So you’re thinking about going to seminary…
Going to seminary is a big decision that can affect the rest of your life and career. It’s also one of the first steps to an extraordinarily noble and rewarding vocation as a minister or scholar.
If you’re in the process of discerning whether seminary is right for you, this article will tell you everything you need to know.
What is seminary?
A theological seminary is an educational institution that provides advanced training in Christian theology and related disciplines. Seminary prepares students for careers in ministry, teaching, scholarship, or other leadership roles within the church or wider community.
A common misconception is that seminary is strictly the pathway to a ministry career. This is actually a key difference between seminary and Bible college. While Bible college primarily trains individuals for ministry, seminary trains individuals for a wide range of vocations.
Graduates of theological seminaries may go on to become pastors, teachers, scholars, counselors, or leaders in non-profit organizations.
What is seminary like?
Seminary school can vary depending on the institution, program, and individual experience. What you’ll learn in seminary also varies from institution to institution. However, here are some general aspects of what you might expect:
Curriculum: Seminary school typically focuses on studying theology, biblical studies, church history, pastoral ministry, and related disciplines. Courses will challenge you to think deeply about your faith and develop skills to become a leader in your community.
Community: Seminary is often a close-knit community of people who share a common passion for faith and learning. You will have opportunities to form deep friendships with peers and faculty members, participate in spiritual and social activities, and engage in meaningful conversations.
Rigor: Seminary can be academically rigorous, and students are often expected to read, write, and think critically at a high level.
Practicum experiences: Many seminaries require students to complete practical experiences, such as internships, field education, or clinical pastoral education to apply their classroom knowledge to real-world situations.
Spiritual growth: Seminary is often a time of deep spiritual growth and self-discovery. You will be challenged to examine your own beliefs and values, and to develop a deeper understanding of your faith as it relates to the world around you.
Should you go to seminary?
Not every pastor or faith leader attends seminary. Throughout history, some of the most respected pastors and leaders never went to seminary, while many other faith leaders received formal seminary training.
Going to seminary can be a valuable experience, depending on the career you want to pursue. Here are some reasons why someone might choose to go to seminary.
- To deepen your understanding of faith: Seminary provides an opportunity to study theology and the Bible in depth, which can help you deepen your understanding of faith.
- To prepare for a vocation: If you feel called to ministry, academia, or to serve your wider community, seminary provides a comprehensive education in theology, pastoral care, and leadership.
- To develop critical thinking skills: Seminary education is designed to develop critical thinking skills and promote intellectual inquiry, which can be applied to many areas of life beyond ministry.
- To expand your perspective: Seminaries often have a diverse student body, which can provide opportunities for you to connect with people from different backgrounds and ideologies.
- Personal growth and transformation: Seminary can be a transformative experience that challenges you to grow in your personal and spiritual life.
It’s important to note that not everyone who goes to seminary intends to become a pastor or work in a church or at an institution. Some may use their education to work in social justice, advocacy, or other fields that align with their values and beliefs.
How much does seminary cost?
The cost of seminary varies widely depending on the institution, location, program, and other factors. Seminary is generally less expensive overall than most other graduate schools.
Here are some general points to consider:
- Tuition: Tuition costs for seminary can range from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars per year, especially for full-time, residential programs. On average, tuition costs for seminary range from $10,000 to $20,000 per year, but this can vary widely depending on the specific program and school. BMA Theological Seminary is proud to be one of the most affordable seminary schools in Texas.
- Fees: In addition to tuition, seminary students may also be required to pay fees for things like textbooks, technology, fieldwork or practicum experiences, and other educational expenses. These costs can add up to several thousand dollars per year.
- Housing and living expenses: For full-time residential programs, housing and living expenses can be expensive. This can vary widely depending on the location of the institution and the cost of living in that area.
How to pay for seminary
Paying for seminary can be challenging, but there are several ways to fund your education. Here are some options to consider:
- Scholarships and grants: Many seminaries offer scholarships and grants based on merit, financial need, or other criteria. These funds do not need to be repaid, so they can be a great way to offset the cost of tuition.
- Federal student loans: You may be eligible for federal student loans, which offer low interest rates and flexible repayment options. To apply for federal loans, you will need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and meet eligibility criteria.
- Denominational support: Some denominations or religious organizations offer financial support to students pursuing theological education. Contact your denomination or religious organization to learn about any available resources. All students enrolled at BMA Seminary receive some financial assistance from the BMA of America.
- Work-study or part-time work: Many seminaries offer work-study or part-time work opportunities that allow students to earn money while gaining experience in their field of study. This can help offset the cost of tuition and living expenses.
