren’t sorted out by this means in Scripture, and I rejoice in ministry friendships now that I certainly wouldn’t have formed in my Bible College. (Yes, I went … but I should’ve been able to get what I got and not picked up so much baggage through the ministry of my local church and the churches we were in fellowship with).
    5. The doctrine? Sound doctrine should sit at the heart of any local church … and sound doctrine certainly isn’t owned by the seminary! No. This one really doesn’t stack up at all.
    Enough of the negatives.
    So how about:
    – finding a group of thinking, intelligent Pastor/ teachers (evangelists? cross cultural missionaries? church planters?) who both READ/ THINK and PASTOR/ TEACH (evangelise, cross cultures, etc., etc.)
    – giving them Athens access
    – setting them up with good internet communications to widen the circle they can reach
    – encouraging them to fellowship, team up and man up to the extent that they share amongst themselves the task of training men within their own spheres of influence
    – and giving others from outside their fellowship the chance to join it
    – work out a curriculum, swing into action to teach it within the means they now have available and reinforce it through summer schools where everyone meets up together for some heavy sessions?
    To my mind that looks a bit more like a ‘school of the prophets’ and the comings, goings and doings of Paul’s apostolic teams.
    If you are up for this please contact me.
    If you see the flaws in this (there are a few – but mainly to do with local churches not working the way they should!) please help me out by sharing your wisdom?
    And if you’re doing it already … my apologies. I have no desire to reinvent the wheel nor to come crashing in on your party!

    • http://www.ltslondon.org Robert Strivens

      Steve, Your description of your ideal training method sounds very much like a seminary to me, at least one (like London Theological Seminary, where I work, and others) where the lecturers are mainly pastors or men with significant pastoral experience and where there are strong, working links between seminary and local churches.

  • Nick

    In my limited knowledge, it doesn’t seem fair to put the responsibility of changing a heart onto any seminary or it’s faculty; while they can invest a lot through mentoring students, that ultimately comes from just being connected to the Vine, in the word and prayer and fellowship. If we do that, we experience head and heart transformation – and head plays a part in heart transformation (Romans 12:1-2).

    Also, as I’m finishing up my last semester at the University of Arizona I can say that “time to study” as a full time student is a big help in a secular university so I’d imagine it’s the same with seminary, and having a library is huge!! The cost to do research (theological or secular) would be up-surd without a library or its database! I have access to thousands, maybe millions of articles, books, etc. for free (at least, after whatever cost I pay for it in my tuition) that as soon as I graduate will become extremely expensive to have access to!

    Thanks for the wisdom Mark!

  • Mark G

    Well, if you are Presbyterian you will likely have to pass examination in order to be ordained to preach. Most people aren’t disciplined enough to go it alone; learn Greek, Hebrew, Systematic Theology, philosophies and variants on religious views one will certainly encounter; neo-Barthianism, New Perspective on Paul, Federal Vision, etc., etc. Not saying all seminaries are good but there are good seminiaries.

    On the other hand, if you’re in a more broadly evangelical church like my sister’s, Jesus will tell the pastor every Saturday night what he’s supposed to say Sunday morning. Sometimes God gives him a poem; usually not as good as you’d expect from the Holy Spirit. There’s not much need for the Bible much less a seminary education when you’re plugged into the Holy Spirit. This church has been training pastors for decades; no need for seminary there.

  • Sean Lucas

    The reason why I asked Jeff why he categorically claimed that seminaries cannot deliver spiritual formation is this: most seminaries have as part of their mission statement just this claim–that they do spiritual formation. In addition, our main accrediting body, the Association of Theological Schools, asks seminaries to assess how well they do in just this area; one of the sources of assessment are graduation assessments that students fill out on this point. Certainly, as students, we may not feel that seminaries deliver well on their mission of spiritual formation; but many, many of them believe that they are doing this.

  • Mike

    I think it is very valuable for some.Setting it up as the expected standard though is troublesome to me. But the cost and time is more than a law and in some cases many medical degrees. The bible emphasizes the education in doctrine and spiritual formation of the aspiring pastor at the local church level. It’s interesting though how there were no seminaries like anything close to what we have today for over 1500 years. To spend several dozen thousand dollars, paying 400 plus an hour to learn the bible is questionably sinful in my opinion. I just think there should be other options that accomplish the same education and formation while valuing biblical principles on debt and pastoral vocation.

    • Zac

      Mike, let me ask- if you’re going to drop 60 grand on anything what is more valuable than a degree that shapes the mind and heart and better prefers you for life and ministry; life and ministry that may effect eternity. How is that a house for 100,000-250,000 is a “good price” but 60,000 for seminary is way too much? We as Americans spend way more money and way less meaningful things. So what if I want to live in apartment in instead of a nice house, or so what if I choose to drive the car I have now for the next 15 years instead of shelling out 30,000 in the future plus 8% interest? Why is that cars, houses, and toys are more acceptable to drop serious cash on but seminary is a waist of money and resources.
      p.s. Mike I do not (in any way) mean any hostility towards you, the first question was directed directly towards you, but the rest are for everyone. I do not know your life and do not pretend to. Blessings.

