Tag Archive: seminary

Seminary or Experience – which one's best?

If you’re hiring a minister at your church, would you prefer they have three years of solid experience serving in a church, or is it more valuable to have a seminary degree?

A seminary degree can indicate:

  • They’ve shown they can complete something they started.
  • Solid writing skills, which should translate well to ministry work.
  • Commitment to a calling. No matter the degree program, seminary is a commitment of time, focus, and of course, finances.
  • Solid theology. Their home-made theology has been challenged, and hopefully their theology has formed…
  • Critical-thinking skills.

Obviously, a degree can indicate more than just these items. A good student will take in all they can, and bring several other transferable qualities to ministry work. But even then – is seminary all that is necessary? There is also a lot of value in experience.

Three years of ministry experience can indicate:

  • Although perhaps young, someone thought they could do the job.
  • Healthy expectations. Nothing can replace reps… Three years of dealing with church-members, budget, hospital-visits, and teaching should provide a more balanced perspective of vocational ministry.
  • They know their gifts, strengths, and weaknesses. They’ve had time to self-examine in the crucible of ministry. They’ve had time to determine where they’re deficient in ministry leadership, and begin a development plan.

What I consider to be the best of both worlds is of course…both.

When I see seminary experience on a resume and no concurrent ministry experience (volunteer or paid), I have hesitations.

When I see ministry experience on a resume and no seminary experience, I have questions.

If your calling is vocational ministry, get involved in ministry as soon as you feel called. Seminary accentuates and prepares, but in my opinion, it doesn’t beget ministry. Seminary is most beneficial to the minister already participating in active ministry.

While in college or seminary, find a place to serve. If it can be a paid role, great. That streamlines your time so you don’t have to work an additional job to pay for life (and a paid staff role versus a volunteer role will get you deeper and more truer experiences).

Both ministry and seminary experience are valuable. And if I have to choose one over the other when considering a ministerial candidate for our staff, I make sure to use lots of other vetting ideas to help me determine the right choice (I’ve blogged previously about some of our hiring processes).


  • As a hiring church, don’t let seminary completion be the sole or even primary determiner of who you hire.
  • If you’re called to ministry, get experience and begin seminary as soon as you can.


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