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Seminary – was it worth it?


(Photo by ambery)

Before I begin, I need to say that I’ve never been a fan of any schooling system I’ve ever been a part of.

– In high school, I was a 90s student but on academic probation for missing too many classes.

– I scraped by university, passionless for my engineering degree, and was probably in the bottom five of my graduating class.

– I wasn’t at the very bottom of the barrel because after my third year I had decided to go to seminary, and realized they didn’t just let you in by grace.  I had to work my butt off in my final year just to raise my overall mark to a C+

So here’s the bottom line now that I’m done seminary

– 27 classes – not all of my choosing

– over a thousand hours in class

– at least two thousand hours spent reading and writing papers

– 440 hours of supervised ministry experience for the internship requirements

– $30,000 on tuition and books

– I left a corporate job I loved – Where I worked from home most of the time, had opportunities to travel, and interacted with people every single day.

– I made 60-70k+ a year depending on bonuses/commission – it’s been two years now so that’s $140,000… gone.  I don’t even want to think about what might have been over the course of a lifetime.

So was it worth it?

Is each lecture really worth $80 to (for the most part) passively listen to?  Is it worth the drive and the time away from family?  Is it worth the stress and uncertainty placed upon loved ones?

Could over a hundred thousand dollars be given elsewhere, that could have produced far greater kingdom impact?  Could I have used all that time to better engage the world rather than other seminarians?

There was a lot of assigned reading, but I probably read more and learned more from personal readings than class readings.  Could I have learned and grown to where I am today, without seminary?

I guess the other question is, would I have?

I really don’t know if I would have done something nobler with my time or money.  If you’re at a stage where you’re deeply engaging God, the Scriptures, His people, His mission, and His calling in your life, my goodness, don’t go to seminary.

At least I wouldn’t.  Not with where I am today.

Note that I am indebted and incredibly thankful that I had the opportunity to be in a seminary.  Who on earth has the luxury to sit around and contemplate the things of God?

I still feel like a noobie follower of Jesus, but I got an idea of where I’m going and where to go for help and what I need to get there.  But seminary, at least in its traditional sense, is definitely not a requirement on the journey going forward.

Seminary’s will always have their place.  Go if you feel God’s calling you in that direction (but realize it’s only a structure/form/place of learning, and typically God calls us to deeper things than that).

When I get some time I’ll probably compile a list of books, articles, experiences, resources that I think could just about replace the traditional seminary.

With all that being said, a price just cannot be placed upon time and space to grow, friendship, an environment that fosters learning, divine encounters, and wisdom from local prophets.

{ 4 comments… add one }

  • Yu June 19, 2008, 10:51 am

    hey lon,

    nice post. I completely agree. Just from a philosophy of education perspective, I think the way we’ve been teaching/preaching/learning has not been appropriate for our context nor our faith.

    That’s why I’m thinking through maybe something similar to the ‘alternative seminary’ movement might be more appropriate for Christ followers in general. Still don’t know what to make of professionalized education – esp since I’m trying to go down that route.

  • blog June 19, 2008, 5:02 pm

    wa oh….seminary

  • steve van diest June 21, 2008, 5:43 pm

    Thanks for sharing. I have to agree. The new way of thinking, leading and influencing change will not be done on that fill my brain with knowledge and take your life off for 2-3 years. I have been attended Bakke Graduate University. http://www.bgu.edu, it is built for the urban leader that is currently serving and practically making a change. Classes are cheaper and much more innovative. My last class was 6 days in NYC and it was profound. Nothing like it in the world. 5 Burroughs, 5 days, many different expressions of ministry, leadership, etc. Bakke is one of a kind.

    Check it out.

  • Lon June 21, 2008, 8:54 pm

    Yu – i’d still love to hear more of where you’re going… even if it’s professionalized education… and how you come to grips with it all.

    Steve – I had no idea bakke had a graduate university!… neat… I’ve only read one of his books officially, but I loved it. would love to hear more your experience as well!

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