God’s plan for each of us is different, including our having different opportunities. When I was in my last year of Bible College, an opportunity came about to work part-time in a local church. That led to a full-time position after graduation. That was in 1976, and I continued in ministry until June, 2017.
I can’t say that I regret not going to seminary, but I would have liked to have had the opportunity to go. Later in my ministry I worked with some younger men who were getting their feet wet in ministry while attending Westminster Theological Seminary. I found myself learning from them as they talked about their classes, and that made me wish all the more that I had been able further my education.
I told a friend today that if I didn’t need to work and had the ability to afford it, I would probably work on an MA of some sort via an online course of study. At 66 I have no interest in learning/relearning the biblical languages.
Maybe you have a similar background to mine – you’re a Bible College grad and you’re in ministry. Or maybe you are a seminary grad. Either way, it’s important to continue the learning process, and there are so many opportunities for that to happen. Let me suggest a few.
- Ask your church leadership to include a line item for continuing education. That can cover the cost of attending a conference or of taking an online class. Chosen wisely, a conference can be a great learning experience. But you have to choose wisely. There are more conferences than you can shake the proverbial stick at, so you want to make sure that if you spend big bucks on travel and the cost of a national conference that it’s going to be worth your while. But you may also find that nearby seminaries offer periodic workshops for pastors. I always appreciated the folks at Westminster offering a preaching workshop each year.
- Ask your church leadership to establish a line item for books. While you may want to use this for resources directly related to your current preaching/teaching responsibilities, you can also direct some of it toward buying a nice thick resource in an area where you feel deficient. Reading a Bible Introduction, a Systematic Theology, a Church History Survey can fill in gaps your class work didn’t cover (or that you missed because you were sleeping . . .).
- Logos Bible Software (www.logos.com) has a number of seminary-level training modules. The cost varies depending on the length and depth of the material, but you can pace yourself through one of these modules.
- iTunes U contains a huge selection of lectures provided by major seminaries. You won’t get credit for these, but you also don’t have to pay. If you have no plans to pursue additional formal continuing education toward a degree, you can still take the class. Schedule some time early in your work week to listen to lecture or two and work your way through some of the great materials seminaries graciously provide. Another online resource is biblicaltraining.org. They have courses taught by well-known scholars that can be downloaded and listened to or watched.
- Go back to school. Almost every seminary has some kind of online learning, and you can do substantial work toward a degree without leaving your home or office. If you are fortunate to live close to a solid seminary or Bible College, you might be able to audit a class for free. Westminster allowed elders and pastors to attend one class each semester. No credit was offered, but you could sit in on the lecture and discussion.
- One other idea: consider forming a study group with a few other pastors in the area and working through some course content together, reading a book together and discussing it, or gathering in some other way to follow a program of systematic learning.
It’s important to keep learning. You don’t have to be an expert on every new theological movement or idea, but don’t let your education grow stale. Your ministry will be more effective if you are a life-long learner.
Do you know of other resources? Share them in the comments section. Thanks for stopping by!