Are Seminaries preparing our ministers adequately?

Education is a good thing, especially in matters of the Bible, church history, Theology, Biblical counseling, and spiritual development. Most seminaries do an adequate, or even above average, job of presenting information, knowledge, in an academic setting. Most seminaries do a decent job on teaching courses on matters of the head. Unfortunately, most seminaries seem to fall down on the job concerning spiritual development. And even those that DO have something by way of spiritual development, most focus on helping their students learn how to develop other people – not the spiritual needs of their students. Its been my experience that seminary does a decent job of providing knowledge, but a poor job in really preparing people to minister. You’d be surprised how many leave seminary with little or no faith. 

Ministry is a spiritual battle that few of us are adequately prepared for when we leave seminary. I’ll never forget the first church where I was associate pastor – it was a church plant. It was filled with white haired folks. Now, I love the elderly, and plan on being one myself. Truth be told, I’m well on my way to having my own head of white hair. :) But these folks had a mantra they liked to chant: “We’ve never done it that way. We can’t do that. That’s not how we do things in [fill-in-the-denomination].” They were quick to agree with the sermon message when they thought it applied to a certain someone, but never wanted to let God use it in their own hearts. But they did not mind going to the preacher to complain that he should not be so hard on [fill-in-the-sin] when it DID hit home. They loved to complain, and would do so to the preacher, the pastor, and anyone else. Of course the favorite game was to compliment the preacher to his face, then go behind his back complaining. And heaven help us if we tried to get them involved in a ministry, or tried to suggest different ways of ministering. It was a spiritual battle. But after much prayer, and preaching through the Bible, by the time I was called by God to leave, the place was beginning to turn around. People were beginning to look for ways to pitch in. But it was a spiritual battle I was ill prepared for – and I had knowledge, just not experience in the spiritual battle I found myself in. And from speaking to other pastors and preacher and teachers, most (if not all) have been through a similar experience. 

Our seminaries must shift their focus from pure knowledge to teaching their students how to put that knowledge into practice in practical ways. I’m not speaking of classes that give the preacher some modicum of experience in preaching, or preaching certain types of messages or passages, or role playing counseling sessions. I am speaking of preparing them for the spiritual warfare that is ministry. We must help our future ministers know how to deal with people from a spiritual perspective. We must help them learn the efficacy of prayer. We must help them learn how to find a spiritual mentor. We must help them find ways to form prayer groups. We must help them see God work through the expressions of their faith. 

Only then will our ministers begin to be adequately prepared to face the battle. Only then will we begin to prevent burn-out of our pastors. Only then can we begin to turn the tide and get people moving from the pews to the pulpits. Only then will people listening to God’s word to living God’s word. Only then will people move from learning about God to loving God.

5 Responses

  1. I think that is important, and I agree with you, but as a thought: how much preparation can you really do? A lot of that is probably best learned through experience. I suppose a firm foundation in dealing with people spiritually would be good for pastors.

    Kind of like the military. They do a lot of training before battle, but there’s stuff you learn about yourself in battle that you didn’t know before.

    Disclaimer: I’ve never been a pastor. I’ve never been in the military. I might be way off with both thoughts! I’m just good lookin’! (ha. ha.)

  2. There ARE courses that can teach someone how to deal with others spiritually. But, while helpful, those are insufficient. We need to train pastors how to deal with their OWN lives spiritually.

    There needs to be internships for pastors, where they get on the job training for being a pastor (not simply how to preach). There needs to be ongoing prayer meetings where pastors in training can learn from others who have a strong prayer life. There needs to be ongoing sessions with stronger mature Christians who can give the benefit of their experiences, good and bad, to pastors in training. Some seminairies do some of these things, but the focus for the student should always be spiritual, rather than procedural. And I think that is where the few that DO these sorts of things fall short. So often the classes focus on the knowledge, or procedure (depending on the class), and rarely on the God who has supposedly called these people to minstry.

    You can only learn this particular practice by On The Job Training. We need seminaries to teach their students to always focus on God. They need to teach how ot pray, how to seek God’s will, how to search the word of God for answers, how to surrender to God’s will, how to seek God’s guidance, how to seek God’s forgiveness, how to seek God’s grace, peace, and power in the midst of troubled times.

  3. Wow well there ya go! Are you going to start a seminary? ;-)

  4. :) Not unless God tells me to. It’s not on my radar, but then I’m doing things today that I had no idea I would be doing a year ago. So who knows what God is preparing me for.

    God bless you as you minister to Him.

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