What They Didn’t Say in Seminary

Having finished my D.Min. at Fuller, I now can say with pride that I have been a small part in the world’s most influential seminary.  I loved my experience there, and I love that I continue to live within close enough proximity to the campus that I can continue to take part in the offerings of Fuller Theological Seminary.  I earned my M.Div. elsewhere, and admittedly do not know the course offerings for the Fuller M.Div. students, so this is not a review of Fuller’s programs.

But, now 12 years out of the M.Div. program, having served in 5 churches (before and after seminary), I do have enough experience in ministry to know where my original seminary education could have been better.  The disconnect between what I learned and what I needed is pretty wide.  Every book I read on church leadership by seasoned veterans of ministry only heightens my awareness of the fact that seminary wasn’t desperate to prepare me for ministry.

So in retrospect, here are the ten classes they should have offered in seminary:

1.  Personnel Management

2.  Vision Casting and Strategic Planning

3.  Non-profit Financial Management

4.  Change Management

5.  Reviving a Stalled Church (most pastors are going to end up doing just that)

6.  The Pastoral Role and Congregational Expectations (how to define yourself and set boundaries)

7.  The Dynamics of the Associate Pastoral Role

8.  Marketing (because most pastors just assume it works by magic)

9.  The Intersection of Christ and Culture

10.  When to Go (on how to gracefully leave a church, since most pastors do it more than once)

My seminary never got anywhere near any of these topics for reasons I still can’t fathom.  To dodge them because they are too secular is no better than telling students they should just pray and read their Bibles instead of going to seminary.


4 thoughts on “What They Didn’t Say in Seminary

  1. Jim,
    Educational programs are much the same. There is very little to do with practical knowledge and learning, and much to do with inapplicable theory. Not that educational and divinity programs are comparable, but they do share in their application which is the business of serving people so that they will grow.

    I loved the list of course offerings… watch out, or Fuller will snag you to design and teach a course, which would be ok I think?

  2. It’s nice to hear a pastor say they need business. That’s always been my beef with ministry programs (in the academic sense). I ended up graduating with a major in biblical studies and business administration. I loved the theology classes, the history of the church, the reading materials, etc., but it was all very qualitative (not that that’s a bad thing). It is, however, a hindrance when many of the people I studied with wanted to start their own church. I mean, you’re practically starting your own business at that point…Anyway, good stuff. “They’d” do good to take note of your thoughts.

  3. Amen. I’ve had pators say such ridiculous things to me as “Christians don’t fire Christians”. I think courses like the ones you’ve listed would do a lot in the way of clearing up a lot of the “problems” the (post) modern church has. Clarity, direction & especially, leadership, are much more important than a dynamic speaker looking to get his/her latest New Testament re-hash published.

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