Today there is a wide divergence of opinion as to whether potential pastors need seminary training.
On the one side: there are those who argue that it’s indispensable, because it prepares one for ministry–at least academically. On the other side: there are those who turn their noses up at seminaries. They argue that seminaries and seminary graduates tend to be out of touch with the real world.
Would I do it again?
Having graduated from seminary, I occasionally have found myself asking if I would do it all over again. My answer every time is an emphatic YES; however, I would approach seminary training differently.
On the one hand, I really value my classes in Bible, theology, church history and homiletics. I also enjoyed the Greek and Hebrew languages. I found my training so thorough in the languages that I could sit in judgment on the commentaries as to whether the Greek really said what the writers claimed it was saying. Remember that lecture on the “abused aorist”? If you have no idea what that is, then maybe you need to consider seminary after all…
Yes, I would go through four years of seminary all over again, but this time I would do it differently. I was pleased with what I did get in seminary; however, it’s what I didn’t get that bothers me to this day.
So how would I do it differently? I would walk the ivy covered halls with a personal leader development plan in hand, along with a strong emphasis on involvement in the local church. If seminaries are short on anything, I found it to be in leadership development.
There’s a Lack of Leadership Training
How many of us graduated from seminary having not taken a single class on leadership? I’m afraid that the answer is/was…most of us! I remember asking a class of potential pastors how many of them knew how to design and implement a leadership development plan for a church. No one raised his hand!
In addition, too many seminarians did not value internships and residencies in the local church. In fact, internships were looked down upon as a waste of time. Pastors who took on an intern used to ask: “What do I do with this person?!”
Every personal leader development plan should have a place for seminary training. However, that alone isn’t sufficient for preparation for ministry. It must be balanced with leadership development especially in the local church. More pastors today than when I attended seminary see themselves as mentors or coaches. They have carved out time in their busy schedules to train future pastors and ministry leaders.
And that’s a “win-win” in my book.
Dr. Aubrey Malphurs is the Founder and Visionary Leader of the Malphurs Group (a church consulting firm) and the Senior Professor of Leadership and Pastoral Ministry at Dallas Theological Seminary. He frequently writes on Pastoral Ministry, Church Leadership Development, Strategy, and Vision and also serves churches and denominations as a Consultant and Speaker (The Malphurs Group church consulting team also provides Leadership Coaching and Sunday Secret Shopper Consultations). He is also a husband, father, grandfather, fisherman, and a diehard Florida Gator fan. | @amalphurs | website