Clarks Summit University Plans to Sell Seminary Building

"Though the Stowell Seminary Building is on the market, Baptist Bible Seminary remains an important part of Clarks Summit University"

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TylerR's picture

Editor

I hope Bible Baptist Seminary is doing well. I am worried. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Jonathan Charles's picture

It was a nice building, sad to see it go, but residential enrollment has plummeted, seminary can no longer have its own chapel because there aren't enough residential students to have chapel.  The online students and students who take one-week modules keep it going.  

Jackson Hall is the main classroom building at Clarks Summit.  Other than the music building, gym, cafeteria, and dorms, everything else about the school is in that building.  It is a grand building, but it is old.  The school could use a modern classroom building.   

T Howard's picture

I agree with Jonathan. Having visited campus several times over the course of my on-line M.Div., I'm saddened to hear they have to sell the seminary building. It was much newer and nicer than Jackson Hall.

When I graduated this past Spring, they were trying to get as many M.Div graduates as they could to sign back up for their D.Min program. Were Dr. Decker still around, I might have considered it. Honestly, the seminary lost a lot when Dr. Decker passed away. From what I was told, several of the existing faculty are looking to retire soon either because of age and/or health. I think they stopped publishing their academic journal several years ago. I imagine the seminary being "downsized" won't help them gain / retain faculty or students.

Bert Perry's picture

Yes, it's just a building, but, along with the huge drop in BJU's attendance and the closing of Pillsbury, Northland, and a host of other schools, it demonstrates that institutions our spiritual forefathers set up are losing their appeal. The trick is to figure out what the main reasons are.  Is it because too many fundamental churches resemble little more than a senior citizens' center (no kids), or because the kids coming out of fundamentalist churches don't have funds to spend on a school that doesn't have the major they need to get a trade, or because kids coming out of fundamentalist churches don't want to deal with the rules, or....?

With regards to the seminary specifically falling on hard times, it could be the loss of faculty, but you've got to look at other factors.  A big one would be that too many churches keep their pastors in poverty, and hence young people who'd like a family steer clear of that calling.  Another one is that too many head pastors view themselves as CEO and (intentionally or not) end up pushing young people out of leadership positions.  

In itself, a fairly minor move, but it's a sign that some serious gut-checking needs to be done in fundamentalism.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Jonathan Charles's picture

Concerning the seminary, the biggest issue is the availability of online education. A young married guy no longer has to move to where the seminary is.

Another issue is that old identities don't matter much to young people now. In the past, a young person from a GARBC background might stay in that system. But if one is going to school online, and his engagement is limited to his laptop screen, why would he care if his school is GARBC, SBC, Liberty, etc.?

Finally, because of the online option, the schools that do it well are probably snatching up more than their share of students, leaving little to sustain the rest of the schools.

Bert Perry's picture

Jonathan Charles wrote:

Concerning the seminary, the biggest issue is the availability of online education. A young married guy no longer has to move to where the seminary is.

Another issue is that old identities don't matter much to young people now. In the past, a young person from a GARBC background might stay in that system. But if one is going to school online, and his engagement is limited to his laptop screen, why would he care if his school is GARBC, SBC, Liberty, etc.?

Finally, because of the online option, the schools that do it well are probably snatching up more than their share of students, leaving little to sustain the rest of the schools.

It's interesting that you say this, Jonathan, because if it were just online studies, you'd expect a student to do online studies in his own orbit--the schools in this orbit have had distance learning for a while.  However, what's going on here is that the students who are not coming are saying, in effect, that whatever it costs to do online/distance studies at a fundamental school are not justified, in their opinion, by the differences in teaching between a fundamental and an evangelical school like Liberty.  

So there's a deeper problem, in my opinion.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

JBL's picture

I can't say that I'm surprised by the news.

Any seminary or university must have clear answers the following questions:

  1. What types of churches are looking for the product that we provide?
  2. What is the yearly revenue we can expect to garner from students coming from these churches?
  3. What competitive advantages do we have over the big name - mainstream evangelical seminaries (DTS/Liberty/SBTS)?

