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A Case for Higher Education

(picture originally uploaded to Flickr by clevercupcakes)

A friend of mine, Matt Guevara, recently received his Masters in Children and Family Ministry from Bethel Seminary. He posted this about his views on the importance of higher education when it comes to being in children’s ministry.

Here’s a quote:

“…I spent more time finding out where to answer questions no one is asking and who to answer these questions with. And the truth of the matter is that Bethel found a way to teach me, a guy who thought that I already knew the answer to everything, that unless men and women lead others through forays into the questions no one is asking, we will not be able to answer the questions people are asking.”

I loved what Matt had to say about the benefits of higher education. While practical experience is necessary, I think that you also need to have quality education that goes along with the experiences. If there’s one thing I really appreciated about my university experience, it is that I learned how to learn. I haven’t run into too many people without a university degree who know how to continue learning and grow.

What has been your experience with higher education?

Do you agree that higher education can serve to enhance ministry and other areas of life?

Or do you think things like seminary are a waste of time?

7 Responses to “A Case for Higher Education”

  1. Dave June 11, 2009 at 9:11 pm #

    Wow, as a guy who loves to learn, but never finished a higher-ed degree, I'd probably disagree with you somewhat. My personal experience with many guys with seminary degrees is that they tend to think "inside" the box. There is a theology and methodology that is passed as tradition from instructor to student over generations that tends to pigeon-hole ministers into ways of thinking that are incredibly hard for them to move out of. How many guys have you seen or heard, straight out of seminary say, "Gee, they never taught us this in seminary."

    Jesus' disciples were unschooled, ordinary men who had been with Jesus. I take some comfort in that when I'm sitting among my fellow staff members, two of whom work and teach at a seminary, and all of whom (except me), who have MDiv's or PhD's.

    My $.02

    • Henry Zonio June 12, 2009 at 3:28 pm #

      I've run into those same people who are useless with a seminary degree, but more often than not my experience has been that those with higher education degrees tend to be more articulate and well versed about what they do and why. There are always those people who love to learn and continue learning with or without a degree. I think, though, that we've beat up too much on higher education in church world. Yes, there were the disciples who were unschooled when Jesus called them, but he taught them. And let's not forget the one person who contributed most of the New Testament, Paul, who was one of the most schooled people there was. I'm just saying that we need to stop beating up on higher education and advocate and both/and approach: education and experience.

  2. Dave June 12, 2009 at 7:13 pm #

    Of course, you're talking to someone who home schools all four of my kids because I believe, overall, our education system gets a major #fail. Just so you know what kind of strong bias I have ;)

    One other comment – Jesus taught certainly taught his disciples, but does that mean that short of being taught by Jesus or in seminary, that we can't be effective ministers or disciples? One other problem with seminarians is the tendency to elevate them to a different status of disciple or kingdom role, which goes against much of what the reformers were about in deconstructing the catholic priesthood. We say we believe in a priesthood of believers, yet we evangelicals hire our own priesthood to take official roles that we assume unlearned, ordinary folk can't handle. Minor case-in-point: How many churches have a stated policy that only their ordained ministers can marry or baptize congregants? Where does this come from?

    My point would be that many of the finest, wisest, servant leaders I know are those who are "ordinary" folk, self-taught and taught within the give and take of scripture lived out in community, not those taught within a formal systematic theology.

    Thanks for the thread, Matt.

    • Henry Zonio June 13, 2009 at 11:00 pm #

      I'm just glad that God can use us all whether we are educated or not. I've had the privilege of working with some very gifted people on either end of the spectrum. Thanks Dave for contributing!

  3. Matt Guevara June 14, 2009 at 2:44 am #

    I think the value of Bethel's program (which is my only higher education experience) is that I was allowed to participate while doing full-time ministry. It took longer than a traditional program, but I think I learned a heckuva lot more. In my experience in non-denomination and Pentecostal churches, education does not bring greater respect. However, many – many – many times, children's and family ministry leaders are not allowed or welcome to the leadership table because they lack educational credentials (for good or for ill). Of course, I realize that not all people can undertake a seminary experience, but Bethel's program in particular was not about what we are supposed to know to be a better leader but how to learn and teach what we don't know.

  4. jcisonline June 16, 2009 at 2:18 pm #

    well I got my "higher education" in Marketing. Here is the way that I would talk about it and this is kinda how I feel with most education that most of your app type learning happens in high school and beyond. So if you don't enjoy science, english, math, reading, or athletics then most of the time there is nothing for you until high school and beyond.

    So to me all of your "higher education" happens after high school whether you went to a college or not. But I know that my college experience has benefited me a ton in ministry. Communication, production, and branding are just a few of the things that have been enhanced for me because of school. But more than anything by going to a liberal school I experienced people in a brand new way. God grew me more thru stories of people and dialogue with people with much much much different views than I. But God taught me to love others more than I have ever before in my life.

    Last thing. School is like everything else, it's what you make of it. Just because you were there doesn't mean u got anything out of it.

    Great post and cool comment dialogue!

  5. henryjz June 16, 2009 at 9:36 pm #

    thanks for your input!

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