Tuesday, May 5, 2009
The Seminary Dilemma
So, when are you going to seminary?
Isn't it time you became a pastor?
When are you going to stop playing around in youth ministry and go to seminary?
You're 30 now...don't people your age usually phase out of youth ministry?
Don't you realize how much it helps to have letters behind your name?
Ever since the NBA playoffs started, I've been getting the full-court press about seminary. First of all, let me say that it's humbling to know that people think I could be a pastor. I don't take that affirmation lightly. But here's the deal...
I'm not going to seminary. At least not any time in the near future.
Here's what Luther Seminary student Matt Cleaver came up with last week. The list is both thorough and provocative...not to mention very well-constructed. His insights reveal part of my hesitancy to take the seminary plunge.
On a more personal level, here's why seminary isn't a good fit for me:
I Don't Need It If you were to ask me what I would like to do as a pastor, I would give you the job description of a youth and family minister. Why enter into a lengthy process that wouldn't necessarily result in me being able to do what I want to do?
My Family The traditional seminary track requires no fewer than four moves in four years. Current town - seminary. Seminary - internship. Internship - seminary. Seminary - 1st call. What kid wouldn't hold that kind of inconsistancy against their parent? Even if I wanted to move that often (which I don't), how does that kind of constant movement help me honor my call to being a father and husband?
The Whole Church This is the kicker for me. The call to ordained ministry is a call to serve the entire church. It drives me nuts when seminary students use their senior year to rig the system to get a sexy first call. If a person takes seriously their call to serve the whole church, then they will go where the Spirit is leading and not serve their self-centered motives. The problem is...I would be one of those people. At this point in my life, I'm simply not willing to move to rural Wyoming or downtown Baltimore to serve the church. I just know I'd end up using my connections to find a plumb job at an established, suburban congregation. I'm not necessarily proud of this, but I am 99% certain this is what I would do. Call me selfish, but this is why I prefer free agency as a youth minister instead.
Respect I have an enormous respect for the vocation of pastor. Perhaps this is a byproduct of having a father, grandfather, uncle, aunt, and great-uncle who are all pastors. Maybe this is just because I know how much time and effort goes into the call of a pastor. I also know that my tendency is to over-function when expectations are high. This is a recipe for short-term success and long-term failure. I have to get better at boundaries before I'd take a gig that requires so much out of me.
Collar I wear a tie 3-4 days a year. Every time I do, I'm tugging at the collar. The top button is usually unfastened by mid-morning. I don't think I could rock the clerical collar without making a mockery of myself or the institution of the collar.
Now if I could just figure out a way for my church to pay for my housing without being ordained...