Clarks Summit just happens to find itself positioned in a very narrow market for students.  I would characterize it as slightly to the right of BJU in terms of doctrine and baptistic distinctiveness and slightly to the left in terms of music and dress standards.  In other words, it is way too far to the left for most IFB churches to consider hiring from, and too far right to attract mainstream evangelical attention.

John B. Lee

Jonathan Charles's picture

Also, independent Baptist churches have not historically demanded, expected, or encouraged graduate/seminary education for their pastors. I bet for 10 independent Baptist pastors I know, only 1 has at least a Master's.

T Howard's picture

From what I was told, a lot of the GARBC guys who used to choose a seminary like BBS now choose SBTS or Liberty instead. Now that Decker is gone, I would too. In fact, when I decide to pursue my ThM or doctorate, I'll most likely attend SBTS. It produces some the best conservative evangelical scholarship. It's within 4 hours driving distance (and offers an on-line / modular ThM / DMin). I'm very familiar with the campus and several of the professors.

TylerR's picture

Editor

I was planning on doing a PhD at BBS in about five years. I hope they pull through.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Jonathan Charles wrote:

Also, independent Baptist churches have not historically demanded, expected, or encouraged graduate/seminary education for their pastors. I bet for 10 independent Baptist pastors I know, only 1 has at least a Master's.

This is surprising. In the "IFB" I grew up in, pastors w/o seminary degrees were extremely rare. Even as much as we church hopped growing up, we never even visited a church who's pastor wasn't seminary trained. (OK, on vacation there were a couple!). Maybe some of this is the Flint, Michigan/Detroit region, but off hand I don't know of any area churches where I am now that are not pastored by seminary grads either.

(Maybe one... not sure though.)

I looked at PhD at BBS also, and might have gone for it if I could make the numbers add up (both cost and time). In retrospect, could have probably managed it... but it did not seem feasible at the time.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

TylerR's picture

Editor

At the Pastor's fellowship near where I was, nobody had a Seminary degree. Everybody had a BA. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

T Howard's picture

My family attended a large IFB church (500+) in Dayton, Ohio where the pastor had a B.A. in marketing, but no formal theological training.

My family attended a medium IFB church (200+) in Columbus, Ohio where the pastor dropped out of Bible school and had no other formal education.

In both cases, the lack of a formal theological education was evident in their preaching ministries, and God used that to stir up a desire within me to earn my M.Div before pursuing pastoral ministry.

Larry Nelson's picture

 

The pastor had a Th.G. from Baptist Bible College (Springfield, MO).

If you're not familiar with a Th.G., it stands for "Graduate of Theology."  Sounds good, right?  I mean, it has "Theology" in the name, and "Graduate" must mean it's a graduate (post-baccalaureate) degree, right?  Not so.  A Th.G. is actually a three year undergraduate degree (think between a two year associate degree and a four year bachelor's degree). 

Here's an example (just pulled from Google---I'm making no endorsement of this school):

"This specifically designed three year degree is for preachers desiring a formal theological training. This degree is a concentration of Bible, pastoral, and ministry related courses. For many years all pastor’s and missionaries sought this degree. However, as time passed many pastors and missionaries made the decision to continue into four year Bachelor programs.

This degree is perfect for those who because of geographical location, time constraints, or other reasons do not desire to continue into the Bachelor program."

 http://lbtsintl.org/academics/graduate-of-theology-th-g/ 

So my pastor at that time had not done any graduate-level seminary work.

-----------------------------------------------------

In contrast, my current pastor has a M.Div and Ph.D., both from SBTS.  (His B.A. is from the University of North Carolina.) 

