I have been wrestling with this question forever!
I had a wonderful experience working towards my undergraduate degree at Canadian Mennonite University. I met a wonderful network of people who I still depend on today. Through a few select classes it helped create a skill set that has significantly shaped me as a ministering person. Yet upon graduation the question kept coming at me, “are you going to seminary?” to which my response was always, “I want to get some ministry experience before I do.” So, I’ve been a full-time pastor for the past 5 years and I still find myself hesitant to go to seminary. Here are a few reasons why:
Debt – I racked up so much student debt merely getting my undergraduate degree. I cringe at the thought of more debt. I have a wife and a son whom depend on me to put a roof over their head, and food on the table. Sure, there are options for assistance most of which make me exhausted just thinking of all that I will need to juggle just to make it happen. Certainly in a post-Christendom (post Christian) world, where institutional church budgets shrink, full-time pastor jobs gradually becoming fewer and fewer I wonder if the debt load is becoming too much for many folks. It certainly could be that for us.
‘Higher’ Education – Does a seminary degree perpetuate an institutional ‘higher than’ authority that the believers church seemingly stands against? This is a new’ish’ thing for me. This is merely something I worry about. Thoughts?
Place & Courses : The Disconnect – There is a big difference between the street and the classroom. As I reflect on my years as a pastor a lot of my learning has been within my context ‘on the job.’ In my opinion, if seminaries were serious about creating ministering people, they would be requiring their students to be saturated within their contexts. This would mean not creating people to be pastors or missionaries as if they can be unwrapped ‘out of the box’ pastors and placed anywhere. I long for seminaries to create a structured learning experience that facilitates full on the job learning. As this would happen, I have a suspicion that the ‘classes’ offered would look significantly different.
What do you think? Is seminary education important? Do we need to re-think what our ‘seminaries’ look like?