      • Bruce

        Yeah, Amercia is a country where the average college graduate owes $26,000 and this is considered a crisis, yet the average new car costs more than $30,000 and this is considered evidence of a healthy economy. We value cars more than education.

        Of course, a wise person once said that a good liberal arts education prepares you to despise the wealth you cannot attain.

  • Mike

    I live in an apartment and have one car for my family and I, a 97 accord. I agree being in debt for cars and houses, etc is lame, but thats no argument for seminary either. Look at all the people of God from Genesis to Revelation and notice the humble ministrty and resources. Ragtag prophets and wanderers in the OT and NT fishermen. Notice my first sentence how I said it may be very valuable for some but that method shouldnt be the expected one. We should focus on what the bible says about it. The education and the formation are the requirements the bible commands. Charging hundreds a credit hour, seriously? Spurgeon and Lloyd Jones as well as many many of our heroes never went to seminary. Im saying its good for some but shouldnt be the required “means” is all

    • Zac

      I agree with that. Some of the most influential men in my life never went to seminary. Look at Matt Chandler, I absolutely love what he does- never went to seminary.

      Let me say this (which I don’t think you will disagree with). The seminary model isn’t perfect, it hasn’t been around forever and certainly the apostles didn’t go. I think where we should all agree is that life of the mind is important. Christ calls us to love Him with our mind; so I think (formal and/or non formal) education is important. Although the disciples didn’t go to seminary, they trained under Jesus for three years- they had something much better than seminary.

      • Bruce

        It’s interesting that people mention Spurgeon, without mentioning he started a school to train pastors. Matt Candler had a unique beginning, never intending to become a pastor, but he has said the seminary is better for most people. Chuck Colson had said not going to seminary was one of his great regrets. Mark Driscoll was a megachurch pastor but he went back to school to get that theological education, Martin Llyod Jones helped start the London Theological Seminary. Clearly, even many of those greats who didn’t go to seminary believed that seminary was a good investment in the preparation of ministers.

        Here are a couple good questions to consider. How many pastors without seminary wish they would have gone? How many seminary-educated pastors wish they would have skipped it? The only regrets I’ve ever heard from seminary educated pastors were either picking the wrong school or not taking their seminary education seriously enough.

  • sam

    While there are some good points here, I can’t help but think that there is a better way than leaving one’s context and getting in debt and a host of other problems seminary creates. I share five things here http://bit.ly/W2KTWy but looking back I’d expound on that list quite a bit.

  • Mike

    Spurgeon and Lloyd Jones’ Bible Colleges were funded and not hundreds of dollars to go to per credit hour. Remember I am not advocating untrained or unbiblical pastors. That always seems to be bandied about as soon as someone dares question the monstrous institution with overhead costs that excel many of the elite secular bloated universities. To liken Lloyd Jones and SPurgeon’s Pastors colleges with 450 dollar plus an hour is silly.

    • Bruce

      Ok, I agree that tuition costs can be too high. I’m a Southern Baptist and our seminaries are far more affordable thanks to the Cooperative Program, but even then I think churches should do more to provide scholarships for the people they send. Still, the reality is that higher standards of living require things to cost more. Seminaries have much higher overhead costs because of insurance, accreditation, financial accounting, etc. Seminary facilities are air conditioned, housing is modest, but still far beyond what people had in the 1800s.

  • Ethan

    I’m not sure who is going in debt. Seminaries and local churches provide AMPLE opportunities for scholarships and other debt-reducing strategies. I am working about four part-time jobs right now to help pay for seminary tuition, but I’m also receiving 2/3 of my tuition through my church and former RTS students who donate to a scholarship fund.

    I don’t know what other seminaries do, but going into debt is rare, considering there are so many scholarships out there and people willing to fund seminary students.

  • http://www.lakecommunity.org Jeff Pankratz

    Seems like all of these are better accomplished when they can be rooted in context of a network of churches, like Paul–> Timothy–> Ephesian elders type training (Acts 13-Acts 16-Acts 20).

    Practically, these institutions can never produce enough leaders to supply the spontaneous expansion of Gods Kingdom, and instead would be better used as resource centers for the church to do it’s own theological training. Perhaps a ‘hall of Tyrannus’ model, where churches could use these places but drive the agenda with their own leadership and plans.

    Jeff Reed’s white papers get close to the balance seminaries and church-based theological education could be. http://www.bild.org

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  • http://www.lambblood.com Rick Owen

    I believe ‘spiritual formation’ is often viewed as an individual exercise, even though it might be accomplished in connection with others, rather than a corporate progression which carries along everyone else too. This brief post reminds us of the importance of learning and growing and serving as a body.


    Any academic training via seminary or other means should always harmonize with our formation as a member of Christ’s body who is contributing to the edification of the rest of the body.

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  • http://seminariesandbiblecolleges.com Matthew Knapp

    “As you read, you learn and grow, you learn how to read, and you learn what’s worth reading.” You hit the nail on the head. As a seminary student, I have read about 7,000 pages a semester. After three years, I feel like I’m finally starting to learn how to read a book.