Master of Divinity: Is it still needed?

Discussion in 'Baptist Colleges / Seminaries' started by Rhetorician, Oct 26, 2010.

  1. Rhetorician

    Rhetorician
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    Hello to all, traditionalists and non-traditionalists alike:

    I am in a conundrum. Maybe some of you "old hands" can help me work through it? ("Young hands" are welcome to comment too). I have both masters from the university and the seminary. I am teaching in a Master's degree program from time to time that has a "truncated master's" degree. It seems that the old MDiv is being pushed aside and may even become antequated? Who wants (or needs?) to spend 3 full years, 90+ semester hours for preparation for ministry these days.

    I am told by people who should know at our SBC seminaries that fewer and fewer of our young folk are going into the MDiv programs. Frankly they are not even wanting to go into the long term pastoral ministry. Many do not want a pulpit ministry. Many are wanting to be "church planters" which is a noble calling and professionally for sure.

    But if you do not want to pastor then what good is the MDiv, when you can get out there 1-2 years earlier and start the program to which God has called you. I am just rambling here I know. But you get my drift do you not.

    Has the need and focus of the MDiv needed any more. I know what I am asking is "heresy" on some levels to some of my colleagues but I want to stay up with the times.

    Who knows, I am sure they asked the same type questions when the old BD was changed over to the Master of Divinity?

    Let me hear from you. And I know I may take it on the chin here. I may need a group hug before this is all over. :1_grouphug: LOL!!!

    Please note: the computer I am using does not have spell-check capabilities.

    "That is all!"
     
    #1 Rhetorician, Oct 26, 2010
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 26, 2010
  2. Havensdad

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    Rhet,

    The numbers at SBC seminaries are down, in regard to M.Div. programs, but not at other seminaries, such as Liberty (who is experiencing an all time high). I believe it has to do with bureaucratic, red tape issues, rather than people wanting an easier ride.

    For instance, people do not want to spend huge sums of money moving, paying for on campus housing, etc., when they can complete an M.Div. online through Liberty right from where they are. So the ATS requirements on on-campus class time is hurting their enrollment.

    Not only that, though, their position on financial aid is also hurting their enrollment numbers. SBTS, for instance, will allow a person to get student loans, at much higher interest rates for an education, but they will not participate in title IV loan programs, which have, among other things, deferred interest (and no credit requirements; handy for those young men and women who have not had a chance to build up credit history). This is simply crazy, and is the reason why many economically challenged young men are choosing other seminaries which provide the financial aid they need.
     
  3. preachinjesus

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    I would respectfully submit that this is conjecture. From what I've seen our seminaries are flowing over with young MDivers working towards the degree.

    There is a very intentional movement towards church planting amongst our people. I think that is great and I think the best degree is the MDiv.

    I think the MDiv is a fine degree. I do believe that we need to couple every seminarian's experience with a intentional residency program like that of a medical degree. That would provide essential training for them to link theory with praxis.

    As far as the church planting goes, I'd say two main things:
    1. Re-invigorate the Bible college system where a guy goes and gets a basic degree and then takes his zeal, entrepreneurial spirit, and sound training to go out and start a brand new church or three. This is the best way to do it. Start 500, mostly funded and see what happens. If 50% of them make you've still got 250 new churches. That is a HUGE.

    2. Name me one church planter who is going out to intentionally plant a church that reaches people (not these guys obsessed with offering a cooler aesthetic to the big Baptist church down the street by adding candles and destroyed jeans) who isn't going to need the advanced training the MDiv offers. Sure we can do away with some of the coursework (I'm still trying to figure out how a couple of my seminary required courses matter) and add some practical stuff. But push them to get it.

    I had a prof tell me one time that the MDiv is important if for no other reason than it shows us who has the stick-to-itness required for a lifetime of vocational ministry. I like the MDiv, let's not give it up. It's a quality degree.

    ...or you could just go to DTS and get their 120 hour ThM!:thumbsup:
     
  4. StefanM

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    This has to be a factor for some. Even though the costs are often subsidized, it is difficult for a man with a family to pay for living expenses while also having to pay for tuition out of pocket. Some have generous sending churches, but not every person has this kind of assistance.

