Theological Education vs. Ministry Preparation?
Should seminaries engage in theological education or ministry preparation? Of course the initial answer should be “both.”
But, Let’s go deeper.
Should seminaries primarily focus on theological education with minimal practical, real-time ministry preparation? Or, should seminaries primarily focus on ministry preparation with just enough theological reflection to be sure they are not producing heretics?
On a scale of one to ten, with one representing the position that seminaries should engage only in theological education and let students get ministry preparation on their own, and ten representing the position that seminaries should engage only in ministry preparation and let students be theologically grounded elsewhere, where along this scale should seminaries focus?
Why? Explain your answer.
Beyond this straightforward dichotomy are additional questions. Should seminaries provide theological indoctrination that fits the generally focused perspective of the seminary faculty? Should seminaries teach a style of ministry their perspective says is the generally accepted—perhaps even the only accepted—pathway to a successful ministry career? In other words, should seminaries seek to produce graduates in their image, or graduates in the image of God for engaging in with the unique set of spiritual gifts, life skills, and personality preferences each person possesses?
Perhaps the reality of these last three questions is to watch the graduates of seminaries that faculty and administration point to as examples of their best graduates, or those who they invite back to speak or teach, or alumni who they honor with some recognition, or those who they continually recommend for ministry placement throughout the ministry career of the graduate. This may say more than anything else where the seminary is along this continuum of theological education vs. ministry preparation.
What is your story about seminary? To what extent did you receive a theological education? To what extent did you receive ministry preparation?