Seminaries Face Economic Turndown

Discussion in 'Baptist Colleges / Seminaries' started by Rhetorician, Mar 20, 2009.

  1. Rhetorician

    Rhetorician
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    Hey all:

    It seems this section of the BB has been rather stale lately. I ran across this story on one of the SBC "blogosphere" pages and found it quite interesting. Please read it and get back with some comments.

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/2009-03-17-seminaries_N.htm

    I look forward to hearing from each and every one of you.

    "Shalom Y'all!":laugh:
     
  2. michaelbowe

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    two-sided coin

    This is sad. I attend one of the seminaries that is under financial duress, and ATS only offered a five year reaccreditation v. the ten year. There are several issues that are limiting seminaries. There are some the seminaries can do to help matters: offer some online courses, right-size faculty, find creative ways to lower endowments, recruit new students, and yes, if need be, raise tuition slightly. The other issues fall outside: ATS could lower its dues (never will happen, but worth mentioning), churches need to require a high standard for its ministers, churches should encourage young preachers to attend seminary, and churches should support seminaries. I have been told that many seminaries will likely have to close its doors because churches do not see the importance of a theologically trained minister. People see Joel Osteen, Bill Hybels, and other health and wealth gospel preachers, who are not educated, but successful and draw conclusions. There are two sides to this coin, and the seminaries should step-up to fix its own problems, and the church needs to realize the importance of good theologically trained minister.
     
  3. Havensdad

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    Interesting that ATS schools, which do not allow 100 percent distance ed. degrees, are the ones suffering the most. This organization, if it does not modernize, is going to go the way of the do-do bird. People don't like paying five times as much for the same degree.

    I also like this:

    But ABHE president Ralph Enlow prefers something closer to an apprenticeship model that has students working in church settings.

    "If you stick them in a classroom somewhere, they're cut off from relationships that might really be nurturing while they're in school."


    Sounds like something I said, not too far back...
     
  4. michaelbowe

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    ATS schools are not the only ones having economic troubles. They are just the major accrediting body for seminaries. I'm for distance ed, but there are down falls to DE. Most if not all ATS school require students to take field ed, cpe, or some other internship, which is that apprenticeship model spoke about. I find it interesting no one speaks about distance ed in any other field. Would you want your MD to have recieved his degree online, and found an apprenticeship. The AMA will never accredit a MD, or DO done online. What about attorneys? There are DE schools available in CA, but hardly anyone passes the two bars required to practice. The ABA will not accredit a DE only school. The limits to DE are few; I recieved my entire undergraduate online, and never stepped foot, and never will on the actual campus. It is also under financial struggle. These schools live off its endowements, and the dividens simply are not there. Not offering DE is only part of the problem.
     
  5. StefanM

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    MD? Certainly not. The practice of medicine requires physical interaction, something that is impossible online.

    Law school? It's such an intensive program that a person really needs to dedicate himself or herself to full-time studies. If you are trying to work full-time, you won't be able to put the appropriate level of energy into it.

    Some fields simply are not suited for distance education. Some are. For example, business studies do not necessarily require residential studies. Why is this? You generally gain business experience by working. A distance education program for full-time workers allows them to gain knowledge while also gaining experience.

    For ministerial training, a similar situation can exist. The best way to gain experience is by working (paid or not) in churches. Initially, one will begin with fewer responsibilities, but one will then progress.
     
  6. michaelbowe

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    I think we may have stated the same thing. Shouldn't theological studies be just as intense to a minister? I would think so, and ministry requires physical interaction as well. Pastoral counseling gets very close to psychological counseling. I have met many good intentioned pastors say the most horrific things to grieving people and accidentally hurt them. This is why ATS requires a supervised internship, CPE or some type of field education. If you are planning to minister to people I cannot see how the studies should be less intense than medicine or law.
     
  7. Havensdad

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    Wrong, wrong, and wrong.

    Everything through the MCAT stage of becoming a MD, can be done, not only online, but completely through testing (such as GRE subject examinations, CLEP tests, etc.).

    Yes, medical school is required after that. There is no such thing as "online cadavers" where one can practice surgical techniques. This is COMPLETELY different. If computers ever become "holographic" where medical techniques can be practiced at home, I am sure this will change. Excelsior college actually has "tests" that can be taken, to completely skip different classes in Nursing.

    You CAN become a licensed attorney completely online (other than your Bar. That has to be taken in person). In fact, you don't even have to go to college. If you can pass the bar, you get licensed. Hundreds of attorneys (several quite famous) in history, have self studied and passed the Bar examinations, with NO college experience whatsoever.

    You can get Business degrees completely through Distance ed. (MBA), you can get Psychology degrees completely online. MOST degrees, undergraduate through Doctorate, can be done completely through distance ed.

