Increasing the Value of Seminary

brooks-circularIn a wonderful opinion piece in the New York Times this week, David Brooks writes on the roots, present deficiencies, and future of universities.

Specifically he notes that universities are not just job training. Mark Cuban made this same point (on which I wrote about here) – an education that is strictly a return-on-investment job training program isn’t as important/valuable as universities are charging for.  It is ultimately incomplete training.

Seminaries and those in theological education would do well to think through Brooks four points. For hundreds of years, educational institutions had a monopoly – they were the gate keepers of information. That no longer exists. But studying theology and preparing those going into occupational ministry shouldn’t be just dispensing of information. Brooks tasks through the lens of Seminary:

  1. Reveal moral options
  2. Foster transcendent experiences
  3. Reveal callings and teach a love of learning
  4. Practical application of theological/philosophical ideas

About a decade ago Denver Seminary began requiring students go through Training & Mentoring – realizing that knowledge apart from character development was useless at best and harmful at worst. Wisdom has been defined as “Knowledge rightly applied”.

When done right, your seminary experience should reflect this. Moving into the future, seminaries would be wise to shift more and more emphasis toward the ‘rightly applied’ side of that equation. As Brooks points out, this spiritual work is work that can’t be devalued, exported, or done online – “we do it through small groups and relationships and in social contexts.”

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