Seminary Is Still Valuable

LifeWay research recently had the following to say about how today’s pastors view seminary:

“Only 10 percent of Protestant pastors say they would require a candidate to have a seminary degree and instead place emphasis on other qualifications, such as experience and beliefs” (read more about the study)

For someone in seminary, like me, this is a pretty discouraging statistic. Yet in the same study LifeWay also had this to report:

“Among the surveyed pastors, 85 percent say they have taken seminary classes, and 96 percent of that group say they would repeat those seminary classes if ‘they had it to do over again.'”

I’ve heard too many times since I started pursuing a seminary degree: “seminary degrees don’t matter.” Based on the conversations I’ve had (I’ve had a lot of them) and this type of survey from pastors, churches today value seminary just as much but view it as an added benefit than completely necessary. And I agree, seminary shouldn’t be a have-to and isn’t necessary for all people.

But no where else can people learn from Godly men and women who will put all their time and energy into building the future of the church. And for those of you who say that you can get that at your church, trust me, you can’t.

The challenge for seminaries today is bringing seminary into a culture that uses the internet to learn and has a job that they won’t give up to go back to school.

After reading about this survey, the dean at my seminary had this to say about Multnomah Seminary:

“The objective for MBS is to bring a quality evangelical seminary education to this generation of new leaders who are already serving in staff positions and, in many cases, who are being tapped as tomorrow’s senior leaders. We see this trend as an exciting opportunity to rethink what a seminary education is and how it is delivered.”

Is seminary still valuable?

  • Jonathan

    I think it is great that most pastors will not require a seminary education of prospective employees – this gets more people into ministry faster. But the second stats reflects were I think I am at. These pastors valued their experience in seminary – perhaps it was less about a requirement but a desire to know more and to lead well. I am leaving my established career to attend seminary this Fall and I know I need it – I need to be taught and mentored well before I am leading and teaching myself…

  • Kyle Reed

    I think it is definitely still valuable.
    In a country where it use to be that a BA would get you a good job we are now seeing that you have to have a masters and BA to get you a good job.

    I am noticing more and more that a M Div maybe or something along those lines are very encouraged inside the church (which is a good thing).
    As well, you see for Psychologist they have to have a masters to really do anything. So I think the masters is still very important and viable.

  • Joel Mayward

    I hope it’s valuable. Otherwise I’m about to sink years of my life and thousands of dollars into a waste of time. 🙂

    I appreciate your balanced view, that seminary may not be for everybody, but it still has value as one of the primary ways to gain a theological education. If churches and seminaries partnered to create a holistic education model of real-life ministry praxis and doctrinal information, all the better.

  • Gary

    Seminary is definitely valuable but it must be pursued in the context of church life.

    Academics for the sake of academics is rarely valuable in any field. I like the idea of what you said about Multnomah, those already serving getting the education they need to rightly divide the word of truth.

    Seminaries are great for teaching the what but we need to learn the how in the context of church. Church leaders must be equippers. We have a church of consumers because that’s the church we’ve planted. Leaders must recognize, call out, equip, and release those entrusted to them into their own calling and/or ministry for the edification of the church.

    Seminaries seam to miss that critical point.

    • Tyler

      From everything I’ve seen in my seminary experience, few things are academics for the sake of academics. Seminaries understand the key role they play WITH the church. I don’t think they miss that point at all.

  • Chad Harvey

    I believe Seminary is still valuable, for sure. However, I’ve been a Pastor for 4 years, graduated from a state college, and have just 1 term of seminary under my belt. I value it, but I haven’t really pursued it. Why? It is really expensive.

    I couldn’t justify going into debt in order to be better ‘prepared’ for ministry. I realize there are less expensive online programs, but what I got most from my limited experience in seminary was the peer interaction. I already study online and read books on my own… why would I pay for it?

    God has been incredibly good to me. He has allowed me to develop relationships with people who truly challenge me to go deeper in my studies and my intimacy with my Creator. He has also blessed the ministry I have been privileged to be a part of. I recommend seminary for everyone who asks me about it… I’m just struggling with whether or not it is what God has for me. Does that make me a hypocrite?

    • Tyler

      We’ve talked about this before so I won’t exhaust the conversation again here. For each person the answer is different. For some seminary is such a high importance and priority that they incur debt to it, for others it might mean waiting until the timing fits better.

  • Jay McKenney

    I went to a Christian school growing up, then went to a Christian College but not seminary. I have been in full time ministry in one way or another for about 10 years. And I would say I still want, need, hope by the grace of God someday I get a seminary education. I think it would be so so so valuable.

  • Michael

    Totally agree with you that it’s still valuable. Not only that, I feel it should be required for a senior pastoral position within the church. As a young pastor in the making, I definitely plan on going to seminary later on in life and definitely before I start moving up within the church. It’s tough to hear when people without even going to bible college are able to get pastoral positions but it happens. I totally think someone needs to go to seminary or at least some extended bible education to be in a pastoral position.

  • Jeff Patterson

    Totally agree. Learners will crave learning (experiential knowledge, as Paul points us to in Colossians 1, Philippians 1, and Ephesians 3), and desire to learn from the best and deepest. We make it so that our Pastors need to be pursuing Bible education, and a goal is to have a seminary education. And have made exceptions because of the character, passion, wisdom, and learning trajectory of the best candidates. Be a learner and you may just have many options.

    See you in class tomorrow at Multnomah. Now back to our Psalm 51 project.