FAQ- Why Attend Seminary?
As you consider seminary, there are bound to be many questions that come to mind. This is not an exhaustive list of the questions you might have, but in the following pages, you will find thoughts on many of the most frequently asked questions about seminary education. If you have questions that are not addressed here, please contact us at 800-922-3040. We will be happy to answer your specific questions about either seminary in general or Denver Seminary specifically.
*Check out our list of North American Seminaries and Theological Schools.
Is a seminary education worth the effort and expense?
It depends on your goals and what God is calling you to do. A seminary education prepares you for leadership in vocational ministry, or if vocational ministry isn’t for you, it gives you the ministry skills to impact the people around you more effectively for God’s glory, whatever your profession may be. However, seminary is not for everyone. It requires a commitment of time and money, above and beyond your undergraduate degree. Seminary provides a rigorous education, designed to strengthen your ministry skills and give you greater insight and knowledge into the Bible and the world around you. We encourage you to seek God’s will as you try to decide if seminary is right for you. Pray; seek counsel through the Word of God, close friends, family and spiritual leaders who know you and may be able to help discern God’s will for you. We are certain that God will guide you to the right decision.
Can’t I learn more by actually doing ministry?
Hands-on ministry is definitely important, and many seminaries give you the chance to do hands-on ministry through internships or other opportunities. But just doing ministry does not always give you the knowledge and skills you need for effective ministry. Note the benefits that are unique to a seminary education:
A comprehensive and in-depth study of God’s Word provides the basis for leading, preaching, teaching, serving and biblically reflecting upon the many challenges we face as God’s servants. Seminary may be the only setting in which you will have this opportunity.
The seminary process can be a special time of being set apart by God to prepare and renew your soul for increased effectiveness in ministry. This can be especially important for those who have already done or are currently doing ministry in some context.
Many seminaries provide a healthy diversity of international students and faculty with diverse ethnic backgrounds and varying evangelical perspectives. Investing time in learning from each other can broaden your understanding of God’s Word and expose you to new and different ways of doing ministry.
While some ministry leaders suggest that a degree isn’t as important as one’s competence, why choose between the two? Do you want a surgeon who would operate without first learning the procedure? Or, would you prefer one who studied surgery but has never operated on any one? A good seminary education combines both student and skill development.
Beyond biblical knowledge, good seminaries offer learning environments and experiences that let you draw on the vast knowledge of the faculty. The Bible sets a precedent in the value of learning from those who have gone before with the relationship that Timothy and Paul shared. Seminary allows you to draw on the expertise of those who have gone before.
A seminary education allows you to develop, foster and grow life-long relationships with other people who are leaders in their respective fields. These relationships become a great source of encouragement, resources sharing, connection and networking long after you graduate from seminary.
Isn’t seminary just for those preparing to be pastors or missionaries?
While those preparing to be pastors or missionaries will find great value in a seminary education, many seminaries are designed to train leaders. Seminary graduates may use their education to serve as pastors, missionaries, leaders in Parachurch organizations, chaplains, counselors, social workers, youth workers, teachers and educators, professionals who desire to enhance their witness within their professions or become a lay leader in their church, someone who leads in a non-clergy role, those planning to take a doctoral-level study in a related field, or even those who are just looking to deepen their biblical and theological knowledge. The possibilities are really limitless. A seminary education may provide you with rich experiences and great opportunities to deepen your relationship with both God and other people so that you can serve Him effectively, no matter where you’re called to serve.
Do I need to attend college or have an undergraduate degree before getting a seminary education?
While there may be exceptions, as noted below, generally you do need to have an undergraduate degree to attend any seminary. Seminaries are graduate level institutions that are designed specifically for those seeking to further their education. As an MBA is designed for those who desire to be a leader in the business world, seminaries provide masters and doctorate level programs for those who desire to be a leader in ministry, whether church, parachurch or missions organizations, or in the secular business world.
