This article appears in the Stories edition of the Calvin Seminary Forum
You may be discerning whether you are called to seminary. We pray this page will offer thoughtful questions and answers to help you through your discernment process.
Why Attend Seminary?
At Calvin Theological Seminary (CTS), there are many reasons a curious mind might come through our doors—or log into our online classrooms. Perhaps you see yourself in one or more of these three scenarios:
1. You gravitate toward theological texts, concepts, and discussions.
Do you savor sermons and plug into podcasts that dig deeper into questions of faith and practice? Do you have a broad scope of how faith works together in all aspects of life? Whether you see your love of theology growing with brimming bookshelves or grocery store conversations, you’re invited to continue your exploration of God and the world right here at the seminary.
2. You are active in the church and want to know more about the why and how of ministry.
You’re out there every day serving the church and reaching the lost. When it comes to making disciples, you want to follow God’s vision for a community that puts Christ’s love and redemption on display. By deepening your understanding of theology at the seminary, your faithful understanding can lead to faithful practice in your ministry.
3. You love God, God’s people, and creation.
This may seem simple, but it’s really all you need to get started. We believe that God has a purpose and calling for your life. If you love and pursue God, we trust that your further theological training will only deepen this lifelong love and pursuit.
Benefits of Seminary
In a recent article, CTS President Jul Medenblik offered the following benefits of attending seminary:
- Spread the word: Everyone has one solid message or sermon in them. It is their testimony of what Jesus Christ has done for them. But what does a pastor or other ministry leader preach or teach at year 10 in the same church? The ongoing work of message preparation for the pulpit or other settings is deepened by theological education and training.
- Be equipped for challenges in ministry: Sooner or later, ministry leaders will encounter conflict or crisis. But such issues are not new in the body of Christ. Knowing how church leaders before us have faced the same or similar issues and questions can give us wisdom on how to handle such challenges or respond to critics. When you enter the seminary, you enter into learning from the grand span of the Christian tradition, and you exit knowing you are not alone!
- Evaluate new ideas in ministry: Fads come and go, but good ideas for ministry can find their footing by uncovering their rootedness. Seminary can help a church leader take the lens of history and bring it to bear on the current context of ministry.
- Gain colleagues: Choosing a community like Calvin Seminary is pivotal not just for the markers of academic excellence like passing a test or writing a paper. It’s pivotal for forging relationships—for finding brothers and sisters for the journey from around the world who will cheer you on and lift you up for the marathon of ministry.
What Is Seminary Like?
Seminary, done well, will help you love God and your neighbors more. Course formats range from lectures (the engaging kind!), to discussion, to research and scholarship. Courses are generally more advanced and in-depth compared to undergraduate courses. Contrasting with secular graduate school programs, Christian theological seminaries teach from a Christ-centered, biblical, and theological perspective.
Seminary School Requirements
Seminary prerequisites generally vary by school and by program. You can find information about Calvin Theological Seminary’s application requirements on our application page.
What Can You Do with a Seminary Degree?
Within the traditional ministry, a seminary degree can prepare you for the following roles, and others, within the local and global church:
- Youth pastor
- Worship pastor
- Church administrator
- Denominational leader
A theology degree may also prepare you for the following roles outside of traditional ministry:
- Nonprofit administration and leadership
- Teaching and educational roles
- All roles enhanced by deep thinking, ethics, and purpose
Can I Be a Pastor Without a Degree from Seminary?
While some denominations allow pastors without seminary degrees, the Calvin Master of Divinity degree is a natural path to ordained ministry, including ordained ministry in the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA). The MDiv offers meaningful engagement in vocational formation, biblical languages, preaching, and more to richly equip pastors and other ministry leaders.
Should I Go to Seminary? Quiz
Take this short quiz to help in your seminary discernment process:
- Do you sense a calling to ministry?
- Are you excited when you consider seminary?
- Do you find joy in your study of the Bible?
- Do you find joy in your study of theology?
- Do you find joy in connecting with others?
- Is there more you hope to learn about God, yourself, and the people and world around you?
- Do you have a community to support you through seminary?
If you answered “yes” to 3 or more of these questions, seminary may be the place to pursue your calling. However, no online quiz can help you make your final decision. With discernment before God and among wise counsel, only you can decide whether or not seminary is the right path for you.
How to Choose a Seminary
Once you’ve decided to attend seminary, the next step is discerning where to enroll.
1. Pray About It
With the magnitude of your calling in Christ’s kingdom comes a desire to fulfill it faithfully. What better way to discern your seminary journey than through prayer? Consider reading the prayers and stories of Old and New Testament individuals and communities, learning from their walks with the unchanging God. Seek prayer for your seminary journey from faithful individuals and communities in your life.
2. Research Every Option
There are many seminary programs to choose from, and research will help you determine what each can offer you and your ministry. As you explore theological schools, consider following the steps below:
- Research seminaries for your desired degree or certificate program.
- Choose 2 to 3 seminaries you’d like to pursue further.
- Contact these seminaries to request program details and admissions materials.
3. Determine What’s Important to You
Now is a great time to identify what you want out of your education: the learning environment, your degree, and the pace of coursework that will help you reach your goals. For example, consider part- and full-time options for study, residential and remote programs, and concentrations and cohorts that will challenge and inspire you.
4. Get Answers to Your Questions
It is important to reach out to schools of interest to get specific answers to your questions, especially if they are not readily available online.
5. Consider Your Career Objectives
Consider what you hope to do after seminary and whether or not the available degrees or programs will adequately prepare you for your future career. Look for programs that feed you spiritually, challenge you academically, and prepare you practically.
All of Your Seminary Questions, Answered
If you’re interested in studying theology alongside a welcoming community at Calvin Theological Seminary, fill out this short form to receive more information today.