When I was a college student, the Lord made it clear to me that He wanted me to serve His church for the rest of my life. In college I knew I was going to be a pastor. In fact, I became a pastor while in college and started working on staff at a church as student pastor. As college was ending, I wrestled between two paths: moving with Kaye to live on campus at a seminary for full-time theological education or continuing to serve on staff at a church and pursuing theological education “on the side.” I chose to remain on church staff and go to seminary “on my day off.”
I went to seminary back in the day when you had to walk up hill both ways in the snow to get there. It wasn’t actually that rough, but it was a lot more challenging than it is now with the added ability to take classes online. When I was a student pastor in Cincinnati, I drove down to the Southern Seminary campus in Louisville, KY on Sunday nights or early Monday morning and would get home around midnight on Monday night. That was my day-off. And I loved it. I loved it because of what I was learning. I loved the disciplined reading. I loved it because the professors at Southern cared for me and encouraged me. Based on my experience, here are four reasons church staff should consider going to seminary while they are serving on staff.
1. You discover that theology is practical.
Theology is incredibly practical, and theological training (whether formal or informal) while you are on ministry staff helps you connect the dots between theology and practice. Your view of sanctification impacts how you counsel and what type of curriculum you desire your church to use. Your missiology (your belief in the mission of the church) impacts how you engage your city. And so on…
2. You learn how to learn.
Ministry leaders must be life-long learners. As cultural norms and values change, ministry leaders must continually understand how to apply the truth and grace of God to the current context. Theological training helps you learn how to apply our faith, a faith based on a historical reality, to life here and now.
3. You benefit from disciplined reading.
C.S. Lewis wrote “new books,” but he encouraged readers to read old books. He stated, “It is a good rule after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between.” Being on church staff often exposes you to current reading, to current ministry trends, and to new thinking. All of which can be very good, but we are wise to look backward too. My seminary syllabuses, as overwhelming as they felt, plotted out of a disciplined reading plan that helped me engage with the past and with truth that stands the test of time.
4. You are pulled into the history of the Church.
I have always thrown myself fully into my current role. I dive deeply into my community and love where the Lord has placed me. I can get super focused. Which, I believe, is helpful and good and right. Seminary helped me see the great historical legacy I am connected to, the movement of the Church that is bigger than my current context.
If you are currently a ministry leader without formal theological education, you may want to prayerfully consider whether seminary training can help prepare and equip you even more for a lifetime of faithful ministry service. My time at Southern Seminary has helped to shape me in tremendous ways as a pastor and leader in my church, and I pray that if you choose to pursue formal theological education that it does the same for you. With the ability to earn your M.Div. completely online now, experiencing this growth and edification can start in as little as just a few clicks.