For older students who have an extensive amount of experience both in career and life, it may still be possible to attend some seminaries. In some cases, a student may pursue an undergraduate degree exemption (UDE) in which they will need to document and record experience that would equate to an undergraduate degree.
(The UDE is an option at Denver Seminary for master’s degree-seeking students. If you are not seeking a specific degree or if you are interested in one of Denver Seminary’s certificate programs, it might still be possible for you to take classes without an undergraduate degree. To find out more about any of these options, please talk to someone on our Admissions Team for more information.)
If I went to a Christian college, what benefit would seminary have for me?
Seminaries offer greater depth of knowledge and further development of skills than what is offered at most Christian liberal arts colleges. Many churches and other faith-based organizations actually require a seminary degree for leadership positions. For positions in many ministries, an undergraduate degree from a good Bible or Christian liberal arts college is sufficient, but for those students seeking a leadership position, seminaries train students and prepare them for that work and calling.
Can I transfer credit or receive advanced standing for courses I’ve already taken?
Yes. Credits from other accredited seminaries or graduate institutions may be transferred and applied towards your degree. Advanced standing credit may be available through the review of your undergraduate transcripts or by passing the appropriate proficiency exams. If you think you qualify for transfer credit or advanced standing, be sure to ask the admissions department for an evaluation.
Can I afford seminary? Can I get financial aid for seminary?
Seminary can seem expensive, but there are many things you can do that make it more affordable. Many seminary students work part time while they are attending classes, and sometimes students have a spouse who works full time to help cover expenses. Most seminaries offer financial aid in the form of grants and scholarships. Grants and scholarships may also be available from your denomination, church, ministries, civic groups and other organizations. If you make your seminary plans known to your home church, friends and family, you may find that they are willing to help you financially achieve your degree. Many seminaries allow you to spread your tuition payments throughout the academic year or to defer all or part of your school expenses until after graduation through various loan options. While the cost can seem overwhelming at first, when you add up all the options, you may find that a seminary education is affordable.
How can I discern God’s calling for me?
The best practice for discerning God’s calling for you is to begin with prayer. Pray for discernment and willingly submit yourself to Him. It is also wise to seek wise counsel from friends, family and spiritual leaders. And seminary may actually give you the chance to discover what God’s specific calling for you is. Romans 12:2 reminds us: “Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will” (NIV). A seminary education gives you the chance to renew your mind with grounded, biblical teaching and a plethora of ministry experiences. Many seminaries also offer mentoring and spiritual formation programs that may help you discern, recognize and grow the specific natural and God-given gifts and skills you possess.
What will I do after I graduate? Or What if I don’t know exactly what I want to do after I graduate?
If you feel called to serve God and attend seminary, but you aren’t sure what God wants you to do after your graduate, let the seminary experience guide you to the right path. Seminary can open many doors and opportunities for you to find the calling that God has for you. It can be a time of discovery, not only of who God is, but also of who you are and what He has for you. A good seminary education not only exposes you to a variety of ministries and opportunities, it can also be a great place to meet and network with others who are in or planning to go into ministry. If you feel called to ministry or seminary, follow that call; God will show you what He wants you to do when the time is right.
How will my family (spouse, children) fit into seminary life?
Many seminaries offer programs for spouses and families to engage with life at the seminary. And the seminary community can provide a strong, Christian group of peers for any member of your family to be part of. Thus, the seminary experience will not be limited to your education but will be beneficial for your whole family. Additionally, your time at seminary can be an opportunity for you and your family to really experience and adjust to the rigors of vocational ministry (see 1 Timothy 3:4a,5). Seminary is a safe place to do this because you are surrounded by those who know about these challenges and who can encourage you and help you overcome them.
Am I too old to start seminary?
You are never too old to begin seminary. A seminary education is about the calling God has placed on your life; for some, the calling may come young while for others the calling comes later in life, but the important thing is to follow the call. Most seminaries welcome older students because of their maturity and stability and the life experience they can share with other students and in the classroom. If God is calling you to seminary, it’s never too late – just follow the call.
