By Dr. Mark Simpson
Laura and Larry are both adults active in their local churches while working full-time in the marketplace and supporting family. Laura lives near the East Coast and is a senior executive in a marketing firm. She has 3 children in grade school who are all active in church activities and school sports. Laura recently felt the Lord leading her to move into full-time ministry focusing on reaching local business and professional women with the Gospel.
Larry lives on the West Coast and works in a medical device parts plant. Larry is an elder in his church and provides leadership for its evangelism and discipleship ministries. His wife is a public high school teacher coming up fast on her district’s mandatory retirement after 20 years of teaching. Like Laura, Larry also felt the Lord leading him to move into full-time ministry as a pastor.
For both Laura and Larry, going to seminary is the next logical step to be better prepared for Christian service. Here are 3 reasons students prefer online seminary.
1. Online Seminary Reduces Obstacles
As brick and mortar seminaries are explored, difficult questions arise about the impact of pulling up roots to go to seminary. What will be the impact of moving be on my family? How will I continue to meet daily financial needs? Do I really want to suspend my current ministries to go to school? Can I afford the cost of tuition and books? These are but a few of the common questions faced by every student aspiring to attend seminary. For many students the answers to these questions become obstacles that prohibit them from attending seminary.
2. Online Seminary Fits My Life
While searching the Web to compare theological programs an attractive resolution to many obstacles presents itself: attend an onlin
e seminary. Doing so means you will not have to move and uproot your family. You also will not have to quit your current job, and you will be able to continue in your current ministries. Additional benefits reported by my current class of online seminary students include:
- Not having to leave home to go to school or class. This also means no hazardous driving in winter weather [or rush hour traffic, or leaving work early to get to class]. Costs are also reasonable. – Belinda Mpagazehe (MML student)
- The flexibility of time for learning – there is not a specific time that class meets, which allows your seminary training to fit into your schedule for the week. This has been an incredible blessing. – Brian Naess (MDiv student)
- The structure is such that you know when things are due and you chart your week out accordingly. Works very well for a person in a secular job and doing this work in the evenings and on weekends. There is a real sense of ownership and accountability when you are in charge of your own scholastic destiny. As an introvert, I am forced online to interact where in a [physical] classroom I probably could have stayed more anonymous. This has helped me to work through the uncomfortableness and it has helped my writing as well. – Bill Trench (MDiv student)
- I do not feel like a “number.” I have been to super big and small campuses. I have more interaction online than I ever did sitting right next to students in a huge class room. I like the diversity of perspectives I get from students all over the world. It stretches me at times and allows me to see things differently. – Yvette Perrin (MDiv student)
But attending an online seminary just for the sake of these conveniences is not the real benefit—access to a theological education is the real benefit!
3. Online Seminary Brings the Learning Experience to Me
Being able to study anytime, anywhere, from any location with Web access removes many barriers to getting a seminary education. Students like Laura and Larry from around the world no longer must go to where the seminary is to get theological training. Instead the online seminary brings the learning experience to the student. And with it come new and refreshed opportunities to learn from the knowledge and experiences of educators and ministers around the globe. The flow of information is intentionally multi-directional: instructor with student, and student with student. And rather than being passive attenders to a campus-based classroom, online seminary students are required to be active participants throughout the learning experience. For many this active role to learning is refreshing, as is the opportunity to learn in community through an online seminary.
About the Writer: Dr. Mark Simpson is the Chief Academic Officer of Rockbridge Seminary, a fully online accredited school. He has served as Associate Dean for Doctoral Studies and Digital Learning at one of the largest residential theological seminaries, and developed fully online courses and programs as Coordinator of Online Learning for a Christian university. He has been teaching online courses for seminaries since the late 1990’s.