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Is seminary “working?”

October 6, 2011

One of the things that has become abundantly clear in our work with pastors and leaders is that there is a devastating disconnect between the ways that our seminaries and theological schools train and equip leaders for ministry and the realities that these leaders are facing day in and day out.  Noticing this has caused us to begin asking (along with many others), “What is the future of theological education?”  While we don’t think we have all answers to that question, we do have some thoughts and would like to invite you to an evening of dialogue about this important topic in Chicago.

15 Comments leave one →
  1. October 6, 2011 2:06 pm

    Won’t be able to attend the event, but am wondering if the video/paper will be posted or available somewhere after the fact…

    • October 6, 2011 2:51 pm

      Yes. We’ll be releasing the video and whitepaper on November 1. If you think this is an important subject, we’d love if you’d repost it in your various digital platforms too!

  2. October 6, 2011 2:17 pm

    I’d love to see this, but it’s too far away. Will it be posted online?

  3. October 6, 2011 2:43 pm

    I didn’t find that seminary helped me at all. I mean, I met my wife there and that was an awesome God thing, but I’ve never been able to stay employed at any church b/c my ideas of ministry seem so different from the accepted norms. I have HUGE debt and have never been gainfully employed enough to pay on it significantly.

    • Craig Nissen permalink
      October 6, 2011 8:59 pm

      Jody, just curious — are you saying the seminary didn’t prepare you for what congregations expect you to do/be. Or are you saying the seminary taught you good things that the congregations aren’t open to you doing, changing, etc. Besides all that, your post made me wonder about your approach in the congregations you have served– were you too pushy? Have you examined what happened in those situations with a mentor who is also an experienced pastor? Sorry if I’m out of line. Just curious.

      • October 6, 2011 10:13 pm

        Churches want to continue traditions, not reach people. And discipleship, forget it. Not pushy at all, I just have never had 5-8 years of life to get people to come along. When the beatings start I’m ready to bail.
        My wife is the one that actually decided we get out of ministry. Just too tenuous an existence for a family-never knowing when you’re going to be fired and poorly paid.

  4. Craig Nissen permalink
    October 6, 2011 9:13 pm

    I’ll look forward to reading/viewing this conversation when it’s posted later. I’ve often felt my decade plus in youth ministry (serving with excellent pastors) did much more to prepare me for parish ministry than seminary. I don’t want to knock the whole thing, because I definitely had classes that were interesting and/or were theologically formative. By and large though, it seemed the M.Div program was too long, trying too hard to cover everything and not flexible enough to consider previous experience. I remember my dean of students saying (regarding previous work or schooling) something like this “you can have your pick of electives, but we’ll get 30 courses from you regardless.” Everyone had to put in the same time no matter what they brought with them. I can’t imagine saying or thinking any of those classes were worthless, it’s just that the 4 years could be an obstacle for many who could be deployed to ministry much more quickly. There were things that weren’t taught, but I’ve said enough.

  5. October 7, 2011 4:46 pm

    Looking forward to the video and white paper! Very interested as I think this line of discussion is well timed given many millenials are actively pursuing more bi-vocational, missional lifestyles which cannot pay for the current seminary education (nor would they see the value of their $ going there) but ask for more training/equipping.

    Thinking recently about the generational differences in the future of vocational and bi-vocational ministery/missionaries. Seems to be a high number of Gen X in ministry w/ high knowledge, no other skill and pain/dissatisfaction w/ church. Millennials w/ developing skills (perhaps more willing to work a trade if it allows to follow passions) but passion/hope/vision that supercedes character development, experience, and faithfulness/committment.

    I’m finding myself wondering w/ curiosity and anticipation how these two generations will grow up together in building the kingdom.

    Is this another place for a continum mindset?
    Gen X learning/training style——–millennial learning/training style?

    • Craig Nissen permalink
      November 1, 2011 4:39 pm

      On my own, I’ve given some serious thought to becoming bi-vocational. I’m thinking about how that not only provides some financial security, and relief to the congregation, but also enhances my credibility and engagement with my surrounding community. I’m thinking about being a substitute teacher in our local school system, and apprenticing with a carpenter/contractor who is a member of the congregation. All 3 would demand flexibility but also allow for quite a bit. Can my congregation absorb what I would not be doing?

  6. Doug Day permalink
    October 7, 2011 8:36 pm

    Kudos for initiating a valid conversation, Mike! A topic many of us are grappling with, I’m sure. Great to see you in Kansas City last weekend, too.

  7. amoslove permalink
    October 10, 2011 5:47 pm


    You write…
    “My wife is the one that actually decided we get out of ministry. Just too tenuous an existence for a family-never knowing when you’re going to be fired and poorly paid.”

    Don’t know if you ever checked but…
    1 – I Can’t seem to find anyone – Hiring – or Firing – Pastors – in the Bible.
    2 – In fact – I can’t find anyone with the “Title” Pastor – Or the “Title” Reverend.
    3 – I can’t even find anyone called – Pastor.
    4 – And I can’t find one congregation “Led” by a Pastor?

    And your wife is not alone in thinking you should leave – now…

    This is info from websites helping burned out Pastors.

    # 80% of pastors’ spouses wish they would choose a different profession.
    # 80% believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families.
    …………..Many pastor’s children do not attend church now
    ……………because of what the church has done to their parents.
    # 50% of the ministers starting out will not last 5 years.
    # 33% state that being in the ministry is an outright hazard to their family.

    And the #1 reason pastors leave the ministry — Drum role please…
    Church people are not willing to go the same direction and goal of the pastor.
    Wow – go figure – But it says right here on my Diploma – I’m the leader… 😉

    Some more statistics. This is serious business. Yes?

    • 77% say they do “not” have a good marriage.
    • 71% have felt burned out or depressed.
    • 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend.
    • Over 1600 pastors in the U.S. are forced out of their positions each month.

    Think we might have a problem? 70% of pastors are depressed or burnt out.
    That’s who is running the show. “Pastors/Leaders?”
    77% who say they don’t have a good marriage. Hmmm?
    That’s who is “Spiritually Abusing” God’s sheep.

    Think there might be a problem with “Pastor/Leaders?”

    1600 pastors a month, that’s 19,000 a year are pushed out. Wow!!!
    That’s a lot of broken hearts, disappointments, feelings of failure, pain, abuse.
    1600 families a month suffering “Abuse” from a “Corrupt Religious System.”

    Why don’t the denominations and seminaries, tell these young wannabees,
    before they spend all that money for a degree,
    that they are entering a very dangerous profession? Pastor/Leader.
    Dangerous for the “Pastor/Leader” and their family. Yes?

    But – If the seminaries told you that – why would anyone go. 😉

    What if the seminaries are corrupt – making merchandise of God’s people?

    What if – “The Whole Religious System,” – for the past 1700 years, with the
    multiple thousands of denominations, movements, heirarchy, traditions of men,
    “Titles” and “Positions” NOT in the Bible, – has been, and is, – Totally Corrupt.

    Corrupt – Dictionary
    1- showing a willingness to act dishonestly in return for money or personal gain.
    2- in a state of decay; rotten or putrid.
    3- debased or made unreliable by errors or alterations.

    You’re not alone Jody – Many have left “the Corrupt System”
    and are still following Jesus. 🙂

    And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:
    them also I must bring, and they shall **hear My voice;**
    and there shall be “ONE” fold, and “ONE” shepherd.
    John 10:16

    One Fold – One Shepherd – One Voice – One Leader

    {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}


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