A Rant About Education, Ordination, and Ministry

I read that the average cost of a wedding in 2016 was over $35,000 dollars.[1] I would be all for spending that kind of money if there was a guarantee that the more you paid for a wedding, the better the marriage, but that just isn’t true. If there’s no correlation between wedding-spending and marriage-success, then it’s hard to see the value in that kind of financial commitment! I also read that it’s not uncommon for pastors to graduate from seminary with a student loan debt of $36,000.[2] Again, if there was a guarantee that the more formal education a person receives, the more effective their ministry, I’d be all in! But sadly that isn’t true either. Obviously, in both cases, success in marriage or success in ministry comes down to the person and who they are: their character, their maturity, their abilities.

Let’s talk.

Right now, in our Denomination, we require a Master’s degree (or it’s equivalency) for a pastor to be ordained. I may be wrong, but I’m struggling with that. We are one of the few groups to require such a high educational standard (apart from Mainline denominations). It’s possible that in our desire to raise the bar, we are losing current and future pastors. Leaders who have unimpeachable character, notable maturity, and incredible giftedness but no M.Div. after their name.

The easiest example is to look at church planting. We’ve said as a conference that we are committed to seeing new churches planted throughout the Northwest. But we are significantly lacking in church planters. Most church planters tend to be “renegades” and not drawn to formal education. The very out-of-the-box thinking that we look for in church planters often has the unintended consequence of excluding them from our credentialing program. There are also people who just don’t want to put the time into a graduate degree. Don’t’ get me wrong, I’m not against formal graduate degrees, but should it be a requirement for ordination? We all know gifted and capable people who have effectively pastored without the benefit of a seminary degree because of their own natural gifting and equipping. Most often, these Godly men have a hunger to learn and grow—just not in a traditional classroom.

Let’s lower the requirements to “get in” and raise the standards to “stay in.”

Here’s what I’m advocating.  Let’s lower the requirements to “get in” and raise the standards to “stay in.” Right now, you can get a Masters, become ordained and, then, never attend another seminar or class the rest of your ministry. Our logic seems flawed here. I’d like to recommend that we reexamine our requirements for ordination and then consider raising our expectations for continuing education.

Before you go.

Okay, you heard my rant. Change of this kind seldom takes place overnight and may not ever change, but where do you stand?  I’d love to hear your thoughts and convictions. If the decision was yours, what would you suggest?

Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed. Proverbs 15:22

This is just the beginning of the conversation. In September we’ll be including this in our discussion on the Supt.’s Zoom Room entitled “Hot Topics.” So enter your thoughts below and then log in for a live chat next month – Thursday, September 13th at 9.

[1] Lui, Kevin. “This Is How Much It Now Costs to Get Married in the U.S.” Fortune, Fortune, 3 Feb. 2017, fortune.com/2017/02/03/wedding-cost-spending-usa-average/.

[2] The Editors and Designers of Church Law & Tax. “Percentage of Pastors with Student Loan Debt.” Church Law & Tax, 1 Nov. 2016, http://www.churchlawandtax.com/web/2016/november/percentage-of-pastors-with-student-loan-debt.html.

8 Comments Add yours

  1. Lynn Thaler says:

    I know a few ministers that should not be allowed to stay. They are an embarrassment to the Christian church, because of their ignorance and/or their poor moral values.


  2. I do like this idea.


  3. Krista says:

    I agree education and a degree is valuable but an individual and their maturity and personality is the most valuable asset. How many wonderful leaders in all fields and lines of work are skipped over due to lack of a framed piece of earned paper. Most lines of work require continuing education. A Pastor should have continuing education regardless of degree or no degree. If we reevaluate the need for degree to get started and reward if the Pastor attends continuing education and later earns a degree by choice not requirement. I believe there is always room for growth in education.


  4. Bill Vermillion says:

    Calling this blog a rant Superintendent makes me wonder are you being tongue in cheek? Rants seldom gain an audience for major change in a holistic way. I suppose some would say Jesus did rant about keeping the Father’s house a house of prayer but I don’t think I would ever call it a rant. 🙂
    As you might figure I weigh in on the value of education and maintaining an educational standard. It certainly does not take the place of gifts and graces but should enhance them. Two weaknesses in your presentation is 1. the focus on finances & success and then 2. comparing ministry with a wedding/marriage. I don’t think the analogy works well. A better analogy are the other serving professions. Doctors, lawyers, etc. and including military NCO’s and officers where education is a professional requirement plus mandatory continuing education. I think all those professions that sometimes get labeled as stodgy bear witness to the way radical figures have not only survived but made enormous contributions. . The board has had difficulty enforcing continuing education in the past so I question how you and the board will accomplish this.. I certainly welcome continuing dialogue. However on the 13th I am teaching at PESM. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Bill Vermillion says:

    To answer your concern too about those who don’t fit into the established mode for ordination, I do believe the discipline still allows for a person to do a conference course of study which is very in keeping with our lay training emphasis. David Hixson is a great example of a pastor who did this instead of the normal established educational route. He successfully planted a church in Eastern conference and now pastors in Western. So I believe we do have viable alternatives for those not desirous or inclined to pursue the usual educational route. I know there was some discussion about age tec. 🙂 unless that was changed in the 2014 discipline. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Larry Scheffler says:

    It is true that an education is not a guarantee of success in any field. On the other hand pastors who lack a sound Biblical foundation are often more likely to promote aberrant views of the Bible and represent their opinions as the truth. I truly appreciate sound Biblical teaching, but often I have heard shallow teaching from the pulpit. Thankfully my experience here in Central Oregon has been different.
    On the other hand one cannot teach enthusiasm and commitment. That is truly the work of the Holy Spirit

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Tom says:

    I think there is merit in what you are advocating. I believe most professional employment requires some form of “continuing education” to maintain their license. This is true for my teacher daughter, nurse daughter and dentist son-in-law. I’ve often thought, “Why not pastors?”

    Liked by 1 person

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