Monday, December 05, 2011

Old Dudes In Seminary

CNN reports that older students are the fastest growing group of incoming seminarians, Baby boomers heading back to seminary.

According to a decade-long study of enrollment by the Association of Theological Schools released in 2009, the fastest-growing group of seminarians include those older than 50. In 1995, baby boomers made up 12% of seminarians, while today they are 20%.
I am of two minds here, setting aside my concerns about professional training for what should be voluntary ministry. On one hand I have to wonder if men in the latter part of their careers have lost their jobs and see seminary and vocation ministry as a "safe" alternative to fill out their reminaing working years. On the other hand, I would rather see men who have families and life experience outside of Bible college and youth groups leading in the church.

What do you think? Is this a positive in the church?


Anonymous said...

I do not see many positives in this statistic.

If they want to help people, just go out and help people.. why spend all the money to go to school just so you can help people.

I just do not understand.

Arthur Sido said...

They go because the church culture tells them they need an advanced degree to "minister".

Craig Schmidt said...

I was one of the oldest (47 yrs. old) in my 2007 graduating class from SBTS in Louisville. I think I was an encouragement for some younger students and brought life experiences as, what has been termed, a bi-vocational pastor, beyond what the professors had time to give. I didn't buy into everything that was taught and that also became a learning tool for the younger students. Having been involved in ministering for 14 years (or more) at that point, I had insights that many others did not have, and used them to further the teachings of the professors, both in class and out.

My education was paid for by the VA due to a service-connected disability. I did spend much time, as a full-time MDiv student, bi-voc pastor, and business owner, and so in that respect it was expensive. I also drove to Louisville from Chicago many Sunday nights after a full day of "church" work and gas is not cheap.

I went to be equipped to minister the Word more effectively. What I walked away with, practically speaking, was about 5-6 classes or so that were worth every penny and second of time spent on them. The rest were marginally useful or not at all useful, other than to say "I am never following those teachings!"

I agree partially with abnormalreaction. We do need to just go out and help people. But, when we get stuck and need help, helping people, and we are the ones they are looking to for that help, we need to have the tools to do so. Sometimes seminary provides that.

But, mainly, as Arthur has said, most go because it's what the church's expect from their leaders. The denominations, mostly following the world's model (certification and all), teach using the same worldly models, and many worldly examples, and equip men to be mostly capable of securing the organization.

I believe the current leaders in the "local churches" need to quit spending all their time and money on farming ministry out and start doing ministry in their local families. I would love to add more, but this is already very long. Thanks for indulging me!
Craig at NCBFLV

Arthur Sido said...

Thanks Craig, I appreciate the perspective you bring. I hope that the younger students at SBTS appreciated your experiences! I think you are right on the mark that seminary is just what we expect men to do. I have not seen any really convincing arguments as to why a seminary education prepares one for a life of service and ministering but we keep sending men to get an MDiv year after year.