Why Seminary Matters: Discerning your calling and the importance of theological education.

By Ashley VanBemmelen on February 1, 2019

Editor's Note: Today's post provides a great summary on the value of pursuing seminary training for ministry. Our Admissions Director, Ashley VanBemmelen, highlights some key ways we seek to help ministry leaders prepare for or deepen their for service in the church and in other forms of ministry. For those considering seminary, this will be a helpful piece to reflect on for your own life. If you're already through seminary and on the other side, consider forwarding this to others whom God may be calling to ministry leadership as well.

Why seminary? It's a question flooding the hearts and minds of many Christians—all pondering the role of faith in their vocation. Over 75 years ago, Grand Rapids Theological Seminary was founded to prepare future pastors in the church, and we have an enduring commitment to training the leaders of tomorrow. Ours is an institution of education, relationship and rigor—because we believe all three matter in preparing future pastors, counselors, and Christ-followers. For GRTS, our curriculum equips every student in five key areas we have found can only be fully developed through an intentional theological learning community. It's our love for the church that has inspired us to become one of those communities, and it's a love for the church that draws students to our programs.

1. Know: Faith rooted in study.

Scripture is a living text that was formed by ancient people, places and cultural traditions but speaks a fresh Word to modern audiences. For those who wish to instruct others in that text—be it for academic, pastoral or counseling purposes—training requires deep discernment and sensitivity to the various dynamics of the Word. GRTS prepares you for that work, with special attention toward the specifics of your future vocation. Current trends in theological education are moving away from rigorous study of biblical languages, history and material culture and are moving toward a model of broad biblical survey and practical applications of Scripture. GRTS believes you can have both. We continue to uphold a rigorous standard, ensuring our graduates are prepared to read, teach and share the Word of God in any context. We offer training you can't find outside of a theological institution.

2. Experience: Faith expressed in exploration.

Some graduate students enter seminary confident in their path and purpose. However, others need time to engage their walk with God, discern their call and develop their skills. The faculty at GRTS cultivate far more than our students' knowledge; we also invest in students' self-awareness, sense of passion and heart for Jesus. Students do not come to GRTS merely to develop their thinking; they come here to connect with God Himself, His mission and the world He so deeply loves.

3. Do: Faith embodied through action.

Through ministry residencies and internship opportunities, GRTS dedicates a significant portion of our programs to your training and skill development. The biblical narrative reveals a God actively at work in our world—bringing restoration, reconciliation and resurrection to His people. At GRTS, you will discover you are a critical continuation of that mission. Your time here will put your hands to work for the sake of what your mind is learning and your heart is experiencing. And, by intentionally partnering with the different churches and organizations where you complete your internships, you will graduate with a sharper sense of your gifts and passions, a network of support and a better understanding of the work you hope to accomplish for the sake of God's kingdom.

4. Be: Faith lived out in community.

One of the most important aspects of the programs at GRTS is the community of students all invested in their faith. At the graduate level, students and faculty learn together by engaging in thoughtful conversation, specialized research, diverse perspectives and deep care all shaping the flow of study and growth. In a context like seminary, you'll develop educational colleagues, brilliant dialogue partners and life-long friends who will enrich the way you think about your faith and about God.

5. Become: Faith transformed through journey.

Ultimately, we cannot impress upon you the full significance of a seminary degree because we cannot predict all the ways this degree will change you. Whether you pursue an M.Div. or a degree in counseling, your courses will impact you in ways you cannot anticipate. Through the intense focus of your studies, work and relationships, your faith will deepen, gifts will enhance, passions will gain clarity and calling will emerge. Seminary represents a season of life, one that can't be replicated elsewhere. If you sense this season is one you long to live into, start a conversation with Ashley VanBemmelen, GRTS' director of admissions, today.

Categories: Ministry, Theology, Vocation