A seminary degree has become very flexible to obtain in recent years while maintaining rigor. One can earn a seminary degree in a traditional manner on campus or entirely from the comfort of his own home. While there are many perks to a seminary degree that is completed through online education, I this article I will outline five disadvantages.
First, an online degree will not allow for in-classroom interactions with professors. Sure, there are discussion forums and TA’s that one can email and correspond with, but there is something special about life-on-life discipleship and accountability that can only be achieved face-to-face. Relationships with other students, building strong godly networks, and getting to know each other’s families are non-negotiable parts of a seminary experience. Seminary should be some of the sweetest years of any aspiring pastor’s life and the seminarian shouldn’t be holed up in his books on his own.
Second, an online degree will not allow for in as well as out-of-classroom interactions with fellow students. Part of the seminary experience should be getting to know others in your cohort so that one can be challenged in his thoughts, studies, and lifestyle. By having a live relationship with others in the same track, you can be challenged to living out what you are studying a real life kind of accountability relationship. An online experience will not make it as easy to develop relationships. And, it will certainly not allow one to be as transparent with your life as you can be. This transparency and constant necessity to live a life above reproach is a requirement for pastoral leadership. Being a pastor ultimately means being living your life as an example before the flock. What better group than others in your situation to share your life with? These are the people that will know exactly what temptations to ask about and watch out for.
Third, an online degree will not help your preaching and teaching. Learning to communicate God’s truths is a skill and should be treated as one. One can only become an effective communicator by constantly practicing and hearing critiques from others. When attending an online seminary, it may be difficult to truly learn to preach and be taught how to preach. How can you be taught to preach through virtual means? This is a skill that must be honed and practiced in live classrooms in front of others who are able to give you constructive criticism. One can learn theology, but remember that to be a pastor, you must be able to communicate it well and effectively to others for that is the functional role of an elder.
Fourth, an online degree doesn’t follow the pattern of what ministry is all about. A ministering lifestyle is about being amongst the flock and being amongst people. If your entire seminary education is about sitting in a room and studying, how does this model what ministry will actually look like? The opportunity to bounce ideas and clarify ideas for those around you that you may understand is an invaluable one because it will make you internalize information so much more. Theology must not only be knowledge, it must be life knowledge and pastors can only communicate what they have truly understood in their hearts through application. Attending a seminary on campus will help and facilitate this process, making you a more effective teacher and proclaimer of the Word.
Fifth, an online degree does not allow the glorious opportunity of having your pride destroyed by those around you who may be seemingly more equipped and intelligent. You will learn that God’s truths are indeed unfathomable. What better way of growing in godliness?
Written by: Clinton Jung