What does it mean to go to seminary?
When most people hear the word seminary, what comes to mind is a place in which students pursue their studies with the goal of becoming ministers within the church. That is certainly one possibility for those who attend seminary school; however, there are many avenues that seminary students can explore. Those who are called to serve God and others can do so in a myriad of ways alongside and beyond a traditional church setting.
To go to seminary means to receive a graduate-level education based in faith. Seminary programs give students the skills and foundational education they need in order to pursue their unique calling. Graduates go on to serve God through community leadership roles, teaching, counseling, and the arts in addition to all of the traditional paths that come to mind for many of us.
Why is it called seminary?
Seminary refers to an educational school of theology, sometimes referred to as a theological school. On the most basic level, a seminary is a school in which people receive education to become religious leaders.
It’s interesting to consider the origin of the word seminary. The word is derived from the Latin word “seminarium” which translates to “plant nursery” and has been interpreted to mean “breeding ground.” In the same way that a greenhouse cultivates plant life, a seminary cultivates leaders in faith.
The term seminary was first used in reference to young men who wished to become priests, but has since come to describe a multitude of religious institutions that train leaders with the Church. A seminary is a place in which the seeds of faith-based careers are planted. Over the course of the program, those careers begin to bloom.
Why is it important to attend seminary?
Attending seminary is often one of the most important decisions a disciple of God can make when taking steps to answer God’s call. Seminary degrees provide so much more than academic knowledge; they provide an overall foundation of faith that sets graduates up for success in the ministry setting to which God leads them.
Seminary students have the opportunity to expand their outlook by encountering a diverse array of perspectives throughout their seminary experience. Christians from different denominations and backgrounds will find common ground through their shared calling, which will create a safe place to explore and refine their beliefs. At the same time, students will cultivate rich, meaningful relationships with peers that flourish over time. The connections formed during seminary often lead to lifelong friendships, and those bonds will help students to better serve God as well as their communities.
Mentorship is another invaluable aspect of attending a seminary program. Students have the opportunity to form relationships with leaders engaged in different aspects of church and community life, and those leaders will be able to share guidance and advice from a place of experience. Additionally, seminary students will gain access to ministry libraries and resources that are not available outside of an educational setting. Many seminary students consider themselves to be lifelong learners, and having the resources to keep their education up to date is one of the greatest benefits of attending seminary.
Seminary graduates go on to find careers that span a variety of fields and industries. While some go on to become pastors and deacons, others become chaplains, administering to those in the military, hospitals, and other private institutions with religious needs. Many seminary graduates get involved in the world of nonprofits, which offer countless ways for people to be of service while supporting causes that hold personal meaning. While not all nonprofits have religious affiliations, a seminary education provides the skills required to be of service in any setting.
For artists, seminary is a great way to develop God’s gifts through artistic expression. Some seminary graduates go on to have active careers related to theater, music, and art through careers such as biblical storytelling, music therapy, and a variety of Christian entertainment. God gives each of us unique gifts and, through seminary, students learn how to use those gifts to be of service to God and to the greater community.
What do you study in seminary?
Seminary schools offer graduate-level degree programs available for students pursuing various areas of study. United Theological Seminary has both master’s and doctoral programs, and while some support an academic path, others are tailored to those who wish to take a more professional route.
The Master of Arts (MA) and Master of Theological Students (MTS) programs give students the extensive theological foundation necessary to lead from an academic perspective about faith. These courses of study can yield experts in theological studies who go on to publish works on their chosen subjects.
Alternatively, the Master of Ministry (MMin), Master of Divinity (MDiv), Master of Arts in Christian Ministries (MACM), and Doctor of Ministry (DMin) programs focus primarily on the practice of ministry and Christian leadership. Students in these programs work to apply the principles of faith to their unique ministries.
All of the seminary courses offered at United Theological Seminary are rooted in the historic faith in Jesus Christ passed down to us through the Church. Studies stem from the Bible with a strong belief in the life-changing power of the Holy Spirit. Through the balance of academic and spiritual growth, students are equipped to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.