If you have a passion for people and helping them understand spirituality and religion, there is a good chance that a seminary could be of great benefit to your career. Whether you are wanting to become a youth pastor or a community organizer, a seminary degree can boost your success and help you be more confident in your position. For now, let’s take a look at the history of religion as well as a few tips for going to seminary school.
Seminary Definition: What is seminary?
For those of you who are new to theological education, it is paramount to understand seminary definition. A seminary is a school of higher learning that focuses its studies on theological education. Most seminary schools focus on the religion of Christianity, but there are also many that concentrate on the Catholic religion. And while, most times, when someone is speaking of a seminary school, they are referring to a Christian institution, seminary can also be associated with Jewish schools and other religions. In fact, any type of graduation theological education center can be referred to as a school of seminary.
A seminary college prepares its students to perform in an array of ministries. It is important to pick your career preference when you enroll in seminary as this will dictate which courses are best for you. For example, if you are wanting to become a youth pastor senior pastor or even a music minister, you will take different courses than a person who wants to teach religion in a high school. There is no need to fret, however, if you don’t know which career field you are wanting to go into as many seminary colleges focus on helping students discover their calling to ministry.
Understanding Different Types of Seminary School
Going to seminary college means you first need to understand the various types, which are as follows:
- Theological Seminary: If you want to pursue a leadership role, then a theological seminary college will make for the best education option. Church planters and pastors alike go to theological seminary, with their curriculums placing a heavy emphasis on spiritual formation, an in-depth understanding of the Bible, and various tools that can be used in the field of church ministry.
- Divinity School: Generally associated with a university, a divinity school tends to have an academic study of religion as its focal point within it theological division, but many other divisions are usually offered to its students, including law and medicine.
- Bible College: Providing undergraduate studies, a bible college can usually be enrolled in with only a high school diploma or GED as an admission requirement. Many of these colleges are not accredited, however, some are, like the Multnomah Bible College located in Oregon.
- Bible Institute: If you are simply wanting a better understanding of the Bible, then going to a Bible institute can be of immense value. Like many Bible colleges, Bible institutes are generally not accredited and some do not even require a high school diploma for enrollment. If you are looking for an accredited bible institute, make sure to check out Chicago’s Moody Bible Institute.
- Church-based Seminary Education: Although rare in the United States, church-based seminary educational institutions offer undergraduate and graduate-level programs. Still yet, many are not accredited.
The History of Religion
To try and provide a summary of religion in only a few hundred words in nearly impossible. There are books with thousands of pages devoted to the topic of the history of religion and even they don’t completely cover all there is to know. For now, let’s take a quick look at the basics.
There are three basic categories of religion: polytheistic, pantheistic, and monotheistic. Another category is commonly referred to as Atheism, but we aren’t going to discuss it in our brief history of religion.
To keep things simple, the history of religion goes back to the ancient Near East with the formation of polytheism around 2500 BC. Recorded in the Bhagavad Gita are the beliefs of the Hindu, which believed that there were many Gods who were all subject to a single Brahman god. There were many other ancient cultures that focused on polytheism, including those found in Rome, Assyria, Greece, Babylonia, and Egypt. As part of their core religious beliefs, they viewed gods as having control over natural events, including fertility and weather (rainfall, harvests, etc.). Another crucial part of their beliefs was the fact that they believed sacrifices had to be made in order to appease the gods. If their gods were appeased with their sacrifices, they believed this brought about favorable fertility and weather.
Pantheism is the belief that everything is God, including the universe as a divine being. There are many New Age movements that are resurrecting the prevalence of pantheism. At the core of this religion is that nature and everything else is a part of god, therefore, meaning humanity must be in harmony with nature. The more we nurture nature, the better it will nurture us. This belief states that humanity is no different than any other type of animal and it pushes people to study and learn from animals and nature.
