How to Pick a Seminary

April 2, 2007

    While I’m waiting for Lig to tell me what he thinks of Ridderbos, let me turn to another pressing question for many at this time of year–which seminary do I go to. For a young man feeling called into the ministry, few choices seem more important than choosing which seminary you’ll go to. Friends, family members, your own minister—all these people may give guidance and present opinions on this. Some of it will be helpful.

On to five factors for you to consider.

    1. Confession of Faith. The first and most important factor for you to consider when choosing a seminary is what doctrine is taught there.  The ministry of the Word is all about a particular message.  The Gospel is news.  The Bible is written; it has a message.  Therefore the seminary’s statement of faith is foundational to what it teaches.  Look to be trained at an institution which seems to be committed to a right understanding of God’s Word.  Do they have a good confession of faith?  Do they adhere to it in their teaching? Do their graduates reflect it?

    2. Quality of Education.  Another consideration in choosing a seminary is the quality of the education offered.  While there is no precise way to measure such quality, factors which indicate it are the school’s faculty, the required curriculum and the library facilities.  Have you read books by these professors, or heard them teach?  Have you considered what the course requirements are for the degree you would probably pursue?  How many semesters are required in Greek?  In Hebrew?  How many electives are there in the program?  What does this reflect about the seminary’s understanding of the ministry?  Are the library facilities adequate?  Are they good?  What do pastors you respect say about the quality of education at the school you’re considering?

    3. Cost. Let’s say you’ve found a seminary that you agree with theologically, and that seems to offer a good quality of education.  Then, a third matter you should consider is cost.  How expensive is the education there?  What are the living costs like in that community?  Are there good scholarships or jobs to be had?  It would be unwise for you to commit yourself to considerable indebtedness.  In that sense, an MDiv is not like an MD degree, an MBA or a law degree.  The calling that you are following doesn’t usually pay the kind of salaries doctors, businessmen or lawyers may receive.  It is part of your being a good steward to consider the cost of the education you are pursuing.  Your ability to pay for it will effect your ministry during and after seminary.

    4. Church. Havinglined up a seminary that you agree with theologically, that you think provides a good quality of education and that is affordable, you must also consider if there is a good church nearby that could be a place of ministry and spiritual encouragement and direction while you are in the seminary.  Is there a good church in that place?  Are you happy to have your own spiritual life joined with this church and cared for by them, by that pastor, by that community?  Will they be able to give you the kind of supportive and potentially protective community that you will need?  Is there a church which can provide you with a good place to be involved with ministry, and to continue to confirm your gifts?

    5. Connections for Life. Finally, it is a legitimate question to consider what connections for the rest of life you might make by attending this seminary or that theological college.  Most ministers who go to seminary for training meet there professors and fellow students who continue to be an informal network long after your formal educational work is done.  Such questions of network and denomination are questions worth weighing carefully.  Seminary is usually a time of making friendships that will last throughout your ministry.  Such friendships are means of encouragement and support later in life.  They are resources for your ministry.  And it can be significant that these people know you, as well.  Opportunities for service may come to you because friends you know from seminary are aware of you and your gifts and ministry.

    Here are five simple matters then that deserve your careful consideration, and that may help you determine where God would have you go to seminary.