October 8, 2013
To Change, Or Not To Change
Your comments on the changing nature of the M.Div.
The future of seminary education (“Does the M.Div. have a future?”) was much discussed last week here on Ur. Here are some relevant selections from the comments for your viewing pleasure ... or displeasure, depending on your educational views.
K.W. Leslie—No offense to those who have one, but I know more than a few people who consider an M.Div or a D.Div to be an empty degree … It has a future, but only if schools crack down on what it takes to earn one, and stop handing out honorary degrees to the sort of people who will abuse them.
Adam Shields—Pastoral ministry needs to be more focused on apprentice training. Not that real education is not important, I think that it is. But that similar to a law degree, the reality of the practice is quite different from the academic study of scripture, theology and pastoral care … The other reality is the large number of people that are moving into pastoral ministry jobs but are not teaching pastors. Large churches, multi-site churches need more specialized training. We need people that are more focused on pastoral care, discipleship, etc. And the reality is that much of the work of the mega-church or multi-site church is organizational and the most qualified people are from business fields, not M.Div. programs.
Robert—Many church leaders, like myself, are challenged to hire M.Div. grads right out of seminary because we know there's at least a six to twelve month ‘deprogramming’ ahead and another six months beyond that, before most are ready and capable of building a ministry. The M.Div. isn't equipping pastors to be pastors at a successful rate.
National Jester—I suspect that there will be fewer full-time pastoral positions in the future. Part-time specialized positions are likely to become more common. So ministry will mean having to secure secular employment for some or most of a pastor's support.
Mark—I do believe in the importance of theological education for those in theological leadership roles. But the astronomical costs to fund a degree for tomorrow's leaders in non-profit vocations is a glaring problem. Especially in today's job market, where candidates with higher degrees are plentiful, but career opportunities are few.
Jeff—Providers of the M.Div. degree have made a number of assumptions about the best way to train future ministers. It would be healthy to examine those assumptions and go back to the drawing board. We might even end up with a name for a degree that I could actually use in conversation with people that are not evangelical Christians!
Gary—When I did my M.Div., it provided me with a strong theological foundation but it didn't teach me the realities of pastoral life. Things like how to plug in a wireless microphone or how to run a business meeting or how to raise money for a building fund were not taught. These practical activities are realities in the global church.
Dean Cowles—Dean visited a fast growing non-denominational church in Denver and had this to say about the staff, "… all the staff were "educated’ in-house by their parent church where they were saved, trained, served as interns, and now planting churches. It may not be the way some like to keep a 'lid' on how and what ministers study and are trained in but at the same time these new young ministers are preaching good gospel, very doctrinal and biblical based messages, and seeing the whirlwind of the spirit descent upon them and their new young and youth focused congregations."
C.S. Cowles finds us being, "… caught between Jim (Gilmore) and Joel (Osteen), each representing a radically different and yet enormously effective models of ministry. Can both models find a way of working together in a changing world where the only thing that doesn’t change is change itself? I hope so."
Dan—I personally think in today's world with all the available helps out there for word studies and looking into Greek and Hebrew, that seminaries should train students more in how to use the tools than all the memorization that is generally required. And the M.A. does sure seem plenty. I hope seminaries do figure out how to survive as they are needed. But may they also rethink what pastors need today too to lead in our culture and world.