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On Being a Woman in Seminary

If you are a woman and wish to enroll in Seminary, prepare to do your homework diligently. That is, before you even apply. While all people should carefully research what seminary they apply at, looking into doctrine, accreditation, etc., women have an extra preoccupation when entering seminary: What do they think is a woman’s role in ministry? Because this is by no means a simple question and in most circles will not receive an easy reply, many women stay shy of seminary, preferring other routes for preparing themselves for whatever it is they are called to do and While in many denominations where women can be ordained into the pastoral ministry, the number of women attending has been on the rise, in some places even coming to match the number of men attending, this is not so in the case of most seminaries. In fact, even in places where women are allowed to teach the Bible, the vast majority of professors are still male, making it sometimes difficult for you to imagine what you might be able to do once you graduate with all of those hard earned paper cuts from book page flipping and an eye doctor bill that says you need new glasses for reading.

In fact, in many seminaries, women are not even allowed to take a Homiletics course (where you learn about sermon preparation and public speaking) due to the fact that the institution believes women have no business speaking to the church, especially not from the pulpit. Such seminaries will usually allow female students to trade those credits for a course in childhood education or some other useful ministry preparation course more suitable for women. Even if the woman attending is actually planning on helping her husband with a home based Bible study for women or a study at the park in Africa, she might find herself not allowed to take a class that would help her prepare for such a scenario.

Because this article does not envisage supporting or arguing against the role of women in ministry, but solely our seminary experience, I limit myself to offering the female reader an extremely profitable piece of advice: Research your seminary’s view on the role of women in ministry before you register. Men have the option of simply deciding on whether they like the seminary’s theological beliefs and the quality of the faculty, besides the obvious financial decisions. Women, however, must go a step further. If you fail to do that, you are bound to become frustrated with expectations that do not match your calling as well as teaching that you do not accept.

It is important that the reader understands that this advice is not simply geared to those women who believe that they can preach, teach, and even pastor. In fact, this advice is especially useful to those women who do not believe that they have a place in the pulpit. After all, if that is the case, then your aspirations for going into ministry and preparing for it in seminary are far different from those of many of your classmates. You might find yourself in a program that is an excellent one, but does nothing by way of giving you the tools that you need for your specific calling. Do not take what you will feel are men-oriented classes if you wish to be a missionary, a Sunday school teacher, a children’s ministry director, or the hardworking wife of a pastor. While you may feel, today, that such classes will be good for you, exposing yourself to teaching that more specifically targets your calling will help you get the best out of your education without a drain on your time, emotion, and finances.

If, on the contrary, you seek to teach or preach, beware of attending a place where the theology classes are great, the learning is excellent, the faculty is admirably knowledgeable, but you are constantly having to defend yourself, having others making you feel almost sinful for preparing yourself for a role that your denomination allows you to fill and you believe you are called for. Not to mention the discomfort of being the only woman in your class, whom the professors and classmates alike believe should not be there, either because you should not wish to teach or preach the Bible, or because you should. Such a place will leave you wishing that God had made you a man. Similar uncomfortable situations can be avoided, thanks to the enormous variety of seminaries available in the United States. Therefore, I cannot stress this enough, no matter what denominational background you have, do find a place where you will get a good, solid, Bible-based education, but also where you will meet women who likewise desire to serve the Lord in a similar capacity, forming lasting relationships with them. You will feel supported and joyful about being a woman called to serve the Lord.

Written by Luciana Damascena. Luciana is a student at Liberty Baptist Seminary, currently in the M. Divinity program. She is a full time career missionary with BCM International and is serving in Portugal along with her husband and two children.

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