Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Rethinking Seminaries Part 4

Seminaries present problems because they are based on an academic model.  This means that like any graduate school, you have to pick up and move to take years of classes.  It is true that today many seminaries offer a lot of work over the internet, but that is just watering down the actual point of the seminary, class room instruction. 

Adam Parker penned a very nice letter to his wife about her wonderful labor during his five years in seminary, and I don’t want to diminish the love and care this letter shows to his wife.  I want to emphasize the problem with seminaries this letter shows. 

Adam notes that it took 17 years after his becoming convinced he had a call to ministry to get to the place where he could go to seminary.  Seventeen years!!!!  Now, it was probably lengthened by his marriage and having children, but he did not even meet his wife until two years after he had decided he was called to the ministry.  Adam knew he was called to serve God as a pastor, but took 17 years before he was able to start training for ministry and another 5 to complete it.  In other words if Adam felt called to the ministry at age 22, he is finally able to begin following that call at age 44.  The main reason for the delay is seminary.

Seminaries are expensive.  They usually have multiple professors (three at least) who need full time salaries, and probably a full time fundraiser.  Also they are going to need some part time staff like a secretary or two, maybe a janitor, and probably one professor who only teaches from time to time, but makes the catalog look better.  This does not include insurance, a building, and travel expenses, promotional material, and office supplies.  We could go on, but the point is it takes money and lots of it to run a seminary.  At least a portion of that is going to come from the student in tuition. 

Seminaries also take time.  Remember the whole model is class room based, so we have to be in a class room for classes.  You need to be in class to earn three credit hours for each class.  There are academic standards to be met, so you can’t just pretend a class earns three credit hours.  You actually have to meet enough to earn it.  Plus you need to be doing out of class work, and so many hours per every hour in class is expected (Academic standards again).  And you need to do it for at least three years so that the degree looks academically rigorous enough.  This makes full time employment during school difficult.  If you have full time employment, it makes full time school difficult, expanding the number of years you are there. 

I don’t know how old Adam is, but what I do know is that seminary has cost him 22 years of serving the church and following his calling.  Yes, he apparently has preached some while in seminary.  That is good.  The Jackson area benefits from having so many students able to help with preaching.  But, guest preaching during seminary is more like filling in than working in the church. 

It is amazing to think that the way we train people to work in the church so far removes them from the church.  It takes them into a setting they will never see again in church work.  And it stops them from actually being able to do what they feel called to do for something like 22 years.  There has to be a better way.


Jeremy B said...

Any thoughts on the PCA LAMP program?

Lee said...

This is the first I am reading about LAMP, but the apprenticeship model is what I think would work best. It is what the church used for generations after all.