Jonathan Charles's picture

It just goes to show you that, being independent, independent churches have no across-the-board requirements for the education of pastors. Where I grew up in the south it was a rare thing for a pastor to have a post-bachelor's degree.  I can't think of a single pastor I knew with post-bachelor's education.  Where I'm at now, it can get really upside down where a pastor of a large church has only a 4 year degree and yet a pastor of a church of 90-100 is working on a D.Min.  Go figure.  A few years ago, when I looked into some SBC churches that were looking for pastors, they all wanted a pastor with a M.Div. from one of the SBC seminaries.  I bet most independent Baptist churches wouldn't know the difference between the requirements of a M.A. and a M.Div.  I noted on a different thread that I've never met or learned of a PCA pastor without at least a M.Div.  If independent churches had such expectations, the seminaries would be filled.   

T Howard's picture

Jonathan Charles wrote:
I bet most independent Baptist churches wouldn't know the difference between the requirements of a M.A. and a M.Div.

Most folks outside of theological education circles (not just IFB people) don't know the difference among an M.A., M.Div, and a Th.M. or between a D.Min. and a Ph.D.

Bert Perry's picture

...is how do we persuade churches to pay for young pastors to get that education, no?  If you pay a Wal-mart wage getting your pastor, five will get you ten you're not going to get a guy who spent six to eight years in college to get that job.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

TylerR's picture

Editor

Two thoughts:

  • I don't know how in the world normal people pay for higher education. I have the GI Bill. I think churches and potential pastors need to start looking for quality, non-accredited seminaries to send their men to. Churches can't afford to bankroll a seminary education, and students can't afford to pay it. Bro Henebury, for example, runs just such an institution. You also have Tyndale. You also have Whitefield. Etc, etc. Think on it. 
  • Small, rural country churches will never be able to afford to pay a Pastor with a family enough to live. They'll certainly never be able to afford to pay him enough to start making a dent in his student loan debt. Consider going dual-elder bi-vocational. Lower preaching expectations (e.g. frequency, not quality or content). Try to attract eager young, educated church planters from the usual seminaries. Convince them they have a ready and waiting mission field with an established church already waiting - they just need a good man (or two) to come lead them. Be reasonable. 

I mentioned this before, but somebody in my position (e.g. seminary-trained, full-time secular job at the moment) could easily do one good sermon per week without breaking a sweat. I could add a Wednesday evening Bible study as well, but it would be short. Add another similar man into the mix, and you have a dual-elder church which doesn't have a full-time Pastoral salary to worry about. This scenario is doable, if a church is willing and the trained men are willing.

How realistic is this in real life? I know it's possible. I don't know if it's been happening. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

M. Osborne's picture

I finished an MA in Church History from BJU in the fall of 2003, then stayed on for 3 more semesters of grad work (Hebrew, theology, etc., bucketed as toward an MDiv, although I had no intention to complete it). This was covered with a graduate assistantship. My wife also got her MEd and then went on faculty.

We moved to Omaha to get outside-of-academia experience helping at a church. The intention was to stay 5-10 years, and then pursue apologetics studies at Westminster. We wound up staying 8 years. When we first arrived, I got an entry-level job at a real estate title company, became the lead trainer, taught myself web development and database administration, and worked myself into a role doing policy writing, intranet development, and all kinds of other stuff. When we moved to Philadelphia to attend Westminster, they let me work from home. In God's Providence, the liberal arts education at BJU meant that I was ready, once I got in the door, to take on all kinds of responsibilities for the company.

I am plodding through a PhD one course at a time, paying cash. I still work 40 hours, and I'm active in church leadership and service. (We have only one paid pastor, and it's not me.) With the PhD, I couldn't go any faster without throwing my family under the bus or bankrupting myself...so the PhD will just have to be paced appropriately.

So to Tyler...yes, normal people can pay for higher education, if they're willing to approach it bi-vocationally,

Michael Osborne
Philadelphia, PA

T Howard's picture

TylerR wrote:
I don't know how in the world normal people pay for higher education. I have the GI Bill. I think churches and potential pastors need to start looking for quality, non-accredited seminaries to send their men to. Churches can't afford to bankroll a seminary education, and students can't afford to pay it.

One thing I appreciated about Clark Summit University (BBS) was their Training Timothys Scholarship.  Basically, if the man takes so many credit hours / semester and the church contributes to his education, the seminary will match it with a grant/scholarship up to a certain amount. I was able to use this during my first two semesters at BBS because my church made a contribution to my degree. Churches that can afford to do so should have a line item in their budget for continuing education.

