Sometimes it seems that only the only the “rich people” (or their parents) can actually afford to pay the college and seminary tuition to prepare to answer God’s call to full time ministry and that churches end up hiring new graduates that are drowning in student loan debt. One pastor friend I know graduated with an MDiv seminary degree strapped with $100k in student loan debt and then went to serve as a pastor in a small town out west. Jesus told us to pray for more workers in the harvest fields but what if many aren’t able to pay the financial price to get that training. Yes Jesus can miraculously provide, but what if we came up with acceptable alternatives? How many more Christian workers could there be in churches and the mission field if we could do something about the financial burden?
A very effective pastor who didn’t go to seminary or Bible college but leads one of the most effective churches in the nation and writes a lot of great books is Pastor Greg Laurie from Harvest in Riverside, CA. I stumbled across a 2013 video from well known Pastor Matt Chandler where he shares how he never went to seminary and then I see he started going to Wheaton graduate school in 2019 – it seems to me Chandler was doing a great job even without that masters degree. A.W. Tozer never even finished high school and we read his books and see his quotes all the time.
Share other well known pastors who did not go to seminary in the comments area below and we might list them here.
If you feel God is calling you to serve Him in full time ministry and you can come up with the tens of thousands of dollars you will need to pay for Bible college and or seminary then you should do it and I’m sure it will be one of the greatest experiences of your life. But if the only way you can get that degree is to bury yourself in debt so you can humbly serve Jesus and His church, that might be a gamble and a risk that might bring hardship to your future and your family. And if you are faithfully waiting for God to provide the money for that degree, be sure to learn all you can with resources you can find and afford while you are waiting.
I would guess that in the near future Christian colleges and seminaries that stand up for Biblical morality will soon be cut off from government financial aid and low interest loans. And churches will be losing their tax exempt status and may have less money to give to help fund these institutions. The church needs to get back to training up people to serve in ministry without sending their most enthusiastic workers away for years to get that education and those tools they are told they need to serve effectively.
Remember that when you apply for a ministry job they are going to ask you to tell them about these three things (you want to do well in all three areas):
- Tell me about your walk with Jesus
- Tell me about your ministry training
- Tell me about your ministry experience
I saw an additional question on the Converge (Baptist) Church Denomination application that asks you to tell them about your debts.
So my point is that churches need to offer their people other ways to prepare to fulfill their call to Christian ministry by offering classes themselves, or promoting classes/programs they think valuable, or maybe by offering to pay for people to get those degrees while working in their church. And that churches should consider hiring experienced ministry leaders that don’t have seminary degrees. Some people need to the structured learning institutions offer while others are able to learn the same information through books, videos and serving in their local church.
If you aren’t seeking a degree but just want to learn to serve Jesus more effectively at a speed faster than your church can offer, below I have listed some great training resources that will give you much of the same kind of information you would get at Bible College or Seminary. And if you’ve already earned degrees at those types of institutions here are some great resources to help you stay sharp and equip others.
Billy Graham School Evangelism https://billygrahamonlinetraining.org/
If you sign up for the monthly Logos Bible/Faithlife Connect you can get 1-4 free online classes a year that are well done. https://connect.faithlife.com/pricing
Pathway Church Pastor and Tozer Seminary Professor Bill Giovannetti is also trying to tackle this need to train people in the church with his new Veritas School of Ministry. If you look around the Veritas School of Online Ministry website and get on their mailing list you can often find free sample classes and discount codes https://www.veritasschool.life/schedule-sample-thank-you
Crown College often has free online courses available https://www.crown.edu/extensions/professional-development/free-courses/
Dallas Theological Seminary often has free online courses available https://courses.dts.edu/home-2/
Liberty University has some free courses on iTunes U and other sites https://www.learnoutloud.com/Results/Publisher/Liberty-University/1630
You can learn Biblical Greek or Bible Study Greek using computer tools with Greek Scholar Bill Mounce https://www.billmounce.com/
You may be able to attend Moody Bible Institute tuition free (you still need to pay for room/board/books/fees) https://education.moodybible.org/ba-biblical-preaching-request-info
There are some seminary courses on https://Christianaudio.com My favorite is THE CHRISTIAN AND OLD TESTAMENT THEOLOGY by Walter Kaiser
There are some seminary-like teaching on Audible including
Systematic Theology 1 & 2 by Wayne Grudem
You can learn Christ Centered Preaching with Dr Bryan Chappell
You can find a lot of answers to questions you have or people are asking you at https://gotquestions.org
Training Opportunities in the Christian & Missionary Alliance
The Alliance has a rich history of offering quality, Christian education in the United States and overseas. From Alliance colleges and seminaries to the Alliance Center for Leadership Development we have seen that theological schools are an effective tool for preparing Christians for church leadership that spark a passion among emerging leaders to fulfill the Great Commission! Alliance Schools also help to Fully ground Christian leaders in our heritage, mission, vision, and convictions. And to Train future leaders in the deeper life and in missions, equipping them to disciple others and lead Great Commission churches. There are now over 100 C&MA Bible schools around the world for the training of pastors and church leaders, including six Alliance education centers across North America: see http://cmalliance.org/ministries/education
For years the Christian & Missionary Alliance has offered a Ministerial Studies Program (MSP) as an alternate training program. And now there is the LEAD program in the C&MA that can help get you licensed and a ministry opportunity in the Christian & Missionary Alliance https://www.leadcma.org/
There are some free training videos on the LEADCMA site that may be helpful for anyone serving in ministry https://www.leadcma.org/blog/
The Alliance Center for Leadership Development exists to equip the called.
We help those called to serve the church in leadership get the training they need. We help current ministry leaders further develop their skills and provide key ministry certifications. We also serve the church by providing effective training courses for local volunteer leaders to be better equipped to serve the church. If you feel called to serve, we’re here to serve you. see https://www.allianceleaders.org/
I will continue to update this post as I recall more resources. Make your suggestions in the comments site and we might add them to this list.