The Healthy Church Staff Podcast

Do You Really Need that Degree?

February 27, 2024 Todd Rhoades Season 1 Episode 37
The Healthy Church Staff Podcast
Do You Really Need that Degree?
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Ever pondered if a seminary degree is your golden ticket to meaningful ministry work? Join me, Todd Rhoades, as we unpack a topic close to the hearts of many in the religious community. In our latest episode, we explore the landscape of theological education, navigating through the significance of various academic qualifications, from associate degrees all the way to the prestigious Doctor of Ministry. We tackle the tough questions about whether higher education is a must-have for those feeling the call to serve and discuss the daunting reality of student loan debt that often accompanies such pursuits.

Now, let's talk about readiness and life experience. Do they trump formal education when it comes to leading a congregation? This conversation is an essential listen for anyone seeking guidance on balancing the inner calling with the quest for qualifications. Expect to be reassured and inspired, whether you hold a stack of diplomas or carry a wealth of life lessons. Your journey in ministry is unique, and this heart-to-heart is crafted to affirm that there is a role for every called individual in the church, degree or no degree. Share your own insights and stories with us – your voice is a vital part of this ongoing dialogue.

Have questions or comments? Send to podcast@chemistrystaffing.com

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Speaker 1:

Hello friend, welcome to the Healthy Church Staff Podcast. My name is Todd Rhodes. I'm one of the co-founders over at chemistrystaffingcom and today, on the podcast we're going to talk about, do you really need that degree? What degree do you need to have to be able to work in a church? I'm going to give you a really consultant-y answer today and I hope you enjoy it. Here it goes. It depends. That's really helpful, isn't it? First of all, let's describe. When we talk about degrees, what are we really talking about? Of course, there are associates, there's high school diplomas, there's associate degrees, there's bachelor's degrees of all different types. But a lot of times when we're talking with candidates at chemistrystaffing, they are asking do I really need to have that MDiv degree or do I need to have that Dmin degree? And still, my answer is depends. It depends on what position you're trying to hold or what position you're applying for at a church. Also, it depends on the church. Every church is different. So an MDiv if you're not familiar with it, it's pretty much a standard professional degree for those that are entering into ordained ministry. A Dmin is the more professional doctorate degree. It's designed a lot of times for those that are already in ministry and it focuses on enhancing your ministry skills and your leadership capabilities, and it usually requires a few years of study, even beyond the MDiv. A couple of different degrees and there's all different kinds of degrees, but in the church world, the MDiv and the Dmin are two of the most sought after, both by individuals and by churches. Both of those degrees require rigorous study and reflection and understanding.

Speaker 1:

So let's take a look. What are the trends in degrees versus no degrees? And I would say over the last 20 years there's been less overall not in all areas, but overall in the church less kind of demand for degrees. Okay, mdiv degrees have slightly declined from about 1998 until 2017, which is the last stats that I could find. Back in 1998, about 55% of pastors and church leaders had MDiv degrees. That went down from 55% to about 50% in about nine years, so that went down quite a bit. And then 20 years ago about 25 years ago actually about 45% of Protestant senior pastors had seminary degrees. That went down to about 43%, so it went down a couple percent back in 2007. And overall, about one in five pastors have no formal theological education. So about 20% have no formal theological education, seminary education, at all, and that includes about 22% with just a bachelor's degree, about 5% that have no college degree at all. So what does all this mean? Here's going back to my consultants answer no one size fits all. It really depends Some people, some churches, have a much stronger bent toward academia.

Speaker 1:

Some have a bent toward kind of practical, everyday life experience. Some churches value and require more rigorous theological training. Some churches simply don't. They don't value that as much as they do maybe a shepherd's heart and some practical ministry and life experience. Here's one thing I will say, and we talk with candidates all day long, every day. A lot of times there are some candidates that I really do feel are overeducated. And the only thing I want to say I don't want to take anybody off here, I really don't but we talk with candidates sometimes that have that man, they love academia, they could be in school all the time and that's awesome. But here's the challenge with that a lot of times is that we also meet a lot of pastors with maybe two M-dives and they're working on their demon and they love school, they love learning, and that's all great, but they're also paying for it and the amount of student loans and student debt that a lot of pastors are carrying now is just astronomical and I don't know how some that we talk to will ever be able to pay off that debt. Use your balance there Now.

Speaker 1:

There are benefits to getting your degree, so I am not pooping all over education. I think education is great. It helps you to deepen your knowledge. It helps you to deepen your understanding. It does enhance your credibility. It broadens your perspectives and it really does. It strengthens your qualifications, it anchors your calling and it really helps you to develop a whole range of skills that you wouldn't get if you didn't go to get that degree. Also helps you to network. It helps you to know people and to expand your horizons just with the people you know. Okay, so there are really great benefits to getting your education. But and getting one of those or both of those types of degrees but you know what You're okay if you don't, if you don't have those degrees, chances are you've learned from your lived experiences. You have reduced financial burdens, like I said, and you can start ministering sooner. We see a lot of career paths these days that start with an internship, maybe go to a residency, and then go right straight into church work and you get to gain unique perspectives, although they're not as rigid, but you get to gain those unique perspectives. You get that hands-on experience and you get right to work really quickly without taking the time for the education or the expense of that education.

Speaker 1:

And people that don't get their degree are every bit hear this, they're every bit as called many times as those that go and get their Dmin or their MDiv, so they're just maybe relying on their calling a little bit different way. So here are a few myths that I want you to hear. The degrees don't determine the pastoral quality of care. So while the degrees can help you theologically, they don't necessarily overwrite the qualities that God has given to you. And quality pastoral care can be given just as well by someone that doesn't have the degree than someone that has all of the schooling. Another myth lacking a degree doesn't invalidate your calling or your service. I just talked about this. People that don't have the degree, many times by those that have the degrees, are looked down upon. But you don't look down on those people. They've been called of God just like you. And remember Moses. Moses stuttered and yet was used powerfully. There were no seminaries back in the day. God used both the learned and he used the fishermen. That's something to really think about and you just need to focus on preparedness over degrees sometimes.

Speaker 1:

Now, why are we even talking about this? Because, like I said, I don't want to make anyone mad. I am in no way tamping down any kind of endorsement for higher education. Matter of fact, I think it's very important, but we get asked this question all the time Do I really need the degree? And my answer is, like I said, it depends.

Speaker 1:

If you're trying to get a job as a pastor in a church, that is, in a community that's highly educated and that very much values those higher education degrees, then you're going to have a hard time.

Speaker 1:

Okay, if you're looking for a church, to be a pastor in a church that values more experience, life experience, then I don't think it's going to be an issue. If education is one thing, it broadens your possibilities. But if you don't have that degree, if you've not taken the time to go and get that advanced degree, it doesn't in any way invalidate your calling and it doesn't mean that you're not going to be able to find a job. It just might take a little bit longer. The path to ministry hey guys, the path to ministry is not standardized. Readiness, willingness are really some things that count and, that said, you may not qualify for as many roles without your degree and your search may take longer, but absolutely, if God's called you, I believe he's got a place for you. Love to hear your feedback, your comments on this and you can reach me anytime at podcast at chemistrystaffingcom. We'll be back tomorrow. Hope you join us.

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