(Sixth in a series. To be continued.)
What are some advantages of pastors’ colleges? We’ll start with a less-important matter that, opened up, will give us the opportunity to get at more important things.
Pastors colleges cost less.
Maybe the most significant money saved when local church pastors and elders teach men preparing for ministry is their not having to bear the support of a legacy seminary’s profs and their families through tuition payments. Church officers are already supported in other ways so most pastors college teachers will be able to donate their time.
But not just profs—think of all the other costs legacy seminaries must bear and charge tuition to cover.
It’s one thing for aspiring engineers, public school teachers, health care workers, computer scientists, designers, and people getting an MBA to leave higher education with their degree and a pile of debt. It’s quite another thing for the pastor to leave with his MDiv and debt.
Most pastors made a decision to love the church rather than money. From the start they knew they would be paid less than their peers in the working world. They also knew they would be forgoing a second income from their wife if their wife gave herself to teaching, helping, and counselling the women of the church as Titus 2 calls for.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the mean wage of pastors in my state of Indiana just now at $23 an hour. This may sound good, but keep in mind pastors are self-employed for the purposes of FICA and must bear the entire 15% themselves, and also that our wife’s work is serving the church without pay. There are other factors I won’t go into but it’s safe to say most pastors would get a significant raise if their church paid them the average household income of the other church officers.
The mean household income across the U.S. among Caucasians is $70,000—far above the mean income of pastors. Now then, do we really want to saddle our pastors with higher education debt as they plant a church or take their first staff or small church position? Legacy seminaries vary in tuition and fees, but here are some samples. Keep in mind these costs don’t include room and board:
- Concordia Seminary: $30,000
- Covenant Theological Seminary: $14,000
- Dallas Theological Seminary: $16,000
- Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary: $21,000
- Masters Seminary: $30,000
- Southern Baptist Theological Seminary: $20,000
- Westminster Theological Seminary: $16,000
Beyond the cost of profs’ salaries, men being trained by their local church don’t have to pay for the maintenance of Gordon-Conwell’s large and beautiful campus on Boston’s North Shore, its snow plowing or grass cutting. The don’t have to pay the salary of the campus police officer and his police car. They don’t have to pay to keep up the campus road and parking lots. They don’t have to pay for heating and cooling the many buildings filled with many classrooms and offices. They don’t have to keep the large new library staffed, nor must they bear the cost of sending Roger Nicole to Europe on book-buying trips.
And no, the absence of a seminary library does not amount to much of a loss in the local church’s training of future pastors.
First, print books often are available at local colleges and universities. Take Bloomington, for instance; the book and journal resources here are so massive, they render any seminary library insignificant except in a few highly specialized areas of study. Even then, the internet, computer programs, and e-text come into play. The man being trained can spend the equivalent of one-tenth of one year’s tuition at a legacy seminary and purchase an astounding package of books and references that will permanently dwell on his laptop, or he can subscribe to these resources at an even lower cost.
In connection with seminary libraries and books, we could go on for a while about the revolution caused by the internet. What a treasure scanners and e-text readers have produced! True, a budding pastor has to learn how to find things on the web. It’s a skill surprisingly few people have learned. He also has to be familiar with copyright law lest he gets snookered by unethical e-text producers who will try to browbeat him into thinking they own copyright for historic sources that, in reality, he himself owns because they are in the public domain.
While it’s true seminary profs’ books and commentaries aren’t yet in the public domain, one of the first things men aspiring to the pastoral office should learn is that the latest books and commentaries are overrated. Once a man dies to the au courant fallacy—what’s latest is greatest—he is ready to learn that his preaching and teaching will improve if he gives himself to the scholarship of men who are dead for his insights into the meaning and import of the text of Scripture. Dead men’s Biblical scholarship is superior to most Christian college and seminary profs today if for no other reason than the dead man’s immunity to the stultifying pressures of political correctness that gag so much Biblical scholarship today.
There are other large-ticket items the seminary has to pay for which the church doesn’t need.
The local church giving herself to training pastors need not come up with the large salary required to hire a President who is cultured enough and has an academic pedigree sufficient to impress the rich, nor the Vice President for Development who can run behind him sweeping up the cash. The church lives on the tithes and offerings of God’s people who are thankful to see their human resources and facilities used during the week to train her future shepherds.
(Sixth in a series. To be continued.)