Thinking Out Loud

February 17, 2009

Bible College and Seminary Grads Want Paying Jobs

not-hiringI have been part of this discussion before; the issue being that after emerging from seminary or Bible college,  many students expect to find an entry level position at a multi-staff church that offers a regular salary, book allowance, conference allowance, paid vacations and health benefits.    Despite this, many also expect to find employment in a setting that is postmodern, or missional or Emergent; so that they can live out many of their ministry dreams and ideals.

At his website, Andrew Jones, a.k.a. the Tall Skinny Kiwi raises this issue on a post from last week:

I have seen a number of Seminary graduates come overseas to hang with us and to potentially find work in the “emerging church”. After a short time, they have gone back to USA disappointed that there are no paid positions. Huge and wonderful opportunities . . . puny financial benefit…

I found this discussion through Jordan Cooper’s website, where he offers some kind of explanation:

I think Andrew has some good things to say here but he is missing the point that a privately funded (this means paid for by massive tuition bills and student loans) theological education creates a system where all by the wealthiest have to find full time ministry jobs just to service the student loan debt.  Right from the time we start to seriously educate church leaders, we ask them to embrace a worldview of debt…

Okay, I agree with that as a kind of background to the issue.   But obviously the system is flawed somewhere.    While I don’t usually cross-post my comments at other blogs, here’s what I responded at the time:

Expanding the concept of seminary is a start, but what if we’ve already got alternative vehicles for ministry education, but we just aren’t recognizing them as such? For example, I’m not a YWAM-er, but if I were on the personnel committee for my church and someone applied who had done a YWAM DTS and maybe one or two of their other schools, and all the appropriate field-trip components that go with it, I would weight that equally with the applicant with the BTh from a Bible College. And that’s just one example.

Another lifetime ago, as a student at U. of T., I served on a Communications committee that was screening applicants for a paid job in campus media. They asked one guy what formal training he had and without blinking he said, “No formal training, but lots of doing training, which some say is better.”

But that doesn’t mean the end of Bible Colleges and Seminaries. Generations ago, the University of Waterloo advanced the concept of co-op education at the post-secondary level. Many students leave their programs with their education fully paid for; some actually leave with money in the bank. This does however mean the end of field-placements and internships as Seminaries and Bible Colleges have traditionally understood them …it goes a long way to meeting the debt-servicing issue you’ve correctly raised.

But here’s another point that I wished I had added:

Churches can go a long way toward easing the situation for seminary students by budgeting something each year to go towards both students from their own congregation and direct gifts to the institutions concerned — designated for tuition aid and scholarships, not the maintenance of the infrastructure or staff salaries.   This should be part of the missions budget of every church.

What do you think?

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