Friday, June 03, 2005

How to choose a seminary

There is an article in the current Christian Century listing the top reasons people pick the seminaries they pick. It's an interesting list. I'm glad to hear that so many people choose seminaries for such profound reasons. But for anyone considering seminary who might wonder if they are capable of such nobility, I offer my own list based on the system I used, with mixed results, exactly twenty years ago.

1. Eliminate the seminary your Mom wants you to attend. You are twenty-one years old and this is your life, damnit!

2. Eliminate the seminary your home church pastor urges you to consider. He only has thirty years of wise and fruitful ministry to his credit. What does he know??

3. Eliminate all seminaries which ex-boyfriends are attending or planning to attend. If you spent your college years dating your fellow religion majors, this is going to cut the list by quite a lot.

4. Barely manage to hide your disgust when two of your favorite professors suggest that, as you are already carrying significant student loan debt, you might want to focus on seminaries with healthy endowments that can offer generous financial aid packages. Those middle aged sellouts!!! How dare they suggest that something as worldy and tainted as MONEY would influence such a spiritually important decision.

5. Conisder which cities best suit your current self-image as a daring, hip seminary chick on the brink of greatness. Apply to schools in these cities. Choose the one at which a recent alum of your college is Director of Admissions and therefore knows exactly what to say to convince you that this school is the only logical next step for you.

6. Create a plausible story to tell the Committee on Preparation for Ministry: you want to attend an interdenominational seminary since you have attended a denominational college. You want to attend an urban seminary because you are interested in urban ministry. Both these things will be true, but they are entirely besides the point, really.

The seminary you attend will not be the one you probably should have chosen, but you will have a wild ride and learn a lot, though not necessarily about ministry.

Good Luck!


PPB said...

wow. totally not the way I went about it. Of course, I was, what, 26 and MUCH wiser. My method (having majored in music and then counseling and knowing nothing whatsoever about what I was doing) was this:
ask every minister you like where they went to school.
apply to those schools. don't even try to find out what other schools are out there.
see what happens.

make up some logical rationale for your choice to the COPM.
see what happens.

Go to school.
Fall in love with the program, the professors, the campus, the fellow students.
Ignore the debt you're going into.
See what happens.

I guess you end up where you end up for a reason. I regret my choice on the 17th of every month, and am thrilled with it for the other days. Not bad.
But I don't think I'd recommend this method to others!

mark said...

I figured out what seminary I was going to my freshman year of college... Although I didn't go there until four years after that. But the minute I walked on the campus of my seminary, I knew that I would some day go there. It just beckoned to me, almost. So I said, "Who am I to argue when a seminary beckons?" and I went there. Without even taking debt and the recommendations of others and the seminary my father went to into consideration. Of course, now my father and godfather constantly berate me for not going to a "real" seminary.... Shows how much the know!

PPB said...

and I have to add that I'm quite intrigued by which denominational college you went to, where there were enough religion majors to have dated all of them in more than an hour.

Friday Mom said...

I chose my seminary because no one in my way-too conservative family knew anything about it. I learned a couple of years after I started school that my fundamentalist pastor brother actually made several calls before I started school to be sure it was conservative enough. [sigh...] I don't regret the choice; it was the right one for me at the time. But, I'm a different person now and would make a different choice if I had it to do over again...probably one reason why I'm doing a PhD.

I'm still dealing with the COPM on the issue of a Baptist MDiv and Disciples of Christ PhD as adequate theological education for a Presby minister.

Purechristianithink said...

PPB--Perhaps I engaged in perhaps just a little literary license on the boyfriend thing--I had three college boyfriends, all three really were fellow religion majors. I only eliminated schools in the city in which ONE of them was then living. However since that city was Chicago, it did cut my list a fair bit. :)

St. Casserole said...

All of you are genius' compared to how I chose a seminary. I went to the only one I'd ever heard of. All my Presbyterian preachers growing up attended it, so I enrolled there. No thought at all.

Anonymous said...

It's funny that I would find this blog in response to a real Google search for help choosing... I'm a mid-career mom, ready to stop running away from my call to ordained ministry, trying to figure out how to choose a seminary (PCUSA).
It's been fun to read about your journey as I've bounced through your blog. Thanks!