Original article published in Today’s Christian Teen 2009 College Prep Guide
by Dave Schindel
Preaching God’s Word accurately depends heavily on good preparation. And good preparation requires the right kind of school for ministerial training. So how do you know which college will best equip you? Here are some questions to consider as you narrow down your choices.
What does the college say it does best?
If a school is not excited about preparing preachers, look elsewhere. It should be clear, from the administration on down, that in many ways the school exists to equip men to be qualified pastors. Such a priority should be readily apparent not only in the school’s promotional literature but also throughout the entire spirit and structure of the school—from the chapel platform, to the classrooms, to the residence halls. If you want to be ready for effective ministry, you’ll need to be in an atmosphere that is saturated with a passion for ministry.
Is theology paramount?
To serve the Lord you must know the Lord through studying His Word. A school’s strong emphasis on theology will both humble and enlighten you as you contemplate the nature and character of your God.
Is there strong emphasis on learning to interpret the Bible correctly?
When speaking for God, every preacher must say exactly what He has already said. As a preacher of the Gospel, you must be able to discern what the scriptural text means and then communicate it. Choose a school that teaches you how to rightly divide the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15).
Are studies in the liberal arts offered?
Although preaching is primary, the ministry of a pastor extends far beyond his pulpit. A pastor is expected to know how to fill many roles—speech, business, counsel and history, to name a few. Remember, the people you’ll serve will likely come from a wide spectrum of professions: engineers, farmers, nurses, bankers, accountants, physicians, attorneys and clerks. You’ll want to be able to relate to all of them.
Have they been where you will go?
You’ll need study under someone who knows ministry well. Because it’s one thing to lecture on a theory and quite another to teach from a background in real-life church ministry, make sure you attend a school with Bible faculty who are currently pastoring or honorably retired from years in the ministry. They will do much more than teach you—they will shape your perspective and pass along what they learned from a lifetime of ministry.
Do they pursue relationships with students after graduation?
Good teachers invest themselves in their students. Their concern goes beyond today’s class and tomorrow’s lecture. A teacher with a heart for the ministry will continue to communicate with a student after graduation. You’ll need those kinds of relationships as you complete your training and become a pastor.
Do they share your passion and commitment?
I can’t think of anything more depressing or discouraging than studying for the ministry with peers who are undisciplined, apathetic or carnal. Make sure the spiritual pulse of the student body is alive and genuine. It’s quite possible that a godly fellow student may become a complement and an encouragement to you in your future work.
Are there opportunities to practice what you’re learning?
Consider a school that encourages you to soak up knowledge as you study and then share what you’ve learned for the benefit of others. Your college should give you several ministry opportunities from which to choose.
To find the answers to these questions, you may need to visit the college or university you are considering attending—or at a minimum, have several in-depth conversations with an admissions counselor. Also, talk to your parents and your pastor. Remember, the God Who has called you into ministry has just the right place for you to be trained.