Once a person has felt the call to ministry, the next step is often to attend seminary. The choice of where to attend seminary for some, is a no-brainer, and for others, more difficult. Some, upon entering a particular seminary, may determine that it is not the right fit for them and begin searching for another institution to attend. Wherever you are in your seminary selection process, it is important to recognize that they place you go to become equipped to share the Gospel will have a profound effect on your formation as a minister. With this in mind, the question become, how will I decide where to go? Following is a list of things to consider when determining where to pursue your theological education and ministerial formation.
- Research Denominational Requirements
Whether those appointed to the Gospel ministry are required to attend seminary varies from denomination to denomination. Not all denominations believe a theological education is needed to faithfully proclaim the Gospel. Some denominations prefer “apprenticeship” style training rather than theological training in an institution. Some denominations prefer a Master of Divinity degree, but are flexible regarding where that degree is obtained. Some denominations have their own denominationally affiliated seminaries. If you seek to become a minister within a particular denomination, it is important to know what that denomination expects.
- Talk with a Current Minister
The best advice for those interested in ministry is to seek advice from those who are already in ministry. If you are considering seminary, find someone who has been there who is bearing fruit and whom you respect. These individuals can offer you advice spiritually, as well as pray for you and help prepare your heart for the task you are about to undertake. Current ministers may also be able to recommend schools to look into and places you should avoid.
“Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisors they succeed.” (Proverbs 15:22)
- Research and Visit Schools
When I say “research schools” I don’t just mean a Google search, although Google can be your friend in finding schools to consider. Go to different schools’ websites, read through their mission statements and beliefs. Find out with whom they are affiliated. Research distinguished alumni. If possible, call the school and ask if there are alumni who are willing to meet with you and talk about the school. Schedule a visit and attend a class. Choosing a seminary is perhaps more important than choosing a college. Thoroughly screen your options and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Questions are your friend in this process!
- Consider Location
When choosing a seminary, location matters! Location not only has implications for whether you or your family will have to move in order for you to receive your education, but also has practical consequences for what opportunities and training that seminary will be able to provide you with. For example, when I felt my call from God, I felt called to ministry in rural America. The seminary I chose was in an urban location. The focus of the seminary I attended was urban ministry. The opportunities provided to serve while in seminary took place mostly in cities. The job openings posted by the school were often in the city. While I was grateful to serve in the city where I found myself, and while God certainly worked despite my preference of location, I left seminary prepared more for urban ministry than for ministry in the rural areas I felt called to. There was a constant tension in the air about best practices for ministry, which can vary in different areas of the United States. While I am grateful for my experience, I probably would have benefitted more from a place located in suburban or rural America. Wherever you go, Scripture calls us to “seek the welfare of the city” where we are sent. (Jeremiah 29:7). Be prepared for this.
- Consider Theological Leanings
Every seminary has a theological lean and bias. It is important to be aware of what your seminary stands for before you attend. I am not suggesting that you must attend a seminary that aligns with your theology 100%. However, you should know what you are getting yourself into. Are you willing to be challenged in your beliefs? Will the seminary feed you spiritually or hinder you spiritually? The teachings of the school should stand in line with the teachings of Christ. This is perhaps the most important thing of all to consider. Scripture says,
“If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.” (1 Timothy 6:3-5)
Let us seek education at places who seek godliness in order to please Christ, and teach according to His truth.
In the end, it all comes down to prayer and the Spirit’s guidance. The Bible tells us,
“Now set your heart and your soul to seek the LORD your God; arise, therefore, and build the sanctuary of the LORD God, so that you may bring the ark of the covenant of the LORD and the holy vessels of God into the house that is built for the name of the LORD.” (1 Chronicles 16:11)
If we believe the Lord has called us, we must trust Him to guide us, and to prepare our hearts to bring glory to Him wherever it is that we decide to go.