Seminaries are theological institutions which provide theological training to people who profess faith in Christ. Generally speaking, one can say that the primary purpose why seminaries exist is to groom students to be ‘theological’. But the meaning of ‘theological’ may have diverse connotations. It is wise therefore to note that the specific goals and purposes of theological training obtainable in different seminaries vary significantly from one institution to another. So before you apply or enroll for theological training in a particular seminary, there are few things that you need to take into consideration:
1. Know the Theological Traditions of the Seminary: By theological tradition I simply mean the doctrinal standpoint or theological underpinnings that drive the entire theological enterprise of every specific seminary. The easiest way to know this is to carefully study the history of the seminary and articles of Faith and Practice. These two important pieces of information can be found on the website of most seminaries. Knowing this before enrolling in a seminary is important because it will prepare you to have an idea of “what to expect” in the seminary for most of the time that you will be there. Experience has shown that a number of seminarians become frustrated at the course of their theological training simply because they did not take time to carefully enquire what a seminary’s theological traditions are before enrolling. After they have enrolled, they discovered that was not what they wanted and the result is regret and frustration.
2. Remember that the Seminary is an Educational Institution: You may be wondering why I decided to include this as a necessary thing to know before enrolling in a seminary. You may be asking, “Doesn’t everyone know this?” The answer is this, “Yes, everyone seems to know this, but not everyone remembers it anyway.” The fact of the matter is that some people come to the seminary with the idea that it only involves some kind ‘easygoing’ training but they sooner or later discover the contrary. If you constantly remind yourself that the seminary is an educational institution just like any college or university, you will save yourself a whole lot of surprises and frustration during the first semester of your studies!
3. Understand that Seminarians are mere Mortals too: There is a certain kind of assumption that Christians have about seminarians which can be very disturbing and disappointing. The assumption is that seminary students and professors are almost infallible. In other words, most Christians feel that the seminary is a ‘great’ spiritual environment which makes it almost impossible for people to sin. If you enroll in a seminary with this false assumption, I am afraid to say that you may sooner or later become disappointed. To guard against being a victim of this, always remember that all humans struggle with sin and seminarians are not an exception in this regard.
Theological education in the seminary can both a challenging as well as a rewarding experience. I encourage you to prayerfully and carefully take time to enroll in a seminary that will help you achieve your goals. After this, be optimistic about your choice and I believe you would be glad you did.
By Seth Kajang Bature. Seth currently attends Westminster Theological Seminary.