One of the things that I am very thankful for in my education is that I did not attend a Bible college for my undergraduate degree. Obviously I am not opposed to formal religious education because I have earned my masters degree from a Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and hopefully I will soon earn my doctorate from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. So here is why I think young ministers if at all possible should not go to religious colleges for their undergraduate degrees. I say this with an understanding that most protestant churches are now looking for a minimum of a masters degree from their ministers. If you are going to just get a bachelor’s degree and your denomination/church affiliation will accept that, then what I am writing doesn’t really pertain to you. But if you need at least a masters degree to work in a church/ministry then here is why I think your undergraduate degree shouldn’t be a degree in ministry and in my opinion should not come from a religious college.
1. You are going to cover everything that you would cover in an undergraduate ministry degree in greater depth during a Masters of Divinity.
The Masters of Divinity was designed for people who have degrees outside of theology and ministry. It is one long stinking masters degree. It was 94 credits when I got mine and some programs go as high as 106 credits. The M.Div covers a ton of material so that it isn’t necessary for students to have a specific prerequisite degree. All that matters is that you have a degree from an accredited school, not which degree you have. So why not take advantage of this fact and get a different degree that might help you in something else? Getting a Bible/ministry degree will at best give you a two week advantage on most of your introductory M.Div courses.
2. Knowing something other than the Bible will help you relate to others better and that leads to better ministry.
When I first believed God was calling me into ministry I asked several ministers whom I respected what they would recommend I study initially. Almost unanimously they told me business and/or psychology. That’s why I studied both. I have always been thankful for what I learned in both subjects. The knowledge has not only been put to practical use in the ministries that I have been a part of, but it has also enabled me to have some idea on how to talk with people in a variety of subjects. I love studying scripture and theology and will gladly talk with anyone about both but being able to talk about other subjects with people is what usually opens doors for me.
3. Bible colleges are private schools and therefore usually more expensive than state schools.
You really want to be able to follow God anywhere? Then don’t go into debt. Owing lots of student loans makes it much more difficult to hear God call you into situations that won’t pay a great deal. Bible colleges are private schools and therefore generally more expensive. This isn’t always true because private schools often have more scholarships available. In such situations it might actually be cheaper to go to a private school. This was the case for Adam, my oldest son, last year. Still private schools are a great way to rack up debt and in my opinion debt is the enemy of being able to ditch all and go anywhere God asks. Pam and I have almost finished 6 degrees (I’ll finish my doctorate in December) and we’ve never had a student loan. That would have been much more difficult to do if we had built up huge debt working on our undergraduate degrees. I am very thankful that we didn’t have to borrow any money for our schooling.
4. You need to spend time with people outside of the church culture and state schools are better for that.
Finally, I think the Christian bubble can be far too seductive for ministers. It becomes very easy to hang out with other people who basically think like you and value your role as a minister. It becomes tempting for ministers to not spend much time outside of the church culture. So my opinion is that young ministers should start spending time outside of the bubble early. What do you think is the better way to avoid the Christian bubble? Bible college or secular college? I vote secular.
Please don’t hear me criticizing anyone for going to Bible college. If you are or did then great for you. I’m not saying there is anything bad about getting an undergraduate degree in ministry or theology. I’m just saying that in my opinion it is best for young ministers to go to a secular school.
It is purely my opinion and since this is my blog I get to express it here.