On Monday I began reflecting on some of the lessons that I have learned in my first three years in ministry. Over the next week or so I will post some of these reflections on the blog.
Lesson 3 – Bible Colleges: The Most Effective Way of Training?
Perhaps I went to bible college with naïve expectations…
When I signed up for Bible Collage I thought that it would all be about Jesus, that it would be super practical, it would give me all the tools I needed to handle the bible and together, we would storm the gates of hell…
Some of it was great, particularly the stuff that was all about Jesus and was super practical. There was some really great teachers and classes which have equipped me to this day. I also have met some of my best friends (some of them contribute on the blog) at bible college and that was a really important aspect of my own growth.
However it wasn’t all like that.
A lot of my lessons consisted of ‘Ivory Tower Theology.’ High theology without the ‘so what?’ factor. Some of it was interesting, some of it boring, some of it fried my head… But it was often left without application. I often left puzzled, asking my self; ‘what does this mean for me?’ or ‘how will this apply to my future ministry?’ Sometimes there was some fantastic application, but for the most part there was none. The lack of application was one of the biggest disappointments. Perhaps I was supposed to apply it myself, perhaps I wasn’t bright enough…
Another expectation that I had was that I would be able to hear from seasoned pastors, passionate missionaries and ministry leaders. That was the case. However opportunity’s to hear about how they dealt with pastoral situations and complex issues was not an important aspect of most classes. That would have been a real blessing to hear about some of these things so that I too could learn to deal with similar issues. Don’t get me wrong, some of the teachers did this, and those are the classes that I remember clearly.
Some of the lessons were way over my head and I didn’t have a clue what was going on and at times my grades reflected that. Perhaps this says more about me and my academic ability.
Perhaps my experience would have been very different if I had years of ministry experience in my belt before signing up. Perhaps my experience would have been different if i had a better attention span.
I appreciate that people may disagree with this particular lesson and that other people may have had completely different experiences.
However this has left me wondering if bible college/seminary is the best or only route into pastoral ministry.
During my first 2 years of ministry I was able to attend a course which my area ‘Gospel Partnership’ put together.
The morning’s consisted of lectures, bible overviews, expositions of various bible books.
The first session of the afternoon was a time to practice preaching. A group of guys would get together lead by a local pastor and take turns to preach sermons that they had prepared and then everyone would give feedback, advice and tell you how you can improve on your content, style and delivery. These afternoon sessions were priceless.
The second session of the afternoon would be practical it might be about counselling, sexuality, addiction, mission or evangelism.
This course was a great blessing and in many ways complemented my time at bible college. Most people who were on this course were church apprentices who were being trained for ministry while working in a church under the close guidance of a pastor. They had the opportunity to shadow a pastor, quiz him, be taught by him but were also sent on a day release for some more rigorous training
I’m left thinking that bible college is perhaps not the most effective method of training for ministry. I think church apprenticeships is a more natural and organic method of training complemented by things like the ‘Gospel Partnership’ courses and ‘Cornhill.’
Bible college does have its place, but i don’t think it is the most natural method of training. Perhaps after an apprenticeship bible college may be of much more value.
What are your thoughts? Have you had a completely different experience of bible college? Are you a church apprentice? Leave a comment below.