This is part 6 of a blog series called Finding a Church Job.
Should I go straight into seminary?
I’ve heard some variation of that question a lot. Undergraduates headed towards ministry trying to figure out what the next move should be. Usually they have looked into jobs they want but they lacked the education or the experience to apply. This leaves them trying to make an either/or decision.
It isn’t an either/or dilemma.
But before we dive too far into that let me ask you something. Why do you want to go to seminary?
I have been pretty clear about the value I see in seminary and what needs to change about it. However when I first started thinking about seminary I wanted to head that direction because I didn’t want to be a youth pastor.
In my mind real ministry was preaching and leading. Not only was this real ministry but the type of ministry I had been called to. Knowing that 22-year olds don’t usually get hired as Lead Pastors I wanted to go to seminary full-time. Seminary would replace experience.
And yes I know how stupid that sounds.
If seminary is just the next step to feed your ambition, don’t go to seminary.
A seminary degree and experience can open doors for you to get an interview, but there is no guarantee. Particularly if you are outside of denominational structure and dealing with relatively independent churches you might find that you degree doesn’t always translate the way you thought it would.
If you are stuck and unable to find a job you need to consider both seminary and adding experience. On the experience side your only options might be volunteering or starting something new. Options for seminary might be limited due to finances or distance. If you are in this spot don’t let confirmation of your calling be tied to a title or a paycheck.
Seminary and those less than ideal jobs serve a purpose. But if they only serve the purpose of advancing you to “real ministry” you are short-changing both.
If I was hiring the ideal candidates would have both experience and a seminary degree. This isn’t either/or it is both/and. Doesn’t mean you need a DMin and 15 years experience. But if I see a resume of someone with a degree who never served or worked in a church, or a resume of someone who has worked in a church for years but never sought professional development through seminary or other educational opportunities; I’m passing on both.