- Personal savings: If you have savings or investments, you may be able to use these funds to pay for seminary. Be sure to consult with a financial advisor to determine the best way to use your savings.
- Church support or fundraising: You may be able to raise funds for your seminary education through your church or through fundraising efforts with friends, family, or your faith community.
- Online seminary: Continue working your full-time job, whether in ministry or a layman. Self-fund your education, while learning on your own schedule.
It’s important to research all available options and to create a budget that takes into account all expenses, including tuition, fees, housing, and living expenses. It’s also a good idea to speak with a financial aid counselor at your chosen seminary to learn about any additional resources or support available.
How long is seminary?
The length of time it takes to complete seminary can vary depending on the program, the institution, and the student’s schedule. Here are some general guidelines:
- Master of Divinity (M.Div.): The M.Div. program is one of the most common degrees offered in seminary. It typically takes three to four years to complete full-time. Part-time options may be available, which can take longer to complete.
- Master of Arts (M.A.): The M.A. program is usually a more specialized program in a specific field of theological study, and it typically takes one to two years to complete full-time. Part-time options may also be available.
- Other programs: Seminaries may offer other programs such as certificates, diplomas, or non-degree programs that can take anywhere from a few months to a few years to complete.
BMA Theological Seminary is one of the few seminaries that offer both undergraduate programs and graduate programs, as well as several certification programs. We also offer a few free online seminary courses that allow prospective students to test drive seminary to see if it’s right for them.
It’s important to note that these timelines are general estimates and can vary depending on the individual student’s pace and the requirements of the specific program. Additionally, some seminaries offer accelerated or intensive programs that may allow students to complete their degree in a shorter period of time.
What seminary should you attend?
Choosing a seminary to attend is a personal decision based on a number of factors, including your denomination, theological convictions, location, program offerings, and financial resources. Here are a few steps to help you in the process:
Determine your goals: What do you hope to gain from attending seminary? Do you want to deepen your faith, pursue ministry, or gain theological education for other reasons? Understanding your goals can help you narrow down your options.
Research seminaries: Look into different seminaries that align with your goals and preferences. Consider their programs, faculty, location, denominational affiliation, and reputation.
Visit seminaries: Attend an open house or schedule a visit to the seminaries that interest you. This will give you the opportunity to meet faculty and staff, sit in on classes, and get a sense of the campus culture.
Consider financial resources: Determine the cost of tuition and living expenses at the seminaries you are considering, and explore financial aid options, such as scholarships, grants, and loans.
Pray and seek advice: Seek the guidance of trusted advisors, including pastors, mentors, and family members, and pray for discernment as you make your decision.
Ultimately, the seminary that is the best fit for you will depend on your personal circumstances and preferences. Take your time, do your research, and trust that God will guide you to the right decision.
Can you go to seminary without a degree?
Yes, it is possible to attend seminary without a degree. Some seminaries offer programs for those who do not have an undergraduate degree, such as a certificate or diploma program. These programs often provide basic theological education and ministry training.
However, many seminaries do require a bachelor’s degree or equivalent for admission to their master’s degree programs. Additionally, some seminaries may require certain prerequisite courses, such as biblical languages, before beginning a master’s program.
It’s important to research the specific requirements of the seminaries you are interested in and speak with admissions representatives to determine the best path for you.
How hard is it to get into seminary school?
The difficulty of getting into seminary can vary depending on the seminary and the program you are applying to. Generally speaking, admission to seminary is competitive, and applicants must meet certain academic and personal qualifications to be considered for acceptance into seminary.
Most seminaries require a bachelor’s degree or equivalent for admission to their master’s degree programs, and some may require specific courses or a minimum GPA. Seminaries may also consider factors such as work experience, ministry involvement, and personal character when evaluating applications.
In addition, some seminaries have limited space in their programs, making admission more competitive. However, many seminaries are also committed to providing opportunities for a diverse range of students, and may have programs designed for those with different backgrounds and experiences.
Overall, getting into seminary requires careful preparation, a strong application, and meeting the seminary’s admission requirements. It’s important to research the specific requirements and admissions processes of the seminaries you are interested in and work to put together a competitive application.
BMA Theological Seminary works hard to provide theological training to as many students as possible. If you are interested in attending seminary, you can start an application today.
If you’ve read this entire article from start to finish, it’s probably because you’re in the process of discerning whether you should attend seminary. So what should you do next?
Well, going to seminary is a big life decision, and like any big decisions, they start with small steps. Take one simple action towards your goal. That may be discussing your desire to attend seminary with your spouse, pastor, or mentor. Or it may be to schedule your first tour with a seminary you are interested in attending.
If you would like to schedule a tour at BMA Theological Seminary in East Texas, you can contact us anytime.