When I was in seminary, I was told that nearly 50% of seminary graduates leave the ministry within five years of graduation. There are many reasons for this but a lack of a need for trained ministers is not one of them.
Many drop out because they can’t find a paying job or an adequate salary. Others burn out from the stress of ministry or family pressure. Most, I believe, drop out due to inadequate preparation. Seminaries and Bible Colleges do an excellent job of academic preparation but it is not enough. Head knowledge is no substitute for practical experience.
Compounding the problem is the reality that churches today have higher expectations of their pastors in regards to business, technical and leadership skills than in the past. Yet, these are not part of the standard seminary curriculum.
What is needed is a partnership between the academic institutions and the local church that gives students real ministry responsibilities under the mentorship and coaching of a pastor. Ideally the ministry student will learn how to work with church leaders to get things done (the most important task not taught in seminary), how to handle conflict, and recovering from mistakes. Even such seemingly mundane tasks as follow up phone calls and other administrative duties show a side of ministry not available in the classroom
The church gets some benefits in having a student increase the ministry’s impact. More important, however, is supporting the Great Commission by producing highly trained workers for the harvest field.
Baptist Temple has one such intern in April Puckett and is working with the Baptist University of the Americas to recruit others. BUA Professor Mario Ramos and VP of Student Development Marconi Monteiro both strongly believe in the power of mentoring to develop tomorrow’s church leaders. They are eager to work with local churches and other groups to better train their students and impact the community for Christ.
The secular world also sees the value in work experience as part of the learning process. In his book, Recession Proof Graduate, Charlie Hoehn recommends recent college graduates work for free at a major company. Doing so, he says, gives you solid experience to put on your resume and starts building the network you will need to find a paying job.
When counting the cost Hoehn suggests that a person might spend $100,000 on an MBA and still not have the type of experience needed to land the job they want. Free work, he argues, is cheaper and has a greater impact on your job prospects.
There are plenty of churches out there for ministry students to find a place of service, but that service must be meaningful if the internship is to be successful. Interns need to have some sort of recognition of their office and their tasks must have a direct impact on the church’s ministry.
It is the ministry students who start well by finding places of service where they can gain experience that will finish well. They will, also, have the greatest overall impact on the Kingdom.