Over the past few years, ministerial training has moved more and more online. For those in a church position, being able to take classes without leaving your church or your family has been an invaluable help. Our seminaries are providing top quality information in online courses.
Because of recent restrictions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, schools, including Fruitland Baptist Bible College, have had to go completely online. But it looks like our seminary campuses will once again be open in the fall. Fruitland will return to on-campus classes in its fall quarter. That is very good news!
I teach church history at Fruitland. Those who have taken my online class will finish them understanding the ebb and flow of Christianity over the past 2,000 years. In combination with video lectures, book assignments and essays, I can tell that my students are getting it.
But ministerial education is more than just about getting the right information. There are things that you get when you attend seminary in person that you cannot get from an online experience. Let me list a few things:
1. The years spent on campus allow you to build ministerial friendships that will last you for a lifetime. That network will be invaluable to you in the future.
2. The student receives more information in person. The amount of time in class is longer. When students are gathered, there is usually time for questions to be raised and “rabbits” to be chased.
3. On-campus learning allows you to get to know your professors. I cherish sitting in class at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) with giants like Roy Fish and Cal Guy. If I were at SWBTS today, I would love to sit under Malcolm Yarnell or David Allen. I had professors that I turned to for counsel at times during those years. My associate pastor, Justin Alexander, will always cherish the fact that Keith Whitefield became his mentor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS). My son-in-law, Will McGee, would never have entered and finished his PhD at SEBTS if it weren’t for the constant encouragement of Bruce Ashford.
4. One other thing happens during those formative years at seminary that cannot be put down on paper. During the three years or so on campus, a change occurs. The student develops a ministry mindset. They begin to think like a pastor! The ministry is a different lifestyle, and ministers are just different creatures.
When you are looking at your opportunities for ministerial education, I hope you will strongly consider being an on-campus student this fall.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Steve Scoggins is president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and pastor of First Baptist Church in Hendersonville, N.C.)