Mentorships - alternative to seminary?

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Herald

Administrator
Staff member
This thread was started because of comments made in the Peter Enns thread. Let me start out by stating that I am not against seminaries. They have been a valuable service to Christ's church. I am wondering whether they are the only way to adequately train men for ministry. The idea of a mentorship was mentioned in the other thread. Allow me to share a few thoughts on how this mentorship would work. The local church would be responsible for recognizing ministerial gifts in the individual. A call would be made to train the individual for ministry. What would the training entail? Here are some thoughts:

1. Evaluation by the elders Once a candidate for ministry is identified, the candidate will be interviewed by the elders regarding a lifetime of service as a minister of the gospel. The entire process, from call to ordination, is covered in detail with the candidate. A period of time will be given for the candidate to pray and consider the commitment that is necessary for ministry. Instead of attending bible college and/or seminary in the hopes of receiving the call for ministry, the elders indentify those who are to be called (1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6, 2:2).
2. Call to ministry After a time of prayer and consideration the candidate is then formally called to ministry by the elders. The call is both private and public. It is private between the elders and the candidate. Once the candidate accepts the elders call to ministry, he is then presented before the church body who give witness to his call. This formal call can be a source of great comfort to the ministerial candidate. Instead of wondering whether or not he is called, the candidate has the assurance that the elders have indentified the gifts within him and have presented him in front of the body as one who is to be trained for ministry.
3. Academic training The ministerial candidate will receive all the academic training necessary for a minister of the gospel. Formal training in all aspects of theology and biblical languages will be administered by the elders and whoever else they designate as qualified to teach. The candidate will be well read. In addition he will be tested vigorously on the content of his academic training.
4. Practical ministry The ministerial candidate will perform most aspects of ministry under the guidance of the elders. Teaching, preaching, church administration, visitation etc. Personally I would withhold administration of the Lord’s Supper or baptism. I believe that is the responsibility of an ordained elder or pastor.
5. Personal mentorship The ministerial candidate will maintain a close relationship with the elders throughout his training. Informal conversations, time with the elders family, formal reviews, teacher-pupil interaction etc. At no time will the candidate be on his own. At all times the elders will have a view of the candidates heart for ministry and his character. Questions or concerns will be able to be dealt with quickly. A student who is away at seminary may be absent from watchful eyes in the local church. A mentorship will provide the watchful eye for the benefit of the candidate and Christ’s church.
6. Ordination and placement Once the candidates training is complete he will be ordained as a minister of the gospel and placed for ministry, whether this be in his existing church or another church. If the candidate is to be a missionary they will be commended to that work with the support of their local body.

Understand that what I just shared is a rough schematic of how a mentorship program would work between a local church and a candidate for ministry. It is not meant to be exhaustive. I am quite sure there are plenty of holes that could be attacked. I am interested in discussing the idea and how to develop a working model that can be replicated in different churches.

Again, this is not an attack on seminaries. I am merely recommending discussion on an alternative.

Comments?
 

westminken

Puritan Board Freshman
This sounds very plausible. The only concern that I have is how many churches feel that they could adequately provide the necessary shepherding, academic training, etc to fully prepare a candidate for ministry. I suppose it could be done on a case by case basis based on the candidate. Please do not get me wrong, I truly believe it is a great theory but again, the concern I have is for the local church and their willingness and/or capacity to do something like this.
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
Kenneth, that is a valid concern. I thought about that while typing my OP. Of course I am going on the assumption that a church is capable of this type of program. Ideally pastors and elders from various churches would come together to develop the practicum and the curriculum.

Also, what does it say about the church when we even need to discuss whether it is qualified to equip men for ministry?
 

westminken

Puritan Board Freshman
Yes, I agree with this. Ideally, for Presbyterians, it could be done on the presbytery level and independents it could be done with the help of "associations" or the equivalent. Yes, thanks for the clarification.
 

westminken

Puritan Board Freshman
I did not see the last comment before posting my reply.