    Of the "Big 6," to my knowledge Midwestern is the only seminary that participates in Title IV programs.
     
  5. Greektim

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    SEBTS had its biggest enrollment this year. And the vast majority were MDiv students. I dont think it is in any danger.
     
  6. Mr. E

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    Glad this topic has come up

    I am really glad this topic has been presented because it relates directly to a decision of which I am in prayerful discernment of. I am presently working towards completion of a Bachelors in Religion at Liberty and am on track for completion at the conclusion of the spring 2011 semester. Our Lord has gifted me with an aptitude for teaching and I am especially called to educate those within the local church. The MDIV is a well rounded and complete ministry degree program, but I wonder how much of its content is repetitive, given the focus of my undergraduate work. From my research and understanding, it may be more effective for one in my position to opt for an MRE (Master Religious Education) that requires 60 hours of study and save an additional year’s worth of preparation.

    These are just my thoughts as I go through this process first hand. I look forward to learning from the wisdom of those who have already walked this path.

    Blessings!
     
  7. StefanM

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    If you continue at LU, you may be able to qualify for advanced standing toward an MDiv. You should ask about this with your academic advisor. When I was pursuing a seminary degree through LU, they gave me a number of credits in advanced standing due to my undergraduate preparation.
     
  8. michael-acts17:11

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    As a layperson who would like to pursue a theological degree, how accepted & thorough are the online degrees being offered by Christian universities? Do they truly prepare you for a "career" in ministry or education? I have a few credits from a Christian college when I way young & have always enjoyed studying Scripture without the constraints of denominational "blinders" and would like to pursue a theological-based "career". As a middle-aged husband & father, I'm not sure how to best pursue this desire.

    Any advice will be greatly appreciated.
     
  9. mjohnson7

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    The MDiv and its Perpetuity

    My personal opinion is that the MDiv is here to stay. Could the MDiv at most seminaries, divinity schools, and universities be improved? My answer would be, “yes”. Before everyone replies and talks about how the MDiv at their favorite school is “all that and a bag of Doritos”, go back and read the second sentence of this post. I said, “most”, not all.

    There are multiple challenges being mentioned. I here this one over and over, “we need praxis built into the MDiv”, i.e. it should have some residency, mentoring, internship component. I agree, however there is a problem with that among Baptists. In the Baptist world (I realize not all Baptist denominations fall into this category, but many, if not most, do and especially if you pastor small, rural churches), you don’t need any degree to be licensed and ordained. I have seen, multiple times, men pastoring a church for a few years and coming to the realization that they need more theological training and pursuing it.

    I agree with Havensdad and others that InMinistry MDivs are extremely necessary. It’s my opinion that seminary presidents ought to be bold and abandon ATS and leave it with the liberals. ATS is a joke. Midwestern seminary recently found a creative way to subvert the “authority” of the ATS by offering an MATS through their undergrad school. Why not reject them altogether? There needs to be more distance options for those pastors in ministry.

    As well, all MDivs are not created equal. Browse some seminary catalogs and you’ll find this. This is true even among the Big Six. A good friend of mine attended one of the Big Six (located in the southwest….how’s that for a clue) and one of his courses was Church Administration – which was strictly creating a church calendar for the year….hmmm. Another course was all about how to give a good gospel invitation at the end or your sermon….taught by none other than Dr Roy Fish….1,2,3, PRAY AFTER ME….Let’s face it, some courses, and maybe even entire programs at some seminaries, are a waste of time.

    Then you have Bible college graduates who have to redo a lot of course work at the graduate level even though some seminaries’ courses are not at the graduate level. For this reason, I cannot recommend Bible college to anyone that plans on going to seminary.
    When you look at all these things…the conclusion I come to is, “keep the system we have!” Does it perfectly fit the situation of everyone? No, but nothing could.

    Two changes I would make: (1) more distance options – this will undoubtedly continue to happen over time because the marketplace demands it and seminaries, though many receive denominational funds and have large endowments, they still need money! Distance programs equal more money for seminaries. Is that wrong? I don’t think so. I think it’s more wrong for godly professors to be near the poverty level and far below their secular colleagues in compensation. (I am sure someone will scold me for this extol the benefits of having nothing or how being poor makes you more pious.) (2) make the programs more academically rigorous! An MDiv is a graduate degree and therefore the curriculum should reflect such.

