I read that the average cost of a wedding in 2016 was over $35,000 dollars. 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. 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.
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.
 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/.
 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.