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Choosing a Seminary: Denominational or Interdenominational?

When choosing a Seminary, one of the first things to shortlist for are whether one wishes to attend a seminary that belongs to a denomination or one that is interdenominational.  There are positive things to be said about both, and there are, of course, downfalls in both.  The crux of the matter is mostly about what one wishes to do after seminary, rather than what seminary experience should be like, and the answer to this question should help you determine which way to go.

The positive things to be said about interdenominational seminaries are obvious:   Interdenominational seminaries will give you a broad experience, the opportunity to befriend and get to know a variety of people and ministries, and a limitless number of opportunities and ideas for where to go when you graduate.  As for denominational ones, the pros are also many: You know exactly what quality of education you will receive, and so will those who review your resume in the future.  You can be certain that you will agree with the Biblical view of the seminary, and your acceptance will be better within that circle or similar Christian circles.

Yet, the most important question to ask is, what do you wish to do after you leave seminary?  If you wish to be a missionary, a school teacher, a College professor, or a chaplain (basically, ministries that work outside of local churches) going to an interdenominational seminary is the best choice for you.  Unless, of course, you are going into missions with a denominational board.  The Christian and Missionary Alliance, for instance, requires that you attend one of their own seminaries in order to be appointed by their missions board.  However, by and large, there will be far more options available to you in ministries that work outside of local churches if you do not limit yourself to a denomination in seminary.  Moreover, the knowledge you acquire and contacts that you make will help you adapt to different circles and situations in your ministry.

However, if you plan on becoming a youth leader, a Sunday school director, or most especially, a church pastor, my advice to you is that you do not think twice before enrolling in a denominational seminary.  This is true even if you are from a non-denominational church and plan on planting or being hired by one.   There are several simple reasons for this:

  1. Denominations have requirements for entering the pastoral ministry and these requirements are often met in one of their seminaries.
  2. Denominational churches often prefer hiring pastors or church workers from their own seminaries if they can help it, limiting your opportunities if you attend another seminary.
  3. Non-denominational or inter-denominational churches will accept a pastor or worker who has not gone to a denominational seminary, but they will equally accept one who has attended a denominational seminary as long as the person demonstrates a similar Theology as their own.
  4. Your chances of becoming a pastor at a denominational church are much higher than those of becoming a non-denominational church pastor, unless of course your father is the pastor of a church and is planning on passing the baton to you.  After all, this is a common occurrence in non-denominational churches, that the pastor who is retiring choose the person he likes most to take his place rather than a board of elders or a panel or leaders reviewing applications from existing pastors.  As such, unless you are next in line at your church or know that you are called to plant a church from scratch, consider entering into a good denomination and serving the Lord within it.  This option will be open to you if you attend a denominational seminary.  The alternative option will also be open if you do.

Clearly, there is no better place for someone with a strong pastoral calling than a denominational seminary.  If you are not familiar with denominations and their seminaries, now is the time to choose first the denomination, then the seminary.  There are many good ones out there, no matter what your theological convictions are and you are sure to fit into one quite well.  If, however, your calling is a different one, then the options of interdenominational seminaries are likewise numerous, if not more so.  Choose a reputable one, and one where you will feel comfortable with the doctrine it teaches.  Also, make sure your chosen degree is offered and is strong at the seminary you choose.

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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