As I mentioned in my post yesterday (see “Things to consider when choosing a seminary: #1, doctrine”) my colleagues at Western Seminary found through surveys of incoming students and prospective studentsthat the three most important factors considered when people choose a seminary are:
(3) Academic Reputation
Today I will address the second item on this list. The faculty of a seminary matter for a variety of reasons. For example:
- Do you want to go on to further academic studies? If so, it helps to study with professors who are accomplished in that area. You will want to find a school where the teachers have been published, where they contribute to journal articles, where they motivate their students to participate in academic societies.
- Do you want to become the “pastor-theologian” type? You may want to go to a school where they mix academic reputation with pragmatic experience. In other words, I don’t know that a seminary full of academics with no experience in the pastorate will be as beneficial to you as a professor who has one foot in the academy and one foot in the church (and yes, N.T. Wright is not the only one to do this).
- Do you want to be mentored? Remember, it is possible that if you go to a seminary heavy on academics there is a chance the professors will be busy behind closed doors writing away on their next book. Some seminaries may be better than others in the area of relationships and mentoring. Ask about this when considering a seminary.
I am sure that I can add many more scenarios for you to consider, but let’s move on to the aesthetics of their teaching. Can you handle lecturers? Do you prefer a professor who engages the classroom in discussion? What about their methods for testing? Do most professors do multiple choice type quizzes or do they ask you to write papers and give presentations? Do you learn better with one approach over another?
Personally, I hate (HATE!) quizzes. I hate memorizing to regurgitate. I don’t learn a thing.
Personally, I love (LIKE!) writing papers. I enjoy the research. I like formulating a thesis statement and shaping my argument.
Personally, I think I enjoy a mixture of lectures with class discussion. I had one professor who was excellent at this in seminary. The first half of our time together he informed us. The second half of our time together he let us loose to debate each other. It was great.
I’ve had professors incorporate movies and art. I’ve had others who would use every chalk board on the room to list all the views on a theological matter and then he’d let the students tell the class which view resonated with their views.
It is one thing to look at a professor’s credentials. It is equally important to know your learning style. I think this is often overlooked and I think you should consider it when you are searching for the right seminary. Often, the only way to know about professors beforehand is to visit a class as a prospective student or to ask people who have had that professor about their experience.
What would you add? What do you/did you look for in a professor or broader faculty? Your thoughts are welcomed in the comments.