TylerR wrote:
Small, rural country churches will never be able to afford to pay a Pastor with a family enough to live. They'll certainly never be able to afford to pay him enough to start making a dent in his student loan debt. Consider going dual-elder bi-vocational. Lower preaching expectations (e.g. frequency, not quality or content). Try to attract eager young, educated church planters from the usual seminaries. Convince them they have a ready and waiting mission field with an established church already waiting - they just need a good man (or two) to come lead them. Be reasonable.

Bi-vocational is certainly a good option for these churches. Some of them even provide a parsonage as part of the deal, but I'd probably stay away from that. The issue with trying to attract eager, young seminary men is that these men will likely see this role as temporary until, "I find a real pastorate." So, these churches become resume builders instead of places where the pastor develops long-term relationships with the people.  And, this leads to a host of other problems...

Bert Perry's picture

I appreciate the comment about trying a different mode of theological education altogether, and while you can't expect a pastor to know everything that a seminary would teach, I do have to wonder if we could give prospective seminarians a "head start" by really aggressively teaching the principles of exegesis and all.

And plus a billion on how anyone pays for college these days.  I was blessed, but I know a lot of people who have six figures of student loan debt and a manufacturing job.  It ain't fun for anyone.

One final thought; I have generally had fairly poor "luck" with pastors who don't have seminary training, especially if they haven't tried to master at least one of the BIblical languages.  There is a certain seriousness that is imparted by a good seminary, it seems. 

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Jonathan Charles's picture

Other schools are marketing a 5 year B.A./M.Div.  Others have also shortened the M.Div. from 90+ credits to the 80's or high 70's.  Baptist Bible Seminary is still a 94 credit program.

TylerR's picture

Editor

I'm assuming some seminaries which shorten their credits for the MDiv are ditching original languages. Not a good idea.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

T Howard's picture

TylerR wrote:
I'm assuming some seminaries which shorten their credits for the MDiv are ditching original languages.

Yes, that's exactly what is happening. I would imagine that those who graduate with an M.Div sans Greek/Hebrew would have a tough time going on for a Th.M or D.Min. IMHO, my Greek and Hebrew classes were some of the most valuable classes I took during my M.Div. If I could, I would have skipped my class on dispensational premillenialism along with a couple of my pastoral theology classes and taken more exegesis classes.

But, I probably wasn't the typical M.Div. student.

TylerR's picture

Editor

My most valuable classes have been New Testament Backgrounds, Systematic Theology (all of them) and Greek.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Joeb's picture

I mentioned this before on a prior thread.  Clarks Summit's sister school in Michigan which I can't recall the name, is ahead of the curve in this transitioning process.  My brother who is a Pastor commented that this seminary was the go to seminary for young students seeking an M Div.in the US. My brother further commented that this seminary had all the best teachers and that was what was attracting the Students.  

My brother went to Bethel Seminary in the early 80s and he said back then Bethel spent the money to get all the top Profs.  My Brother said today Bethel College pulled the financial plug on the seminary and now is doing what it used to do putting country preachers out on the street.  

The Michigan School maybe Jim's alma mata.  Little help with the Michigan school name fellows.   The point I'm making is success can come if the transition is handled right. 

Ron Bean's picture

Where are the no Hebrew MDiv schools? 

35 years ago I settled for a Master's Degree, lacking only Hebrew for my MDiv. I was 34, getting married, and couldn't afford taking another year of grad school for 6 credit hours. 

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

TylerR's picture

Editor

Liberty appears to have a track for an English Bible MDiv, which has two classes on language tools (e.g. how to use Bibleworks). They do have a track for languages, but they only require 1.5 years of Greek, and 1.5 years of Hebrew. Pretty pitiful for a Seminary degree. Here is their MDiv degree completion plan.

By contrast, Maranatha (the best Seminary in the whole wide world, obviously) requires 2.5 years of Greek and 2 years of Hebrew.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

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