These are exciting and challenging times to serve as a pastor or lay professional leader in the church. The religious landscape in America has changed dramatically in the last half-century. American culture has become more secular even as the nation’s people become religiously more diverse. At the same time, people are more open about their spiritual hunger and curiosity. Solid training of its leaders is crucial if the church is to meet today’s challenges and opportunities.
People go to seminary for a variety of reasons, including:
- Preparation for ordained or lay ministry in the church
- Preparation for doctoral programs leading to a teaching career
- Graduate-level study of the Christian faith or other faith traditions
- Exploration of one’s own sense of calling
Those who answer the call to ordained ministry:
- Proclaim God’s Word administer the Sacraments
- Teach and foster spiritual growth
- Lead worship
- Provide pastoral care and counseling
- Lead God’s people – spiritually and institutionally
Others are called to lay ministries:
- Christian education
- Youth ministry
- Church music
- Social work
- Parish administration
- The diaconate
A seminary education is required for some of these positions and recommended for others.
The diaconate refers to different things in different communities of faith:
- To Roman Catholics, a “permanent deacon” is a male, at least 35 years of age, married or single, who is ordained to a ministry of charity. Seminary training is not required.
- In United Methodism, deacons are ordained to a ministry of Word and Service, working in both church and world. Seminary training is required.
- In the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, diaconal ministers (both men and women) are consecrated for service in ministries at the intersection of Church and the world. Seminary training is required. Deaconesses are women who are consecrated to ministries of service and who become members of the Deaconess community.