I heard some good news about theological education over the weekend at the Chief Academic Officer’s Meetings of the Association of Theological Schools (ATS). It seems that people are happier with seminary education than we may have thought. Barbara Wheeler of the Auburn Institute reported on data gathered from an array of comprehensive surveys over several years. It seems that the seminary experience is highly rated. Some highlights:
- Seminary students rated the quality of their educational experience as 3.2 out of 4.0.
- 95% of graduates said that they would encourage others to pursue ministry.
- 4 out of 5 would encourage others to attend the same seminary that they did.
- 4.75 out of 5 would attend the same seminary again if they had the chance.
- 74% of seminary graduates end up in professional local church ministry. 88% end up in some form of professional ministry.
The attrition rate of Master of Divinity grads who end up in professional ministry is only 1% per year over ten years. Put another way, 90% of grads stay in ministry over 10 years. These numbers are staggering and "blow away" comparables from any other form of professional training such as law or medical school. I agree with Wheeler who said, "I don’t care what your business is, if you can deliver these kinds of results, you are doing phenomenal work." It has become common to criticize seminary as "cemetary" and to generally see it as an outdated and inefficient way of training people for ministry. The numbers say otherwise. Perhaps it’s time to stop seminary-bashing and to begin to think more creatively about how seminaries and churches can leverage this work for the benefit of people and the growth of God’s kingdom.