As a graduate of two seminaries and as a current seminary instructor, I have often internally cringed at statements like, “Seminary classes need to be more practical” or “The seminary isn’t doing enough to care for the students’ spiritual needs.” On the one hand, a theological education should not be impractical, not should it ignore the spiritual formation of students. After all, the primary purpose of most seminaries is to train people to serve the local church in various capacities. But in the same breath, I fear that statements like those above betray a misunderstanding of the respective roles of both seminaries and the local church.
Many churches (but not all churches!) seem to believe that it is the seminary’s job to train, mentor, educate, and evaluate future ministers, evangelists, church planters, etc. But the seminary is being given an impossible task. Churches often perfunctorily sign-off on a recommendation form, and hand over people who are immature in their faith, expecting the seminary to single-handedly transform them into pastors. The seminary is seen as a pastor factory that should churn out graduates who are academically and practically prepared for full-time ministry, with the requisite personal spiritual maturity and godly character.