    Well, this has been one long ramble on my part so I’ll end it now.
     
    #9 mjohnson7, Oct 27, 2010
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 27, 2010
  10. preachinjesus

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    Throwing this out there and see what happens...this is purely conjecture:

    If I were starting a new MDiv program (scary thought) I'd drop it in a major metropolitan area in an office complex. Everybody that comes in has as a requirement that they are given a staff/faculty mentor in a cohort of 5-8 people. They are then put into a local church and given various assignments that rotate (evangelism/outreach, assimilation, groups, music, janitorial, pastoral care, etc) and over the course of four years you take classes throughout the week and serve actively. It is a wholly integrated programme for the MDiv that has equal stressing on theory and praxis. It would be a high level of scholarship and ministry practice. Keep the core MDiv program but stress languages and theology. Then as the guys graduate they are given priority placement in denominationally affiliated churches to do what they're called to do.

    Here's what we've run into that make this a necessary thing:
    1. Too many guys go to seminary to find their calling and graduate never having it nailed. This is helping them fail because they are not equipped to serve.

    2. Too many guys get out of seminary and have to work so hard to try to find a church that is either hiring or wants to hire them. They don't have 3 - 5 years of experience that everybody wants but nobody is willing to give. Thus about 1/4 of my seminary peers aren't in ministry because they never were able to get started. They took a regular job to pay the bills and so many years later are in that field and never got into vocational ministry.

    3. The guys that do get into churches are loaded with tons of good theology and theory but no praxis. They walk in expecting to have pews/chairs full of people excited about exegeting Paul's use of the agnon motif in his epistolatory literature only to find a bunch of people who don't care about that and want to talk about "everyday" things. Then add that these guys don't (usually) have much of a clue about methods or realistic models for church work. Of the guys I graduated with most of them were in this category. Frustration leads to burn out and burn out leads to quitting.

    Anyhoo....just some thoughts. Sitting here in the airport I had some time. We need an integrated model for ministry training...we also need to validate the bi-vocational pastor.
     
  11. Rhetorician

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    Michael Respons

    Michael,

    This is a great question, but it needs to have its own thread for sure. I would say start one.

    I mean that will all kindness not the way you may hear it. :smilewinkgrin:

    "That is all!"
     
  12. TomVols

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    Briefly, I have to respond to a couple of things as a former leader in higher ed, both undergrad and grad, secular and seminary. First, I the data I have seen (which may not be the most recent) does not show a decline in enrollment. Second, when SBTS was growing exponentiallly in the late 90s, the rule about no USDE loans was in place then, so I hardly think that's a causative factor now if it wasn't then (whether you agree with the policy or not, which I don't). And the position on the 30 hour rule is a Big Six rule. They could opt out of the ATS in a second, and have threatened to do so before.

    More to come.....
     
  13. StefanM

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    A few things are different now. Tuition has gone up, of course. Also, while the lack of Title IV funding may not cause a decline in enrollment, it makes sense that the seminary could grow at a greater rate with the funding.
     
  14. BroChris

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    Having graduated from seminary with an MDiv last year, I'd say your observations are right on. Your solution isn't perfect (would this be a paid internship? who would pay them?), but definitely in the right direction. I thought seminary was great, but only because I was highly involved in serving churches throughout where I could practice what I was learning. And I didn't have any trouble finding a church to serve as pastor upon graduating. (I began looking during my last semester. It took 4 months to be called by a church, which I then began serving a month and a half after that.)

    The MDiv will be around as long as there is a demand for it. From people I talk with, it seems that many are opting for a Masters in Theology instead, mostly because the MDiv is too similar in content to what they just completed in their undergrad. But a lot of churches don't know the difference between the various degrees, and think they want someone with an MDiv.

    Honestly, I don't think it matters too much whether specific degrees are offered in the future or not, as long as we have some sort of system in place that trains people for the pastorate. I'm all for this happening in the local church if possible.
     
  15. TCGreek

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    It depends on one's vocational call and the requirements needed.
     

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