When I started writing Bible Study curriculum in my 30s, I knew a seminary degree would be helpful. I wanted to take God’s Word seriously. I wanted to know more about the original language, what the passage meant then, and what the passage means today. But as most young moms staying at home with young children, there was little money and little time to invest in post-graduate work. Seminary classes were a far-off desire and I didn’t have accessibility to take classes where I lived. Excuses turned into years of not pursuing higher education.
Fast forward. When I was approached to teach an adjunct class at my alma mater, I confessed I wasn’t sure I was qualified since I didn’t have a seminary degree. The dean knew I had life experience, but I was missing the all-important post-graduate diploma. I agreed to teach the class on the condition that I would begin a theology degree. I was nervous. Was I too old to fit in? Would I be able to keep up with online technology? Would I remember how to write a research paper? While the past couple of years haven’t been always easy, pursuing a theology degree has been a great decision—no matter my age.
Maybe you’ve considered pursuing a degree. Maybe you have the same excuses I did. Even so, as a ministry leader, I want to give you eight reasons you should consider pursuing a seminary degree. No matter how old you are, there is great value in being a leader who continues to learn.
1. You will be stretched to learn new technology. I enjoy learning in new ways, but I admit learning online brought challenges. I’ve learned how to engage in online discussions, watch online lectures and navigate new processes. A leader who wants to continue to learn will adapt to the ever-changing technology that is available.
2. You will be stretched to wrestle with God’s Word. I’ve done many Bible studies in my lifetime, but learning how to use current commentaries, understanding the original language, and exegeting Scripture for myself has been better than any Bible study where someone else did all the hard work. I’ve been introduced to many contemporary biblical scholars and have had the opportunity to learn personally from them. When you realize your professor is the one who wrote the commentary, you take notice that you have a thing or two to learn!
3. You will get a broader perspective of ministry. One of the greatest joys of online learning is getting to know other students from around the world. My classes have included missionaries, international students, church planters, and a variety of lay people. They have enriched my perspective of various kinds of ministry and have given me new ways to pray for those who are leading churches in difficult places.
4. You will meet others on the journey. One of my hesitations was wondering whether I would actually get to know my classmates. Instead, I have developed friendships with people I may never meet face to face. My professors have been personal and caring. My classmates have been engaging and have challenged me to think beyond the standard “Jesus” answers.
5. You will get a better perspective on the younger generation. I’ve been surprised at the variety of ages in my classes, but I love getting to hear from 20-somethings who are beginning their ministry journey. They have encouraged me and I feel confident about the future of church leadership because of them. I’ve even met other seminary students on Twitter and pray for their classes and studies.
6. You will be a better ministry leader. Seminary training has provided practical opportunities for me to be a better leader. I took a pastoral counseling class as an elective. I don’t feel called to go into counseling, but the lessons and principles I learned have helped me be a better listener, know how to ask better questions, and have a deeper appreciation for professional counselors.
7. You will be prepared for future opportunities. Further education will prepare you to walk through ministry doors God may open. Maybe you’ll be asked to teach a class in your local church. Maybe you’ll be asked to consider vocational ministry. Knowledge of church history and theology will prepare you in new ways. Plus, you never know what career opportunities God may open in the future. Having theological training will give you credibility and confidence to say “yes” to God’s next steps for your life.
8. You will gain respect in ministry circles. Several years ago, I asked my team leader if I needed to pursue a seminary degree. He felt my experience was “enough” for the current job assignment. Even so, I know there is a respect among ministry leaders when you put forth the time, effort, and money into post-graduate education. Ministry leaders who have walked the seminary path before you will have a greater respect for your investment and perseverance.
Not everyone is called to pursue a seminary degree. But, if you sense God calling you to pursue higher education, check out the variety of programs offered today and pray about ways God wants you to be a leader who continually learns. Be faithful to obey 1 Timothy 3:15, “Be diligent to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth.”