    In fact, several regionally accredited schools, allow one to test their way almost completely to the Master degree level, with NO classes whatsoever.

    The drawbacks to "brick and mortar" schools, are just too numerous even to name. It is bad stewardship of the Lord's funds, IMO, to spend ten times more for the same education. "apprenticeship programs" (where you get your hands on experience at your church, instead of in a classroom, like the ABHE pres. was saying) are much more effective. Classroom learning has very few benefits, and those benefits are far outweighed by their drawbacks.

    Those schools not offering 100 percent distance ed. courses, IMO, will eventually go the way of the dinosaur. This is only the beginning. ATS must change it's policies, or they will eventually be forced to close up shop.
     
  8. michaelbowe

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    Please tell me what state bar allows one to test without legal education. That was an old rule, and I think all bars now require you to have endured legal ed. There are a few online endeavers in CA, but hardly anyone is able to pass the two bars required. As mentioned, I have enjoyed the experience of both, and both have different limitations. I do not believe it is bad stewardship to support seminaries. The ABHE pres was not completely relying on apprenticeship models, or the ABHE would not be in business of accrediting undergraduate colleges that offer both in class and de. Obviously, we are simply going to have to agree to disagree on this issue.
     
  9. gb93433

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    The university I teach at has grown from 8,000 - 12,000 students in the last six years. The big difference is the attitude of the professors who are there to teach and not just draw a salary. The university offers very little online education. Imagine the differences between potential faculty members having gone through a doctoral program and some have never taught while others went to a brick and mortar school and learned under a professor as a TA and later taught classes. When I was a TA I learned many things that I never learned in classes that help me today to be a better teacher. I not only took classes in my program but had to study to teach classes and be a TA. I learned a lot from the professor who I was a TA under. It was much like taking other classes which were not in my program of study.

    The discussions I have everyday with students are not something I would normally discuss in class. That kind of education goes way beyond the classroom and online education. There are times when I have spent two to three hours at a time dealing with a student struggling with personal and/or career decisions. There are many times when a student has walked out of my office with a new sense of direction and appreciation.

    We already have online and TV churches so why not have more of them and do away with pastors and brick and mortar churches? We can listen to the best preachers then and do not have to worry about wasting money on a pastor and maintaining a building that will eventually be replaced or demolished.
     
    #9 gb93433, Mar 21, 2009
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 21, 2009
  10. Havensdad

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    California, for one.

    However, even the states that require Bachelor's degrees, or JD's, can be done completely through distance ed. and testing. Your BA can be earned, literally in months, from schools like Oak State Charter College (which allows unlimited credit transfer and testing {Clep, etc.}).

    You can then go to, yes, fully online ABA accredited distance ed. programs, such as Thomas Jefferson.
     
  11. Havensdad

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    Right. If your going to be a teacher, you need to have hands on under your teacher. If you are going to be a pastor, you need to have hands on under your PASTOR.

    You are proving my point.

    Which is exactly why a distance ed. program, under the guidance of your local pastor, is so superior. You are able to "get your hands dirty" with the academic knowledge you are gaining every day.


    The primary purpose for the church, is to train/disciple the flock, and fellowship: this would not work.

    If our primary purpose was learning academic (head) knowledge, this WOULD be a more effective way.
     
  12. michaelbowe

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    I think you have been misinformed of you facts. The ABA does not accredit any online law schools.

    http://www.abanet.org/legaled/distanceeducation/distance.html

    And you are misinformed about California

    http://calbar.ca.gov/calbar/pdfs/admissions/Admit-Summary-Requirements.pdf

    Thomas Jefferson is not a distance ed program either
     
  13. gb93433

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    I am not quite as optimistic as you about pastoral leadership in our churches today. Differrent size churches are pasdtored by different kinds of pastors using different leadership skills. About 1/2 of the pastors have never been to seminary and most of those who have did not keep up with their language skills. So they do not maintain a high standard of scholarship but rather get by in addressing urgent issues rather than leading. About 2/3 of the churches are dead and dying so what does that say about pastoral leadership and church health?

    Leadership is far more about the person than it is about the how to do it.

    Most churches are planted by the inexperienced young person not the old pastor who is near retirement. Planting churches is far different than just pastoring and preaching in a large church.

    When I pastored I came to the conlusion that not many pastors spent much time studying and praying but rather being attentive to the social problems of people. I did my internship under a well known pastor in the area and was touted as being a great example of a servant. The problem I saw was that he did not study much and was so involved in "ministry' that he neglected his family. He told me that was job security. The times when I preached a number of people told me that I should be the pastor and that I was a better preacher. Imagine what I was dealing with at the time. I was glad when I left. While I learned a lot from him I did not see a balanced ministry.

    How many Paul's do you know who are pastoring?