I’ve heard stories of seminary actually hindering someone’s spiritual life…is that true?
It is true that some find the rigors of seminary life very demanding both intellectually and spiritually. There are some who are not prepared for the amount of studying and reading required. Like any masters program, a seminary education is hard work, and a few people may experience burnout from the process. But good seminaries build programs into their degrees that allow a student to experience a deepening of their spiritual life beyond just the acquisition of knowledge. These seminaries provide you with the tools you need to succeed in your academic endeavors, in your pursuit of God and in the life of ministry that lies ahead.
Visit the seminary’s campus. This is really the only way to get a feel for the ethos and personality of the seminary. No amount of marketing materials will be able to prepare you for what life at the seminary will really be like, and marketing materials are designed to show the seminary in the best light possible. The best way to really gauge whether or not you and a specific seminary will be a good match is to visit the campus.
Review the seminary’s educational outcomes – what does the seminary say they will teach you, and what are the results the seminary desires for its graduates?
Find out what the vision and mission of the seminary are – do these things resonate with you?
Consider the location, including the cost of living, recreation for both you and your family, and area churches.
If you can, try to attend the seminary’s preview days to visit the campus and possibly sit in on an actual class or two. This will give you the chance to experience what it’s really like to be a student at that seminary.
Check out the seminary’s faculty, president and high level staff – what are their reputations in their respective fields and among the Christian community?
Consider the cost of an entire degree program at the seminaries you are considering, including what type of financial aid available to help you pay for your seminary education.
Take a look at the degree programs the seminary offers – is there one that fits your goals and passions?
What steps does the seminary take to ensure that you both learn the knowledge you need for effective ministry and grow in your personal spiritual life?
Take a look at some of the stories of the alumni of the seminary. While not all alumni will have fantastic stories, many times, the stories of alumni will give you a little glimpse into what the seminary actually desires for its graduates.
So I’ve decided to go to seminary…why should I choose
Denver Seminary seeks to glorify God by equipping leaders to think biblically, live faithfully and lead wisely for a lifetime. There are many reasons to choose Denver Seminary, most of which can be found by exploring the rest of our web site, but here is a short list of some of the compelling reasons to choose Denver Seminary:
Our faculty is outstanding. Most of them are scholar practitioners who have actually worked as pastors, missionaries, counselors, etc. They are also all on the cutting edge of their discipline many having written the leading texts in their respective areas. (For more information, visit Our Faculty web page.)
Our training and mentoring program sets the pace as one of the finest in the nation. Several schools have actually sought Denver Seminary’s help in creating their training and mentoring programs or modeled their programs after Denver Seminary’s pioneering program. Unlike many other seminaries’ programs, Denver Seminary’s training and mentoring program is designed to allow mentors to actually invest in your life to encourage and equip you for real work in real ministry. It’s not just something we add to what we do, our training and mentoring program is an integral part of who we are. (For more information, visit our Training and Mentoring pages.)
Our Educational Outcomes are both relevant and biblical. They are sustainable habits that include the skills necessary to faithfully serve God. (For more information, visit our Educational Outcomes page.)
We are committed to balancing educational content, spiritual formation and character development with leadership skills and competence to prepare you for ministry.
Our intensive programs provide the opportunity for you to stay in your current life situation while earning a degree with minimal residency requirements.
We are a diverse community honoring and embracing the creative uniqueness and value of all of God’s people, without consideration of gender, race or culture, and we are committed to learn from each other.
Most importantly, whether you are considering seminary for full-time vocational ministry, to improve your impact as a lay leader in your church, or for personal enrichment, come to Denver Seminary because you sense God’s leading. We stand ready to help you find your God-given giftedness, fulfill your call in God's kingdom and increase your ability to impact our world.
For more information, please see Is God calling you to lead?