Some Pros and Cons of Going to Seminary

In 2004, I enrolled at Denver Seminary in Littleton, Colorado (although it was located in Englewood, CO at the time). Four years later in May of 2008, I graduated with a Master of Divinity degree–with an emphasis in youth and family ministry.

The reason I went to seminary was simple: I wanted to be a pastor. In the ministry circles I was a part of, if you wanted to be a pastor, obtaining a graduate-level seminary education was an integral step. I first started discerning if perhaps God had called me to be a pastor when I was in college, three years before I enrolled seminary. In those three years, I sought the advice and input of several people about that calling, and not one person suggested that perhaps I didn’t have to attend seminar to be a pastor. The message was clear: If I wanted to seriously pursue a calling as a pastor, I should go to seminary.

Let me be clear: I’m very thankful for the education I received at Denver Seminary. For those who believe they should go to seminary, I encourage you to put Denver Seminary on your list of potential schools. However, I have come to realize that while seminary was a great fit for me, it isn’t for everyone. If you’re considering attending seminary, here are a few pros and cons of going to seminary to help you think through and discern if seminary is for you:

PRO: Seminary requires you to seriously study the Bible and teaches you to think theologically. Are there other good ways besides a seminary education to learn the Bible? Certainly. But if you are willing to submit to the teaching of solid professors at a seminary where the Bible and solid theological thinking is taken seriously, it will be anything but time wasted.

CON: Seminary costs a lot of money. I will write more about this later this week, but it should be noted that seminary is very, very expensive.

PRO: Seminary can help bridge the gap between theoretical and practical. I don’t know if all seminaries are this way, but I learned from not only brilliant professors who were trusted authorities on the Bible, but from pastors and youth workers who knew what ministry “on the ground” was like. I had professors who were church planters, full-time youth pastors, and leaders in their local church. They helped me take what I learned in the classroom and apply it that week in my role as a youth worker.

CON: Education can be an idol. Let me be completely honest: One of the reasons I pursued a seminary education is because I have a brother and sister with impressive letters after their name, and I wanted a few, too. It is very easy to turn a good seminary education into an idol by using it to impress others or becoming someone who follows people with huge brains and lots of books that bear their names instead of following Jesus.

PRO: Learning in a community of other future (and a few veteran) pastors is a great experience. Even in the world of Facebook and Twitter, pastoring can be a lonely endeavor. Even in my ministry context (on a staff of pastors–and friends), I still miss the “laboratory” of seminary where deep conversations about theology, apologetics, and adolescent psychology were daily occurrences.

CON: Seminary can be a bubble. On the other side of the coin, I had very few non-believing friends while I was in seminary. I realize my experience may not be so common since I lived on campus and went to school full-time, but there is the reality that full-time study can take us away from the “real world” for a time. This isn’t necessarily and evil thing, but we do need to recognize it’s a trade off. I have a friend who is undertaking part-time theological training while serving under a godly church-planter (while also working at Starbucks), and I often wonder if his training isn’t closer to the ideal than a full-time seminary education.

QUESTION: What Pros and Cons would you add to the list?

Comments

  1. Jynalyn Gilos says:

    What are the disadvantages of seminarian?

    • Hey, Jynalyn! Thanks for chiming in. I think in addition to what’s written above, one disadvantage of a seminarian can sometimes be a pastor who is well-schooled in theological training but has not engaged in practical theology outside the classroom. In other words, a pastor may know a lot about theology but not a lot about people.

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