    Isn't that the primary purpose of all learning and teaching? If what you say is true then what would be the difference between personal interaction with a teacher and online interaction or no interaction.

    For education/training to be successful there must be the responsibility of the student and teacher. I have never had one student who came to my class who had the attitude that he already knew what he needed to know and all he needed was a degree that was ever highly successful later unless he erealized the shortcomings of his attitude. All that some student get is a degree. While others come to learn and they not only learn but also get a degree. I have never had a student get an A with a bad attitude.
     
  14. Havensdad

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    Notice their is a difference between "interactive Online classes" and "correspondence" courses (one done by mail). See further, below...


    Um, general education requirements such as:

    "Minimum of an associates degree" and "Can be fulfilled through CLEP examinations" does not sound like a hindrance to taking the Bar through online education.

    From their site...


    "Accreditation: This ONLINE LLM, JSM and JSD degree program is offered from the TJSL law School in the USA which is fully accredited by the American Bar Association and is a member of the American Association of Law Schools."
     
  15. Havensdad

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    I guess I am not as optimistic as you are about the ability of Seminary professors, many of whom have never actually been a Pastor, to train young men in how to do it. Considering the rate at which many Seminaries are failing, this problem is just compounded.

    In regards to the "language skills", in what world does one need ANYBODY to learn a foreign language, such as Greek/Hebrew? Some of the most intelligent, influential people in History were completely self taught, not even considering the interactive programs and plethora of books we have today.

    Also, when you mix in the huge spiritual pitfalls associated; well, it's just not worth it. Teachers need to teach people how to teach, Pastors how to Pastor, Firemen how to fight fires, etc.

    I completely disagree with this. Their is definite methodology to leadership: which can be better taught by someone actually doing it.

    Which is no worse than the Seminary professor, who have little to no experience do such things, trying to teach someone else how to do it.

    People who want to learn how to plant churches, need to train (apprentice) under a church planter, not a Seminary professor.

    I guess I am just blessed. Most of the Pastors I know are "Paul's".

    The few Seminary professors I know personally, are pompous windbags that I wouldn't want anyone training under, that think the world revolves around them and their teaching abilities.

    You can do all you say through Distance ed. Universities and Seminaries are about knowledge. Training and one on one is best done through someone who actually has experience doing it.
     
  16. Havensdad

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    I guess I am not as optimistic as you are about the ability of Seminary professors, many of whom have never actually been a Pastor, to train young men in how to do it. Considering the rate at which many Seminaries are failing, this problem is just compounded.

    In regards to the "language skills", in what world does one need ANYBODY to learn a foreign language, such as Greek/Hebrew? Some of the most intelligent, influential people in History were completely self taught, not even considering the interactive programs and plethora of books we have today.

    Also, when you mix in the huge spiritual pitfalls associated; well, it's just not worth it. Teachers need to teach people how to teach, Pastors how to Pastor, Firemen how to fight fires, etc.

    I completely disagree with this. Their is definite methodology to leadership: which can be better taught by someone actually doing it.

    Which is no worse than the Seminary professor, who have little to no experience do such things, trying to teach someone else how to do it.

    People who want to learn how to plant churches, need to train (apprentice) under a church planter, not a Seminary professor.

    I guess I am just blessed. Most of the Pastors I know are "Paul's".

    The few Seminary professors I know personally, are pompous windbags that I wouldn't want anyone training under, that think the world revolves around them and their teaching abilities.

    You can do all you say through Distance ed. Universities and Seminaries are about knowledge. Training and one on one is best done through someone who actually has experience doing it.
     
  17. TomVols

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    It is correct that the ABA does not "accredit" any JD programs I'm aware of. However, in CA you can do the JD from Concord, et.al., and do both bars and be admitted in CA. You can then practice nationally, and a few states have some reciprocity agreements. Or, you can go to a LLM program, and some of those are done online. Interesting that the ABA recognizes continuing ed, but not initial training.

    Back to ATS. Something happened in the mid 90s that I think is being overlooked. ATS did not approve of things at the six SBC seminaries, most notably SBTS. They did not like the conservative shift and in particular stuck their nose in the frackus regarding the Carver school of Social work at SBTS. ATS threatened to pull its recognition. Fine, said all six SBC seminaries who had regional accreditation as well. We'll bank on that and self accreditation, and go from there. ATS was rendered toothless. They backed off and have not had any luster since, since an overwhelming number of ATS member students study at one of the six SBC seminaries.

    ATS forgot that RA is the gold standard.

    I do believe internet based theological education hasn't helped. But that's a smaller part of the issue. Quite simply, ATS is no longer as relevant as it once was. It probably never will be again.
     
  18. michaelbowe

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    Please provide citation, I cannot find this quote.
     