My concern is not the qualifications of the church. Where better to be equipped for the ministry than in the church. Before you can shepherd the flock, you have to be one of the flock. My concern is related to the willingness of the local church itself. Under your theory, you felt ideally it would have to be a group effort rather than a lone church effort. That I totally agree with. I am thinking, as an example, of churches that feel in this particular stage of their life that training candidates is not a high priority and thus truly called men have no options in their local congregation other than seminary or search out another church that would be willing to train them.

Just food for thought. Personally I wish "the Log College" system was still considered viable.
 

Presbyterian Deacon

Puritan Board Graduate
I did not see the last comment before posting my reply.

My concern is not the qualifications of the church. Where better to be equipped for the ministry than in the church. Before you can shepherd the flock, you have to be one of the flock. My concern is related to the willingness of the local church itself. Under your theory, you felt ideally it would have to be a group effort rather than a lone church effort. That I totally agree with. I am thinking, as an example, of churches that feel in this particular stage of their life that training candidates is not a high priority and thus truly called men have no options in their local congregation other than seminary or search out another church that would be willing to train them.

Just food for thought. Personally I wish "the Log College" system was still considered viable.

Interesting you should mention "the Log College." As I was reading through the opening post, and the next couple, my thoughts turned to the Log College of the days of William Tennent.

Bill--

Have you read Alexander's book, The Log College? Your thoughts on mentorship seem ideally suited to that type work. There was, from what I have read, such wonderful hands on, one to one mentorship in those days. And the quality of ministers which came from the Log College has yet to be equalled in history.

Of course, as history as shown, such approach seems to "evolve" (if I may use that word here) into the seminary system.

:2cents:
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
Sterling, I will check out "The Log College." I like the premise. Maybe what we need is a bit of devolution, not evolution!
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
The Log College

Log College

Log College was the name given to a school that William Tennent, an Irish-born, Edinburgh-educated Presbyterian minister, conducted at Neshaminy, Bucks County, Pennsylvania from 1726 until his death in 1745. Here, in a ``log house, about twenty feet long and near as many broad,'' Tennent drilled his pupils in the ancient languages and the Bible and filled them with an evangelical zeal that a number of them, his four sons included, manifested conspicuously during the religious revivals known as The Great Awakening.
The name ``Log College'' was at first applied derisively by Old Side Presbyterians who disliked some of the excitable and intrusive methods of its New Side graduates and disdained the narrowness of their training. But in time it took on a prouder connotation as its graduates filled vacancies in the growing number of Presbyterian congregations in the Middle Colonies and in the South and founded schools on the frontier modeled on their Alma Mater.

THE PRINCETON CONNECTION

Some writers have assumed that the College of New Jersey grew directly out of the Log College, that indeed it could be regarded as a continuation of it, but, as President Maclean and Professor Wertenbaker have shown, this assumption is not supported by the facts.

The Log College adherents, Professor Wertenbaker pointed out, were not among the seven original incorporators of the College of New Jersey on October 22, 1746. Moreover, it was the educational ideas of these seven men, all graduates of Yale or Harvard, that were embodied in the charter they obtained, establishing a college for the education of youth in the liberal arts and sciences -- not those of the adherents of the Log College where personal piety and religious experience were emphasized, and as President Maclean said, ``the great benefits of mental discipline . . . and of polite learning were not estimated at their full value.''

However, soon after the College of New Jersey was founded, a number of Log College men rallied to its support and joined with their New Side brethren from Yale and Harvard in rendering it conspicuous service. Six months after the granting of the charter, three Log College graduates -- Samuel Blair, Gilbert Tennent, and William Tennent, Jr. -- and Samuel Finley, who was probably also an alumnus, and Richard Treat, who was one of its adherents, accepted election as Princeton trustees. Finley later became fifth president.

Samuel Davies, who preceded Finley as president, studied with Samuel Blair and thus fell heir to the influence of the Log College. It was, moreover, Davies and Gilbert Tennent who, sent to Great Britain by the trustees in 1753, raised there the funds to build Nassau Hall.

Thus, while the facts do not warrant Princeton's pushing its founding date back to 1726, as has sometimes been proposed, they do show that an historical debt of gratitude is due some of William Tennent, Sr.'s pupils and some of their pupils for the substantial help -- both spiritual and practical -- they gave the College of New Jersey during its formative years.

