New Paradigm for Ministry Training
There was a time when there was basically one way to get training for professional ministry. If a man or woman felt called to full-time ministry then the approach was simple:
(1) Pick a Seminary/Bible College
(2) Make Application
(3) Move to the campus (unless the school was located in the town you lived in)
(4) Attend classes for 3 to 4 years
(5) Graduate (Yay!)
That’s the way ALL of my colleagues/friends and I did it. I attended seminary in New Orleans from the late 1980s until 1999. I completed a B. A., a Master of Divinity, and a PhD in those 12 years or so. While studying I earned my living by serving as pastor of a few small churches in the area. In those days there was talk of other approaches to ministry training but it was mostly just that; talk.
Obviously some non-accredited options existed in the form of correspondence programs. But if you wanted to attend a “serious” seminary then you packed up and “went to seminary.”
Training for Professional Ministry: How the Game has Changed
In the mid-1990s the internet existed but was very much in its infancy. AOL was THE goto email system because it was one of the few that existed. The only way to log on to the internet was through a dial-up system and some websites took what seemed like decades to open. It was NOT a time to even think about offering serious educational options online. ALL of us owned 286 or 386 computers and CPUs and we thought we had reached the apex of technology.
Fast-forward to around 2005 and the internet and online world had become a dramatically different place. Although the technology existed for online education it was not even close to the cool options that exist in 2016. BUT it could be done and students knew it. Potential students wanted to earn a degree affordably and completely online. The idea of packing up and moving to a seminary was unappealing and unnecessary in their minds. Talk increased in academic circles about “getting degrees online.” I was heavily involved in transitioning Luther Rice Seminary from a dominantly correspondence school to an online school. LRU was struggling to maintain enrollment and we felt that getting degrees online was the solution to our enrollment problems. Within a couple of years people who wanted training for professional ministry had an online option.
Training for Professional Ministry: How the Game has Changed EVEN MORE
The world keeps changing, doesn’t it? Ways of doing things change rapidly and traditional approaches to EVERYTHING change, seemingly, day to day. I never dreamed of a day in which I could take a picture of a check with my Android and deposit it instantly into my bank. No more need to sit in my car in the drive up window lane and wait for the teller to complete the 7 transactions the person in the car in front of me brought.
Oftentimes I sit amazed at how professonal ministry training is changing. Enrollment in theological seminary is declining at a rate of 1% per year. Why? Lots of reasons but one of the most prominent is a change of mindset that has occurred in training people for ministry. This mindset change is true even among some pastors. Traditional seminary training (even online training) on average take 3 years to complete. There are papers to write, tests and exams to cram for, and a very structured approach to all curricular activities. This is an unappealing reality for many who simply want to serve Jesus.
When it comes to training for professional ministry today’s mindset is one of specialization. The question(s) asked by many people interested in training in professional ministry is, “Why take church history and Greek 1 and 2 if my goal is to work in youth ministry in my church (as a volunteer or, perhaps, as a paid staff member)?” “Why not just study only the courses related to my field of interest rather than be forced to study a bunch of stuff I will never use in my ministry environment?” “Why not get a specialized certificate in my field of interest and then if I feel I need more THEN enroll in Bible College or seminary?”
Many pastors today think along the same lines as potential ministry students. Many pastors no longer desire to hire seminary graduates. Why? Because these pastors have started and built their churches under a new paradigm that is not typically reflected or taught in seminary. They feel as though seminary graduates have to be “de-programmed” in their thinking about the how-to of ministry. These pastors do, however, prefer people with some level of specialized ministry training. This is where training centers like The Emmaus Biblical Training Center come in.
The approach at EBTC is simple and practical. For those who want training in a specific area of ministry we offer specialized training certificates at a fraction of the cost and that can be earned in a fraction of the time. No papers to write, no mid-term or final exams to study for, and no formal structure to follow. One of the aspects of EBTC is that the training is in-depth enough to give students a real feel for online seminary courses. This means that if a student wants to enroll in seminary after completing a certificate with us, he or she will have a good feel for what to expect.
Prayerfully consider enrolling with EBTC today! EBTC is THE new paradigm in ministry training.
Tony Guthrie, PhD. ~ Co-Founder of The Emmaus Biblical Training Center
Click Image below to go to our FaceBook page.