A Seminary graduate is considered to have completed the necessary study course to be prepared to preach, teach and counsel others with godly wisdom. Graduates are expected to have a strong foundation in Bible and church doctrine and maybe even a special insight into the mind of God. These are all very positive benefits to completing a seminary degree, but here are some additional benefits that you may not have considered:
1. Character growth. Integrity is vital in our culture. What is assumed by completing seminary is that you have a very strong moral backbone and will only behave with the highest caliber of character. While a seminary graduate will not always be of the highest caliber of character and integrity, the starting point of most relationships will reflect the assumption that the graduate is honest and trustworthy.
2. Broad network. Today’s business environment is built on the personal network. This is valuable as evidenced by the increase in business-related networks (like LinkedIn) and various networking events around the world. The seminary environment allows you to have contacts from all over the world—building these relationships will provide a large network of contacts you have access to for the rest of your life.
3. Life-long access to research and library resources. You may not have considered the value of your school’s library—but as new publications are released and new authors/teachers expand the knowledge base of the seminary, you will have good access to these materials through your alumni status.
4. Learning how to learn. Higher education does not only provide information and knowledge, it is where you learn how to learn (research, independent study, etc.). Anyone who can learn is valuable in every walk of life (career and personal). This is not an emphasized benefit of seminary, but a very useful one to acknowledge. Seminary is not the “finishing school” for ministers, it is a starting point for their future!
5. Ability to process information quickly. On the heels of learning how to learn is the ability to quickly process and understand information in order to respond promptly and well. This attribute is primarily associated with lawyers, but in theological debate this is a desirable asset to have—and one that will be developed in seminary.
6. Preparation for “culture war.” As seminary should provide a strong foundation in theology and doctrine, that foundation is vital in engaging the culture (particularly the post-modern culture of the U.S.) to affect social change. Typically defined as culture war (largely due to a ‘take no prisoners’ approach), the doctrine learned in seminary provides the launching ground for engagement as well as a solid wall of defense against attack (i.e., evolutionary mindset v. creation/design).
7. Change or alignment of perspective. Completing your degree will include study in areas that are beyond your pre-existing knowledge and/or interests. Not only will this expand your perspective, it will also challenge your former ways of thinking in order to alter your viewpoint (in a positive way). Empathy is a valuable character trait that will build more bridges in your future relationships.
8. Linguistic impact. By studying the ancient languages, you gain insight into that culture. The study of linguistics will build discernment and understanding of another culture which translates into greater opportunity to develop empathy (see #7 above). Studying the syntax, vocabulary and language structure of Greek and Hebrew tongues reveals clues about their cultures. Similarly, as you are exposed to subsequent (derivative) languages and cultures, you will have discernment into their cultures as well (let the bridge-building commence!).
9. Development of gifts. While seminary will not ‘install’ gifts, it will permit enhancement and expansion of those gifts. Most students are not aware of all the gifts they possess, and the different disciplines included in seminary course work provide the opportunity for previously unknown gifts to be identified. These gifts go beyond public speaking to counseling and research gifts—there are a variety of gift areas that can be exposed and developed through a student’s seminary career.
10. Developing a sense of purpose for life. Broadened perspective, wide network, empathy for others’ cultures, foundation from which to engage the local culture—these all add up to a clear sense of purpose in your life. There is a synergistic effect of all these components whereby the end result is greater than the sum of the individual impact of each one. This is the godly equivalent to Maslow’s highest psychological state (self-actualization), but it is far more valuable because as you recognize God’s true authority and sovereignty and where you fit into the plan (or Will), you will share king David’s status as being a man after God’s own heart.
Pursuing a seminary degree can have wonderful benefits—both obvious and obscure. If you are called to complete your seminary degree, be grateful for the overall impact and many benefits that it will bring.