From Alexander Leitch, A Princeton Companion, copyright Princeton University Press (1978).

Interesting. Not exactly what I had in mind, but it has many similarities.
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
I did not see the last comment before posting my reply.

My concern is not the qualifications of the church. Where better to be equipped for the ministry than in the church. Before you can shepherd the flock, you have to be one of the flock. My concern is related to the willingness of the local church itself. Under your theory, you felt ideally it would have to be a group effort rather than a lone church effort. That I totally agree with. I am thinking, as an example, of churches that feel in this particular stage of their life that training candidates is not a high priority and thus truly called men have no options in their local congregation other than seminary or search out another church that would be willing to train them.

Just food for thought. Personally I wish "the Log College" system was still considered viable.

Kenneth,

Yes, I am not sure that most individual churches could make this work on their own. It would take the cooperation of like-minded churches (congregational) or on the presbytery level (hierarchal). Not only would it be necessary, it would be wise.
 

Presbyterian Deacon

Puritan Board Graduate
Log College

Log College was the name given to a school that William Tennent, an Irish-born, Edinburgh-educated Presbyterian minister, conducted at Neshaminy, Bucks County, Pennsylvania from 1726 until his death in 1745. Here, in a ``log house, about twenty feet long and near as many broad,'' Tennent drilled his pupils in the ancient languages and the Bible and filled them with an evangelical zeal that a number of them, his four sons included, manifested conspicuously during the religious revivals known as The Great Awakening.
The name ``Log College'' was at first applied derisively by Old Side Presbyterians who disliked some of the excitable and intrusive methods of its New Side graduates and disdained the narrowness of their training. But in time it took on a prouder connotation as its graduates filled vacancies in the growing number of Presbyterian congregations in the Middle Colonies and in the South and founded schools on the frontier modeled on their Alma Mater.

THE PRINCETON CONNECTION

Some writers have assumed that the College of New Jersey grew directly out of the Log College, that indeed it could be regarded as a continuation of it, but, as President Maclean and Professor Wertenbaker have shown, this assumption is not supported by the facts.

The Log College adherents, Professor Wertenbaker pointed out, were not among the seven original incorporators of the College of New Jersey on October 22, 1746. Moreover, it was the educational ideas of these seven men, all graduates of Yale or Harvard, that were embodied in the charter they obtained, establishing a college for the education of youth in the liberal arts and sciences -- not those of the adherents of the Log College where personal piety and religious experience were emphasized, and as President Maclean said, ``the great benefits of mental discipline . . . and of polite learning were not estimated at their full value.''

However, soon after the College of New Jersey was founded, a number of Log College men rallied to its support and joined with their New Side brethren from Yale and Harvard in rendering it conspicuous service. Six months after the granting of the charter, three Log College graduates -- Samuel Blair, Gilbert Tennent, and William Tennent, Jr. -- and Samuel Finley, who was probably also an alumnus, and Richard Treat, who was one of its adherents, accepted election as Princeton trustees. Finley later became fifth president.

Samuel Davies, who preceded Finley as president, studied with Samuel Blair and thus fell heir to the influence of the Log College. It was, moreover, Davies and Gilbert Tennent who, sent to Great Britain by the trustees in 1753, raised there the funds to build Nassau Hall.

Thus, while the facts do not warrant Princeton's pushing its founding date back to 1726, as has sometimes been proposed, they do show that an historical debt of gratitude is due some of William Tennent, Sr.'s pupils and some of their pupils for the substantial help -- both spiritual and practical -- they gave the College of New Jersey during its formative years.

From Alexander Leitch, A Princeton Companion, copyright Princeton University Press (1978).

Interesting. Not exactly what I had in mind, but it has many similarities.

Leitch was trying to distance Princeton from the Tennent work.

Archibald Alexander's work on The Log College (Banner of Truth) and the newer two volume set on Princeton Seminary by Dr. David B. Calhoun (Banner of Truth, 1994) speak in greater detail about the similarities I was thinking of.
 

westminken

Puritan Board Freshman
I did not see the last comment before posting my reply.