  19. gb93433

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    Churches are failing miserably too. 2/3 of the churches in the U.S. are dead or dying. Think about what is feeding the seminaries with students and who is also leading the seminaries.

    I studied under one of the best teachers in the world in my field and every year they have had to dismiss one or two students because of their arrogance. Those I knew were far from the being the best student. One I knew personally in my class was the poorest student and yet found time to criticize the teacher.

    An older gentleman once told me that he had seen very few who had gone to seminary at an older age ever fail but most of the failures were those who were young. That says nothing about the seminary but everything about the maturity level of the person. I have always thought that nobody should ever be accepted to a seminary unless they have already made some disciples and certainly no man should ever be interviewed by any church unless he has made some disciples.

    I was fortunate when I was in seminary. I sought out and got know those professors who made disciples and made their students work and study hard.

    I have heard the same thing in my profession.

    Do you know of one person who has kept up their language skills who would consider studying the languages a waste of time? It has reaped far greater benefits than I would have ever imagined.

    While there is a plethora of books and study aids, knowledge of the Bible is at an all time low in many years. Do you blame the seminary on that? Your statement shows some ignorance of the benefits of serious study of the languages. Language is the door to a culture. One can read all about America and still not know much about how Americans think and how words are used. Because of continuing to study the languages I can read and understand more in ten minutes than I ever did in one hour. I do not need to spend a lot of time looking up words and then try to decide how they are used. While what you say is true for a very small minority. Most of the grammars which have been written are authored by men who were students of great teachers. Imagine Paul getting into the areas of society by ignorance and lack of education. He was highly educated even by today's standards. Remember he spoke and wrote a second language. I have never seen ignorance open doors to winning people to Christ. The Bible admonishes us to not be ignorant.

    It wasn't but a few years ago that I spoke with a young man who was well educated. His dad was a well known lawyer in the area. I began to reach him through a knowledge of literary genre. He was good at English and understood literary genre. I used that to talk with him about what he asked me about translation and interpretation.

    In Jn. 1:1, Jesus is the logos. If you have not studied Greek and the word logos, it is doubtful that you would know what logos really meant and how it was used in that society in that time.

    That is true to a point. You cannot make a race horse out of a camel.

    Strong leaders make strong leaders. Church leadership is more than just training though. Only about 3% of the people are actual leaders. Church leadership is about giftedness and training by excellent leaders.

    I think that today you will not find the same attitude in the seminaries that once was there. The SBC seminaries will not allow the professors to pastor full time and teach like they once required. Just ask yourself, "Why?"

    Where did Paul learn how to plant churches? Nobody taught me to plant churches. In fact most of the suggestions I was given did not work for me. People are different than three rules that try to fit everyone in a box. Three seminary professors I had in seminary were church planters. One was in Cuba and imprisoned, one in the U.S., and the other was in Argentina. Several of my friends have been church planters. They learned to make disciples in a parachurch organization and all of them went to theological school. Everyone of them had made disciples before they went to theological school.

    You will tend to find what you are looking for. I know some great pastors and professors. I do not associate with those who are lazy and see ministry as just a job. Those kind quickly vanish from my mind.

    I have always believed that discipleship should occur in every place. What you are saying is much like saying a horse near death is better than a dead horse.
     
    #19 gb93433, Mar 21, 2009
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 21, 2009
  20. StefanM

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    No. The rigor of legal studies is incomparable to the study of theology. There is no "bar exam" for theology. Ministry does require physical interaction, but one can accomplish this in a local church context. There is no context equivalent to the courtroom. Ministry is not so limited.

    One thing I want to avoid is an attitude that I believe extends from an inferiority complex. Just because another field has a more intensive preparation does not mean that theology must match it. Theological training does not have to be insanely difficult or obnoxiously lengthy. It simply needs to meet the purposes for which it is intended. The rigor of medical school and law school is intended to weed out everything but the "best and brightest," intellectually speaking. If you want to make seminary a school that requires GRE scores in the 85% percentile or higher and a GPA of 3.85 or higher, then go ahead. That's not going to serve your purpose for producing local pastors who will be willing to serve in small churches with little pay.

    We do also have to remember that theological training does not tend to increase salaries in the way that legal or medical training will. A prospective lawyer can spend loads of money on law school, hoping to recover his expenses with high income later on. Ministers are expected now to have a BA (which will generally cost at least 25k) followed by an MDIV (which will probably cost at least 20k-25k and could run in excess of 50k). Ministerial salaries will not reflect this kind of investment. Now, I know that pastors will make more than their professors, but one cannot compare pastoral salaries to medical or legal salaries. Plus, we aren't even considering the fact that in Baptist churches, benefits are often an afterthought or solely the responsibility of the minister.
     
    #20 StefanM, Mar 21, 2009
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