Monotheism focuses on the belief that there is only one God and that he controls everything. This religion started around 2000 BC and originated with Abraham. Monotheism says that God has and continues to reveal himself through the nation of Israel. During a period of 1500 years, the Old Testament of the Bible was developed, which pinpoints important parts of history, including the journey of the Israelites as they went from slaves in Egypt and traveled into the Promised Land; they did this under the leadership of Moses. Monotheism also has a heavy focus on the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is believed to be the Messiah. His ministry ended around 32 AD in which he ascended to heaven and one day will return to gather his followers. When studying monotheism, you will also learn about Muhammad, who was a preacher in Mecca around 600 years after Christ’s ascension to heaven. Muhammad had a firm belief that he was the supreme prophet of God. Many of his followers are part of the Islam religion and community. His teachings can be found in the Qur’an.
Why is it important to understand religion and earn a seminary degree?
Some people ask themselves why is it important to study religion? Truth is, religion is one of the single most steadfast influences spanning across the entirety of human history. And while science has most definitely played its part in explaining human existence, religion still has a profound effect on humanity’s beliefs. From abortion to the death penalty, our views are largely impacted by our religions; this is why it is so important to understand religion.
At the core of every human being is the question, why are we here? How did we get here? What happens after death? For some people, concrete beliefs are developed during their lifetime, providing them with answers to these questions. For others, a study of religion helps them create answers that may or may not be set in stone. As they continue their study of religion, some of their beliefs may change.
As you study religion, you will gain the advantage of being able to explore various answers to the questions outlined above. You can use what you learn to develop your core beliefs as well as help others with their beliefs.
Probably the most valuable benefit of understanding religion is that you will see how it affects all aspects of humanity. From music to anthropology to education and even economics, religion shapes our views and ideas. For anyone who wants to pursue a career in any of the fields listed below, a seminary degree can be of great value:
- Political science
The Benefits of Going to Seminary College
If you are looking for reasons to attend a seminary school, you won’t have to look very far. There are numerous advantages of earning a credential in seminary, including the following:
- Biblical and theological advancement
- Access to specialists
- Theological diversity
- Fellowship and networking
- Deeper learning and understanding of various languages
- Development of new perspectives
Seminary school often does much more than provide you a better understanding of religion. It provides you with a new sense of who you are and why you are that person. You will be able to network with many other people just like you and this will prove paramount in your ministry career. It is important to note that some of the views you are presented with may not align with your current beliefs, thus challenging you. With an open mind, though, you can embrace these views and decide for yourself whether or not you choose to accept them. You can also develop a more concrete set of beliefs that you can share with those who are interested in gaining a better understanding of religion and how it impacts who they are.
Is financial aid available for seminary school?
Just the same as earning any other type of degree, a seminary degree is going to cost a lot of money. Fortunately, though, grants and scholarships are available. Even better is that most seminary colleges have their own financial aid offices that will assist in the process of finding financial assistance. There are a variety of faith-based foundations that offer aid to those pursuing a seminary degree. There are also theology fellowships that give away money to be used for the earning of a degree that can be used in the field of ministry.
What are the projected salaries for seminary careers?
In closing, let’s take a look at the projected salaries for those who go to seminary college and earn a degree. Please be mindful that these salary projections do vary based on a person’s experience and the level of degree that he possesses. For example, a person with 20+ years experience and a doctorate degree will likely make much more money than a person with 5+ years experience and only a bachelor’s degree.
As a pastor of a church, you can expect to make about $51,000 a year. However, keep in mind that many churches have more than one pastor. As a senior pastor, you can expect to make upward of $61,600 a year. Associate pastors usually earn about $41,000 a year. Seniority and years of experience tend to come into play when deciding who a senior pastor will be. If you want to be a chaplain, you will likely make around $50,000 a year. A youth pastor tends to make quite a bit less than an associate or senior pastor, with an average annual income of about $41,000 a year. And while gender should not impact how much money you make, statistics show that it does in the field of religion. Average female salaries in this field range from $30,866 to $60,604, while average male salaries range from $32,695 to $71,190.