My concern is not the qualifications of the church. Where better to be equipped for the ministry than in the church. Before you can shepherd the flock, you have to be one of the flock. My concern is related to the willingness of the local church itself. Under your theory, you felt ideally it would have to be a group effort rather than a lone church effort. That I totally agree with. I am thinking, as an example, of churches that feel in this particular stage of their life that training candidates is not a high priority and thus truly called men have no options in their local congregation other than seminary or search out another church that would be willing to train them.

Just food for thought. Personally I wish "the Log College" system was still considered viable.

Kenneth,

Yes, I am not sure that most individual churches could make this work on their own. It would take the cooperation of like-minded churches (congregational) or on the presbytery level (hierarchal). Not only would it be necessary, it would be wise.

Yes, very much so. Maybe this conversation will get people to start to think outside the box.
 

Contra Marcion

Puritan Board Freshman
This is where I think the "Virtual Campus" option is ideal. I realize this is not the best option for everybody, but it's worked out really well for me. I can train under the care of my own elders, and get real-world experience, all while still learning the systematics, the languages, and all the rest of the didactic material.
As for me and my house, we decided that my wife would not work outside the home, even for seminary, and that I would still support my family through school. This has made the didtance learnign option a real blessing for us.
 

R. Scott Clark

Puritan Board Senior
We tried this in the 19th century. We decided that Princeton worked better.

We've had this discussion many times here. There must be several threads that cover this.

In short:

Much of what you want is already being done at WSC. We required 700 hours of internship for an MDiv. Students are required to enter into a mentoring relationship.

The local church or presbytery, unless it is filled with academics (which would not be a good thing probably) is not prepared to replace the seminary. Even if it was full of qualified, full-time scholars, neither would have the resources -- books haven't been replaced by electronic resources. There are academic journals and other resources that every presbytery or particular congregations simply cannot afford.

In short, the alternative necessarily short changes the academic preparation necessary for ministry.

As I've been arguing for years, lawyers cannot be trained outside of law school -- except perhaps in the most extraordinary circumstances. In that case that would test the rule. Ditto for physicians. The reason that professional/academic schools such as seminaries and law schools and med schools exist is because practitioners realize that they need the training provided by the schools. Even practitioners have to go back to school (law and medicine) for continuing ed. We ought require that of our pastors by the way. Presbyteries/congregations probably can't provide this either.
 

Southern Presbyterian

Puritan Board Doctor
Brother Bill,

I particularly like point #2 in the OP. :up:

Our denomination already has such a program in place. It's called Christ Theological Seminary. The faculty are the teaching elders within the RPCUS and each Session has oversight of the men from their particular congregation. Our congregation alone has 3 men pursuing the ministry under this model.
 

fredtgreco

Vanilla Westminsterian
Staff member
Scott,

I don't want to enter the lists again on this, but I must ask that you drop the "lawyer" argument. You're not a lawyer, and I don't think the nature of legal training advances your point, but rather militates against it.

Any lawyer worth his salt knows that law school is generally a vetting process and does not provide a correlation with with success as an attorney. What correlation there is, relates to the quality of students admitted rather than the training received. Businesses that hire outside counsel do not focus on where a man or woman went to law school, but rather what their training in the workplace was, what firm they are (or were) with, and what their skill level is now. That is a fact that I have observed first hand in business and the legal profession at the highest levels (when I graduated, Michigan law was ranked in the top 5 in the nation, so I am no academic slouch).

As for continuing ed for lawyers, it is among the biggest jokes going. Almost every lawyer views it as a complete waste of time (at worst) or a "free" vacation at best. Google the best seminars and see where they are held (hint: NYC, Ft Lauderdale, Scottsdale, etc). Lawyers do everything they can to avoid them, because it stops the real growth of a lawyer - work in the field with other (better) lawyers.
 
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Herald

Administrator
Staff member
Scott,

I have a great deal of respect for your position at WSC, and have no doubt that your labors have equipped men for faithful service in Christ's church. I am not seeking to undermine or marginalize seminaries, nor am I suggesting that a thread on the PB is going to introduce a better system for training ministers of the gospel. This is about dialog and whether there are alternatives that can exist independent of a seminary or compliment seminary training.

We tried this in the 19th century. We decided that Princeton worked better.

