Blue Collar Theology 29: 2+2 for Pastors

A couple of week ago, I mentioned the great discussion I had with an IMB representative. One of the things I asked him was, “If the 2+2 and 2+3 programs are so effective for assimilating and training missionaries on the field, why aren’t we adopting this strategy for the rest of seminary students going onto the ‘field’, including those preaching/teaching and leading worship?” He thought it was a good idea, so I began thinking about it a little more.

I briefly mentioned the disconnect between seminary and the local church last fall–a disconnect that has spawned the pursuit of theological education in the local church and the development of a blue collar theology. I have been looking at how different churches and ministries address this problem, such as The Pastor’s College (Sovereign Grace), TBI (Bethlehem Baptist), Internship and Weekenders (Capitol Hill Baptist), Internship and Extension (Lakeview Baptist), and elsewhere; but even with the encouraging and promising efforts made by the growth of church-based theological education, the fact remains that the majority of seminary students graduating are leaving with a diploma in their hands and little to no experience under the belts.

The lack of “field training” and experience is evidenced on a continual basis. Furthermore, students are assessed and placed on the basis of educational accomplishment and whatever else a short resume can reveal. Missionaries, however, are given much greater scrutiny and examination. Their theology is examined, their family and personal life assessed, and several years of on-the-field training are provided through a well-integrated program called 2+2/2+3. The first two years are completed at the seminary and includes the core curricula; the second-half of the program is field-based education that emphasizes an ongoing practicum for the remainder of their degree. You can read more about what this program looks like by going here.

SBC President Frank Page recently argued that the SBC could like shrink by half by 2030, and with the reality that many pastors will retire or die without a successor, one has to wonder who and how (and if) they will be succeeded. If we can be so committed to the Great Commission overseas to train and equip missionaries with field-based missiological education, then why can’t we be equally committed to the Great Commission here in the homeland to train and equip ministers with church-based ecclesiological education?

It would be great to see a 2+2 program made available for pastors.  Together with my four years of college, I have now completed eight years of academic training. Fortunately for me, sandwiched in the middle of those eight years was four years of serving on staff at local churches, but even those years were spent in the “school of hard knocks” and trial-and-error, not having the know-how prior to that tenure.  So much that is required for ministerial effectiveness can never be learned at seminary or Bible college, but at the same time, there are many things that the seminary can effectively teach that many local churches simply cannot provide.  Having said that, it is my hope that something can be developed for ministers in a pastoral context where they can experience both excellence in education as well as competence in training so that our churches can succeed and communities better reached with the gospel.

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8 Comments on “Blue Collar Theology 29: 2+2 for Pastors”


  1. I’ve heard of this type of program before and I think it would be great to have an optional degree program offered along these lines. I would have eagerly enrolled in something like this. When I graduated college I had never been paid to do church work and entered seminary chomping at the bit to get some “paid experience” (since that is what really matters on your resume – at least when a clueless pulpit committee looks at it)

    One of the problems that I think is evident with seminarians, and I speak from experience as having attended both Southwestern and Southeastern, is that there are so many young seminarians that have never served on staff at a church (usually because of lack of opportunity, especially at SE) and they have all of this theology bouncing around in their head and finally go to a church and have a hard time adjusting to doing ministry outside of a vacuum and amidst sinners.


  2. Charlie,

    You said,

    One of the problems that I think is evident with seminarians, and I speak from experience as having attended both Southwestern and Southeastern, is that there are so many young seminarians that have never served on staff at a church (usually because of lack of opportunity, especially at SE) and they have all of this theology bouncing around in their head and finally go to a church and have a hard time adjusting to doing ministry outside of a vacuum and amidst sinners.

    Exiting the seminary bubble and getting into the trenches of local church pastoral leadership is a transition where graduating seminarians receive little if any help. With the increasing enrollment in our seminaries, there will be increasing number of students who will need experience in the local church. If there are not more churches who will welcome them, help them, and equip them, then many will enter unchartered territory with a nice map but never having touched the helm.

    I find it a little frustrating when young ministers are reprimanded after the fact when they struggle in their first church given they were not helped outside the classroom. We have assumed too much with simply having a M.Div degree and have expected it to deliver more than what it actually promises. Education is important no doubt, but having a 4.0 GPA does not legitimize or guarantee ministerial success. I just hope we can do more to balance higher theological education with greater ecclesial empowerment and training.


  3. One of the objections that came to mind, however, was the issue of full-time students on campus. I cannot remember how that works, but I believe CP funds are allocated by the number of hours of full-time students on campus or something like that. I cannot remember all the details, but I think that seminaries would dismiss such an idea for fear of not having students on campus and benefiting from financial rewards of such.

  4. johnMark Says:

    I was recently talking to someone in the realm of this topic. He has an MDiv and agreed with me. What we agreed on is that so many churches seem to think that an MDiv is a must as a prerequisite to be a pastor. Though much of the time the teaching can be so shallow you wonder what happened to all that wonderful teaching learned while acquiring the MDiv.

    Mark


  5. Timmy,

    If the CP comes into the formula then all bets are off. That thing is more complicated then the BCS.


  6. johnMark,

    Having spent four years working on a M.Div, I can say that I am grateful for the education I have receive (I believe SBTS to have the best faculty anywhere in the world). Having said that, even the best faculty with the best seminary education cannot fit a minister for a local church merely through classroom experience and academic excellence. We have launched graduates into the real world where the gap between academic and the local church is so great that many don’t make it to the other side. The 2+2 program for pastors could help bridge that gap and give prospective members a reliable path to tread as well as serve the church with extended exposure with young, promising ministers.


  7. Charlie,

    I am afraid that the CP is in the mix. Here’s a little summary from a year ago when I reflected on Dr. Mohler’s report to the trustees:

    http://timmybrister.com/2007/05/02/boyces-vision-mohlers-report-and-my-reflection-on-reform/

    30% comes from the CP, and I think that is a lower percentage than most seminaries. Some have argued that the formation of undergraduate colleges within the seminaries have boosted enrollment figures to facilitate greater CP support (in other words, of the 4,100 students at SBTS, 1,100 are undergrads at Boyce. The same could be said for the College of Southwestern and SWBTS and the other respective seminaries and their undergraduate schools).

    On the other hand, with the use of technology with internet courses, DVD courses, and other correspondent classes, it seems like the feasibility of doing a 2+2 program looks promising. Churches would not have to have professors come and teach at centers as in the case of international missions but could simply provide classes via internet or DVD.

    But the lack of students of campus would be a considerable financial loss to the institutions such that I fear it would be a challenge they would not undertake. But I hope I am wrong.

  8. Phil B Says:

    My problem has been the opposite, really.
    I came to seminary after studying a bachelor’s in Biblical Studies at a secular university. I said I wanted to study Theology from scratch as my previous course didn’t really touch on church matters.
    The course I’ve done is an MA in Contextual Theology where context is the big thing. So I’ve spent time in churches outside of my tradition, as chaplain to a steelworks, a year in Madagascar and a year in a church of my denomination. All of that has been really helpful but without the theological grounding I feel like I’ve been swimming around in the deep end and the life preserver’s losing air.
    All the theological study I’ve done in the past four years has been on my own initiative so thanks Timmy for the Puritan challenge!

    A consequence of all this is that I’m looked at as some kind of freak because I read Calvin, take an interest in Church history and think church discipline may be an idea worth exploring.

    I know I’ll make mistakes in my first charge but we have a strong and gracious God and I trust in him and will do all to his glory.


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