Is an undergrad degree in Bible/theology/religion a good idea?

Discussion in 'Baptist Colleges / Seminaries' started by Broadus, Aug 25, 2007.

  1. Broadus

    Broadus
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    Because of some situations I've encountered recently, I've about come to the conclusion that I will no longer encourage young men entering college to major in something like Bible or theology or Christian studies or religion. Why? Because the opportunity to minister in a church with full-time support is often simply not there.

    I know of one young man, who has a bachelor's degree in Christian studies and is completing his accredited, mostly on-campus MDiv via the internet, trying to support his family by selling Rainbow floor cleaners. Another young man with a similar degree is repairing boats at $11/hour. Both families are in dire straights. Similar situations abound.

    I have been in situations without full-time support from a church, but my bachelor's degree in education allowed me to teach in order to help support my family.

    However, a older man who is in secular employment and knows a trade or is self employed is another matter. An older man, recently called to preach, who doesn't have a college degree may do well to get a bachelor's degree in Bible. Should he need support outside the local church, he has a trade or background which he can use to support his family.

    BTW, I realize that a liberal arts education is about more than being trained in a field so that one can be gainfully employed. I also am aware of what it is like to live in a US culture where a bachelor's degree is considered an entry-level degree into much of the workplace.

    Such are my thoughts, FWIW. I'm ready to duck. :smilewinkgrin:

    Bill
     
  2. StefanM

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    I agree with that. If the student wants to go to a Christian college, a minor in religion might be helpful, but a BA in Bible frequently won't get a young man into a full-time ministry position (e.g. Seminary grads only, etc.). Or if it is "full-time," it's really very low pay without any benefits of which to speak. A BA in Bible is not very useful at all in a secular environment. It's too much education for some jobs, and not the right education for most others.
     
  3. Mr.M

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    I concur. I would recommend a Bachelor's in a vocational field that can and will provide real means of income and support for himself and a family if he chooses to have one. Then, with a means of supporting his family without burdening them with his pursuits, he can get his M.Div and on.
     
  4. TCGreek

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    What about the man who has done both an undergrad in bible and M.Div but is still in his 30s or 40s and is full-time, but never knows what might happen?
     
  5. StefanM

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    A business degree could be beneficial in both religious and secular contexts.
     
  6. Mr.M

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    Well that would be different than the question posed. Of course no one knows what MIGHT happen. However, an M.Div is substantial and opens for many alternatives.
     
  7. StefanM

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    Many religious alternatives. Secular alternatives....not so much.

    Someone with a PhD in OT from Southwestern Seminary worked in the insurance office where I purchase car insurance.
     
  8. TCGreek

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    Now, that's worth the PhD investment. What is his undergrad in?
     
  9. StefanM

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    Ministry! He strongly suggested that I major in something other than ministry, but I was nearly finished with my degree at the time.
     
  10. spartacus

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    I wonder if community college is a good choice for young people starting out. It usually only takes two years and employers actually, in most cases, prefer them. I also, think all pastors should have some training or understanding in finacial matters. If there is one thing in my years of ministry that I have seen and experience is some finance or accounting person walking circles around pastors.

    The ministry is very different today. Where is was a maintaining the org. as such has now become more complex. Most seminary training does not teach pastors how to lead or manage and in an age of change that is of most important. John Kotter states in his book "Leading Change" that where there is change there is conflict and we certainly live in a ever changing world.

    There is the other issue of personal spiritual development. Education cannot and mean cannot get you close to God. That is up to the person and many pastors are just spiritually struggling.

    Oh, that God would rend the heavens and bring revival to our land.

    1500 pastors walk away from the ministry every year.

    86 percent of pastor believe they are not adiqually trained for the ministry (this is pastors who have the Mdiv)

    82% of pastor acknowledge that if it were financially feasible they would leave the ministry.

    I really do not think our seminaries really know how much trouble the church is really in and it involves more than what I have mentioned.

    May God truly bless all those who are laboring for Him in what ever vocation and calling.
     
  11. TomVols

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    I strongly encourage young men to either have another major along with their undergrad Bible/ministry (because you may not get to go to seminary) or a vocational certificate or associate's degree that will provide a marketable skill for church planting, bivocational ministry, or mission work. The majority of Baptist churches cannot (or will not) afford a full time minister. It is a sad commentary, but it is what it is. If nothing else, having a B.A./B.S. that gives you a marketable skill can help put you through seminary :)

    The Bible college I graduated from now has a partnership with other colleges to allow you to have a BA in Ministry along with a Bachelor's in business, education, etc. Naturally, they got that in place long after I graduated :)
     
  12. rbell

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    Well said. Majoring in something other than religion actually broadens one's opportunities for ministry, IMO.

    Of course, that's an easier call when one is fairly certain of attending seminary. If one is less certain of that, it's a little tougher call.

    I got a fantastic undergrad in religion. In fact, it was good enough to make much of my seminary "repeat." I learned tons, and was blessed to have some amazing professors that were very knowledgeable, but also helped apply that knowledge in practical ministry.

    Having said that...there have been many times over the years that not having a "marketable skill" came back to hurt me. I've since learned more & bettered myself so that that is no longer the case...but it did hamstring me from time to time.

    I think TomVols' opinion may be even more important to those who feel led to pursue ministry in other directions rather than senior pastors....if you think there's a lot of churches that can't afford a full-time senior pastor...see how few can afford a music minister, youth minister, etc.