I don't know who "we" is. Are you referring to Presbyterians? Princeton certainly wasn't a Baptist seminary. Perhaps I am approaching this from a Baptist perspective. I meant my OP to be more broad but I can see where my Baptist leanings may be peeking through.

We've had this discussion many times here. There must be several threads that cover this.

Okay, so we're having another one. I don't recall a thread that has treated the subject in this way. This board is all about discussing and refining theological and theologically related thought. I may be wrong but I believe worth can come out of this discussion.

The local church or presbytery, unless it is filled with academics (which would not be a good thing probably) is not prepared to replace the seminary. Even if it was full of qualified, full-time scholars, neither would have the resources -- books haven't been replaced by electronic resources. There are academic journals and other resources that every presbytery or particular congregations simply cannot afford.

In short, the alternative necessarily short changes the academic preparation necessary for ministry.

Scott, if you've followed the thread you would have noticed that the discussion centered more on a group of churches that are cooperating together in the pursuit of training able bodied men for service. I concur that a single church would be hard pressed to embark on such and endeavor. But the dynamic could change if a network of like minded churches shared the same vision and commitment. For example:

A group of six Baptist churches decide to study the issue of training their own pastors. They perform due diligence and agree on an academic curriculum. Additionally they construct a practicum on pastoral ministry. Part of their due diligence is to assess their capability in providing instruction on languages and theology. In order not to overload their current pastoral leadership they agree to hire qualified staff, shared among their churches, who are dedicated to this work. Everything is done decently and in order. Course work is determined, books are selected, syllabi arranged and classes held. In addition to course work the candidate is involved directly in ministry with their local pastor and elders. This ministry is not an internship for course credit, it is ministry according to their vocational call.

I believe many of the criticisms about this approach are due to the belief that it will either be run by unqualified men or embarked on without the preparation and commitment necessary to see it through. That is not what I am writing about. This type of training would be provided by churches that are well prepared and committed.

This should not be seen as a threat to seminaries. Perhaps men would be called to ministry by their elders who would not have given seminary a second thought. Isn't that the role of the local church anyway?
 

Robert Truelove

Puritan Board Sophomore
Christ Reformed Church is pretty much in line with what the OP has posted. We locally intern elder candidates (we hold to a strict two office view BTW). However, their training (and part of their qualifications) requires they are disciplined enough to study a lot on their own. We do provide informal instruction (conversation over coffee for example) as they are studying a particular subject and may conduct special studies on various subjects from time to time.

By the time a man is ready for his elder examination, he will have already amassed as sizable library that will also continue to grow and profit him as he serves in the ministry.

For many who intend the ministry, this time of preparation could take many years. For myself, I essentially 'interned' for 10 years before being ordained as an elder on the Session and it was another 5 years before I became the senior pastor.

We don't have a problem with colleges and seminaries, we just don't find them necessary for everyone in a day when books and the Internet make solid study so much more attainable (I think I would think differently about this if I lived 150+ years ago when the availability and cost of books was much different). We are taking a hard look at using some of the distance learning courses offered by RTS as supplementation.

I am increasingly disturbed by what I see coming out of our Reformed seminaries (even our good ones). I'm running into men with MDivs who would never come close to passing the oral exam that our church would require for ordination (which is discouraging because our exam is designed to allow the candidate to demonstrate he has at least the equivalent of an MDiv in his understanding--I'm starting to have to qualify that statement to say we are looking for 'what we think should be the equivalent of an 'MDiv'). I've talked to recent RTS grads who could barely, if at all, articulate key points of Reformed theology and I wonder, 'how did these men graduate?'.

I am of the persuasion that just about anything in our day can be learned through much personal study and internship relationships. In my former occupation as the business owner of an Internet application development company (Before that I was Director of Software & Internet Development for Larry Burkett), I would argue that what I did was every bit as technical (or more so) as most jobs requiring formal training. In my case, I was self-taught and frequently consulted with others in my industry when difficult questions arose. Because of the track record I developed over time, not one client ever asked me where I went to school. They could care less. They were looking at my former achievements.

