Tool Belts, Seminaries, and Gen Z

“I had gone to seminary to prepare for ministry, and I was not prepared for ministry. I was prepared academically to begin a life of teaching, which is, of course, invaluable. But in terms of the vocation of ministry beyond teaching?” - James Emery White


There are lot of things that could be discussed off of this post. White’s premise may seem legit, but I would venture to say that there is far more attention given to addressing the tool belt issues today than there used to be. I know in my own master’s program, there was a one year on site intensive ministry internship. In my current ministry, we seek to continue to “marry” the biblical and the theological to the experiential, the day in and day out aspects of local church life.

He isn’t wrong about the decline for the M. Div.

We need seminary. But in fairness to a seminary education, there are certain things it will never be able to impart, even if it tries. God bless professors, but most of them have never been the pastor of a church. They may have been interim pastors or had a short-term pastorate while in seminary, but they are, in truth, academics. They are not practitioners. We need them, and we need the academic education they give us. But we also need what they don’t teach you in seminary. We need insights and wisdom on leadership and relationships, emotional survival and communication, hiring and firing, sexual fences and our struggle with envying the pastor across town. We need best principles about money and time, decision making and church growth.

I viewed my MDiv as a way to prepare myself for pastoral ministry in the areas of preaching and teaching. That is what it accomplished. My MDiv stocked my ministry toolbelt with tools and skills to exegete, preach, and teach Scripture.

My MBA and my 20+ years of experience in the corporate world prepared me for the rest: leadership, relationships, communication, hiring/firing, time management, personal boundaries, finances, etc.

In other words, I believe an MDiv is necessary for a sustained preaching and teaching ministry, but it's not sufficient for pastoral ministry. I've said this before here on SI, but young men wanting to enter pastoral ministry would be better served getting their undergrad in the humanities or sciences before pursuing an MDiv (with training in the biblical languages).

So, I'm all about the toolbelt mentality. I just don't think it's realistic to expect to get all the tools you need in one place.

As Tom notes, there are a number of skills that are critical for pastoring that are not well taught in any seminary, but....are taught quite well by "life experience". Maybe it's something to do with why the Bible uses the word "elder" to describe the office of the pastor?

And granted--Timothy is a great example--some people learn these skills faster than others, and some people don't learn them at all. But if we give our leaders more time to "ripen", maybe we'll have a better plan going.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.