    You become much more available with the acquisition of a marketable skill that will truly feed a family.

    Just my humble opinion. Your mileage may vary. Void where prohibited. Sales tax not included....etc, etc.
     
  13. mcdirector

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    Isn't it sad though when we can't say follow your heart. I can't imagine anything more painful than sitting through classes to get a degree in something that I wasn't passionate about . . .

    Just remembering those classes in ahem history for example (ducking, but telling the truth)
     
  14. TCGreek

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    1. It pains my heart to read this, but you are probably right.

    2. But I don't think bi-vocational pastoring would be the new way of doing things.

    3. I believe the Lord's people will rise again and we will experience more full-time pastors, trumpeting the gospel from pulpits all across this nation.

    4. Is it a case where pastors are losing focus? Or are local churches just making life difficult for someone to be a full-time pastor?
     
    #14 TCGreek, Aug 26, 2007
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 26, 2007
  15. rbell

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    I'm not sure I agree...wish I could, but...
    • There are more "specialized ministry" positions. So many of them simplly can't be FT. Many churches would love to have a FT youth minister, but as a matter of economics, they cannot. Thank God for those whose "real jobs" pay the bills in such a way that they can volunteer or work at a church who can't pay much, if anything, to their youth workers.
    • The cost of living in some areas is prohibitive. God help California pastors...their modest home would be an estate in Alabama.
    • Benefits are becoming nasty to pay for. One staff member I know in our neck of the woods pays $1,100 per month for health insurance. Most churches simply can't afford that (or if they did, they couldn't pay anything but his insurance).
    • Granted, some churches need to "man up" and pay their minister. I counseled a church not long ago to "step up" with regards to their youth minister...whom I felt that church was taking advantage of. (He was giving them full-time effort AND results...but they were paying a part-time pittance...and they could afford to go to the next level. They didn't...he eventually went FT at another church...and now they have begun to appreciate what they had...and what it will take to "replace" him.
     
  16. pocadots1990

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    I disagree with the ones saying to major in something else other than theology. Answer this question, Has God called you into the ministry? If so then God will take care of you.

    I graduated from a school where the major is Bible and my minor was in Music. When I graduated in 1994, I did not have a ministry position yet and was due to get married that November. God supplied a secular job for me to gain experience. I worked in the mailroom at Owens Corning for 2 1/2 years before transferring to another department. It was in the mailroom I learned alot about how to use a computer and learned what the other departments did. I left Owens Corning to work somewhere else (which I am currently employed). I have been there for over 7 years and still am not full-time at the church. While working at this place, God has led me to different ministry positions. Now I am pastoring a small church in WV and working full-time at my current position. Did I have a bachelors degree in Accounting, no. But each step of the way, God supplied a job for me, enough money for us to live, and an opportunity to witness to my co-workers.

    If God is calling you in the ministry, yes learn another trade, but I would not take theology has a minor. Make it your major.

    God Bless
     
  17. StefanM

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    The idea for majoring in another field assumes that you are going to work toward a seminary degree. If someone has no plans for seminary, then a major in ministry is of great importance.

    Yes, God will take care of you, but having some preparation for another field may very well be God's means of providing.

    Of course, one could always go to a state university first and save the tuition money for seminary. Going to an expensive Christian college then seminary can be very, very pricey.
     
  18. UZThD

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    IMO it may good to have a BA in Biblical studies before beginning the MDiv.

    1) some secular occupations do not require a degree to do them, especially, perhaps, some of those suitable for a bivocational pastor to do

    2) the would be pastor may get distracted from his calling by the availability of easier money from a less demanding occupation than pastoring,

    3) The foundation of undergrad Bible is beneficial to grad studies in Bible

    In my experience I think having both an MA in Theology and a teaching credential in English in 1969 blunted my desire to enter the ministry and I made the use of the second qualification my poor choice.

    Just my feelings,
     
  19. rbell

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    This makes the assumption that somehow a full-time pastor is more "called" than a bivocational pastor.

    How about all those places in the US and the world that can't afford a full-time minister? I would assert that by learning a trade or skill you are actually opening yourself up for more opportunities.

    Hey, I've been a full-time minister for years. I'm telling you, though...I sure do admire the dedication of my brothers in arms who work a "real job" and then give of their time and talents besides. And they reach people I could never reach.

    One of my buddies is reaching Indian kids in Montana. He's a schoolteacher and a pastor. Had he not gotten his education degree, who knows what would be happening there?

    The key IMO is commitment..."sticking with" the calling if you're doing the secular degree thing. Not being wooed by the prospect of more money away from ministry...being involved in ministry even during your secular training.
     
  20. pocadots1990

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    I am not trying to say that a "full-time" pastor is more called than a bi-vocational and I apologize if I implied it that way.

    I am a bi-vocational pastor and have been for the past 4 years (2 as an Asst and 2 as a Senior Pastor) It is hard on the person and the family.

    I agree with you about opening up new opportunities to reach people. I am in that situation all the time.

    What I am saying is that if God has called you to major in theology then do it. You don't have to have a major in another field in order to get a secular job. For instance, I have two people in my church who just graduated from college. One in English and the other in Psychology. Neither one has a secular job in their field as of yet. Now, the one with the English degree, she is starting up a church newsletter. So this is one way of using her degree.

    Your statement about committment is so true rbell. Whatever area God has called you, as rbell said "STICK TO IT."
     

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