In like manner, in the ministry I have had people (some seminary grads and others who hold PhDs) seem amazed that I had never went to school. I say this not to brag but to say that anyone with an average (or perhaps less than average) mind can achieve much in regards to education if they will just apply themselves to the opportunities that are readily available in our age.

P.S. We are having an elder exam (the oral one) on April 19th here in Atlanta. It is open to the public for any who would like to visit and see what our examinations are like. The exam will last about 4 hours. For any who would like to attend, please PM me and I'll give you more information.
 
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Theoretical

Puritan Board Professor
Scott,

I don't want to enter the lists again on this, but I must ask that you drop the "lawyer" argument. You're not a lawyer, and I don't think the nature of legal training advances your point, but rather militates against it.

Any lawyer worth his salt knows that law school is generally a vetting process and does not provide a correlation with with success as an attorney. What correlation there is, relates to the quality of students admitted rather than the training received. Businesses that hire outside counsel do not focus on where a man or woman went to law school, but rather what their training in the workplace was, what firm they are (or were) with, and what their skill level is now. That is a fact that I have observed first hand in business and the legal profession at the highest levels (when I graduated, Michigan law was ranked in the top 5 in the nation, so I am no academic slouch).

As for continuing ed for lawyers, it is among the biggest jokes going. Almost every lawyer views it as a complete waste of time (at worst) or a "free" vacation at best. Google the best seminars and see where they are held (hint: NYC, Ft Lauderdale, Scottsdale, etc). Lawyers do everything they can to avoid them, because it stops the real growth of a lawyer - work in the field with other (better) lawyers.
:ditto:

The mentoring/apprenticeship approach used to be an option for attorneys to practice, and the nature of legal work makes it an excellent way to develop the necessary training to pass the bar exam and be a quality advocate. The law-school only approach is simply the establishment of a highly sophisticated monopolistic guild on the part of the American Bar Association.

I'm working as a legal assistant right now in a firm where my position is basically of a apprenticeship-type experience in terms of the type of work I'm learning.
 

larryjf

Puritan Board Senior
This is exactly what The North American Reformed Seminary (TNARS) seeks to do...give the local church the academic resources for training. The underlying belief is that the church is the God ordained method for training men in the ministry so TNARS comes along side the church to help facilitate such training, it does not usurp the church.

As a side note TNARS is also completely free.

For full disclosure, i am involved with TNARS.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
The major problem I see if that most calvinistic churches and especially calvinistic baptist churches do not have the knowledge in specialized fields such as languages that a seminary can provide. Many of the pastors of these churches are even bivocational and any mentorship will be done willy nilly and incompletely unless the church is a large one with a full time staff or they are willing to "farm out" the specialized subjects such as Greek and Hebrew. For instance, if the church was in Saint Louis, the local church could mentor and then send the students to Covenant Seminary for the languages. But if Covenant is already close, why not just go there full time?

Specialization has its place.

I will fight against anyone who presses seminary training as a MUST before ordination, but agree with them that it is a very good idea.
 

Contra Marcion

Puritan Board Freshman
The major problem I see if that most calvinistic churches and especially calvinistic baptist churches do not have the knowledge in specialized fields such as languages that a seminary can provide. Many of the pastors of these churches are even bivocational and any mentorship will be done willy nilly and incompletely unless the church is a large one with a full time staff or they are willing to "farm out" the specialized subjects such as Greek and Hebrew. For instance, if the church was in Saint Louis, the local church could mentor and then send the students to Covenant Seminary for the languages. But if Covenant is already close, why not just go there full time?

Specialization has its place.

I will fight against anyone who presses seminary training as a MUST before ordination, but agree with them that it is a very good idea.

Amen, especially the last part. If it is to be required, then there should be at least one verse in the Bible demanding it.
 

Kevin

Puritan Board Doctor
Bill, your idea sounds very much like the model followed in the Associate Presbtry. The "theological hall" of the early Associated & Reformed Presbyterian bodies was just like this.

The main distinctive of the John Brown (of Haddington) model was that students gathered at least once a year. They then heard lectures, preached, were examined, etc. as a class. In this way the old (A&R P) groups differed from you model. They were in & part of a local chuch and yet they were students (at the same time) of a "hall".
 
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