The Double Standard Pastors Have With Seminary

In the various conversations and discussions I’ve been in over the last few years I’ve found it common for pastors to speak about the valuable role their seminary education played in their formation and then also state their opinion about its lack of importance for other people serving at their church in a pastoral role.

This feeling I had of a double standard was backed up by a Christian Post article which shared a number of statistics that showed a similar story.

“Of pastors who attended seminary, 83 percent strongly agree the training and experience was worth the time and money…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.”

In other words, pastors value seminary for themselves, but don’t see it as vital for future pastors.

Does that not make sense to anyone other than me?

I hear many people complain about the Biblical illiteracy of upcoming generations, but I rarely hear a call from pastors to push these upcoming generations to become more fully qualified for future Christian ministry.

It is God who calls and prepares people for Christian ministry, but we also must do our part to be as prepared as possible and seminary is often a major part of that process. I truly believe that for many (and most) pastors, part of God’s preparing is the seminary journey.

I hate to see it become devalued by pastors who had their lives changed by their seminary experiences.

Your thoughts?

  • Alan Wilkerson

    Seminary was/is a good thing. I found it to be formative in my ministry and the skills it gave me. However, could I have gained the same skills in a cohort, group, small gathering place with one or two excellent teachers? Probably.

    I don’t think seminary is for everyone. For example, I found myself being pushed two direction. There were those professors who seemed to think everyone should be a PhD candidate in NT Greek. And those who prepared us for pastoral, in the church, service.

    Yet I was competing with a mindset that looked for more and more esoteric resources etc… [this was pre personal computers mind you]*

    I believe that a well run institute, for lack of a better term, can prepare those with a gift for preaching/teaching to prepare sermons. Likewise for those who have a gift in exhortation to counsel.

    Two things any such group has to have. FIRST a group of people so community can develop. SECOND,no letting sloppy work get by. I don’t care if you work two jobs, if you think you can skate by on a sermon because you had a rough week tough…

    All of this is of course MHO


    *yes I walked to seminary in the snow; 5 miles; uphill both ways. LOL

  • Eric

    It is NOT a double standard at all. Sure, those who do post secondary education will tell you that it was highly beneficial and that they appreciated the education. However, what we’re saying is that it’s not NECESSARY for leadership. There are a lot of church bodies out there that won’t look at a pastoral candidate unless they have a seminary degree. What that effectively says is that the church is more concerned about how educated you are in Greek and Hebrew than they are about how much you resemble Jesus. A seminary degree in no way qualifies someone to be a pastor – both biblically and logically. In fact, I’d suggest that there are a lot of seminary graduates who should be kept far away from leadership/pastoral positions within a church body. And vice versa, there are a lot of people out there without the Masters/Seminary degree hanging on their wall who SHOULD be in leadership/pastoral positions. It’s a sad state of affairs that we feel today that in order to lead the church you need to be highly educated.

    Acts 4:13 – Now when they (Pharisees) saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.

    Peter and John had a bigger impact for God on the world around them then most seminary educated pastors – and the thing that caused that impact was the fact that people could tell by their lives that they had been with Jesus. Somehow the litmus test for a good leader in the church has changed from the level of resemblence to Jesus to the amount of education one possesses.

    I’m not against higher education. I’ve personally decided to pursue a Masters Degree in Counseling and Communication – two areas that I feel I’d like to sharpen myself on because I see a huge need for it in the church. There are people out there who are gifted in and passionate about ancient languages…and I hope they pursue that in higher education. Then I can benefit from them serving their purpose in the body by reading their research and conclusions and using what God has given them to strengthen my ministry. But I’m not passionate about that….they’re definitely not my passion at all (as is evidenced by the low grades in Greek and Hebrew I received as an undergraduate). Does that make me unfit to shepherd God’s people? (rhetorical question…but if an answer is needed, I’d reference Acts 4:13 again)

    So again, I don’t think it’s a double standard at all. Is seminary education beneficial? Yes, for the individual who feels like they would like to pursue that degree with the purpose of sharpening certain skills. Should it be required as a qualification for leadership? Absolutely not.