The Search for a Seminary

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Planning My Search for Seminaries. 

With all the possibilities, how should I go about researching and finding a good seminary?  I know that once I find a school, I can use the framework I developed to make an informed decision.  But how to go about actually get started in research was an interesting challenge.

Since I really didn't have a particular school in mind when I decided to go to seminary, I needed to come up with a plan to begin searching for schools that might meet my requirements.  After giving it some thought, I came up with a few ideas to at least get me started.  Within a few short days, I had all the information I needed to begin evaluating a good list of seminaries.  Here's how I decided to do it...

1. Ask a Pastor(s).

The obvious starting point for me was to discuss my decision to attend seminary with some pastors I know.  In addition to helping point me to some potential schools, we discussed many additional aspects of my thought process on attending school.  It is always encouraging to have a personal and thoughtful discussion about things like this which only helped confirm my decisions about going to school.

The nice thing about speaking with people who have ‘been there’, is that I got a real sense of what I am getting myself into.  It is always good to have an opportunity for a pause to remind oneself that this is a serious decision which requires a serious commitment.

2. Play Follow the Leader.

There are many well-known pastors and teachers who I have an enormous amount of respect for.  Men who have dedicated their lives to the study and faithful preaching of the gospel message; people who not only rightly teach the Word, but give evidence in their lives confirming their messages.  Where did they go to seminary?

With some very basic internet and website searches, it is easy to discover where a particular well-known pastor was educated.  I researched my favorite expositors and added their institutions to my list of schools to consider.

It's important to realize that while putting together a list of schools based on individuals I admire, I couldn’t let that bias my own personal decision.  I still needed to duly evaluate each school according to my needs and goals.

3. Ask Dad.

Yep, I'm serious.  Decisions like this should be made with good council and family support.  Therefore it's important to include your family in these considerations.  Often, your family can provide a unique and critical perspective on your plans that is rooted in love and their desire to see you succeed.  I am truly blessed to have a father who is firmly grounded in the faith who's opinion I value and trust.

Alternatively, you can consult with your church's elders and deacons or others who mentor you in your discipleship.  These are all people who (should) know you very well personally; and like your family, they are going to want to help you confirm your calling and see you succeed. 

4. Cast a Wide Net.

Well, when all other options are exhausted, Google away.  I performed many simple searches to ensure I wasn’t overlooking any other programs that might appeal to me.  Searches like the following worked just fine:
  1. Top online seminaries
  2. Schools with seminaries
  3. Online seminary programs
  4. Online theology courses
  5. etc.
At this stage, I wasn't too concerned about diving into the details of the schools in the results list.  It is more important to generate a baseline of schools that I can more thoroughly review later.

The Finals List.

After meeting and speaking with some folks and doing a little online research, I had a pretty robust list of choices in about a weeks time.  All that remained was to begin whittling the list down to schools that I would ultimately apply to.  Very quickly I narrowed my choices down to nine ideal candidates.

Finally, I reviewed each school on my list according to the evaluation criteria that I previously developed.  I'll say it again - I saved tons of time by planning ahead.  I made pretty short work of my list of schools after methodically considering each of my points.  Literally, in a matter of hours, I narrowed my candidate list down to two schools to which I applied.

Drum Roll Please.

Within a month, I received acceptance to both programs and after thoughtful prayer and discussion with my family, I decided to pursue a Master of Biblical and Theological Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary.

Ultimately, deciding on a seminary is a very personal consideration that depends on a wide range of factors.  Many of the schools that I considered are outstanding schools but they just weren't the right fit for me.  That's not to say they wouldn't be the right choice for others, and that is really why I'm not sharing my full list here.  But this was a great experience and I'm confident that I'm in the right place.  Now it's time to shift gears and start getting ready to get back to school.

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