At the recent BASICS Conference for Pastors I attended the subject of how to do seminary came up. This has been a topic of more frequent conversation among pastors in recent years especially since so many seminarians are coming out of school with large debt. It’s not only true of seminary grads but also in some cases those who attend Bible colleges as well and want to go into ministry, especially into missions or church planting. Because of their high debt however they are unable to go directly into missions because they have to pay down their loans significantly before they can even consider full-time Christian ministry.
Now this is not only becoming a problem among those who are going to school to prepare for ministry but also in general for many who are just going to college. Mark Cuban has written a piece which sums up how in general we are facing a new “housing bubble” crisis in America–only it’s much worse–it’s “The Coming Meltdown in College Education.” He writes:
Remember the housing meltdown ? Tough to forget isn’t it. The formula for the housing boom and bust was simple. A lot of easy money being lent to buyers who couldn’t afford the money they were borrowing. That money was then spent on homes with the expectation that the price of the home would go up and it could easily be flipped or refinanced at a profit. Who cares if you couldn’t afford the loan. As long as prices kept on going up, everyone was happy. And prices kept on going up. And as long as pricing kept on going up real estate agents kept on selling homes and finding money for buyers.
Until the easy money stopped. When easy money stopped, buyers couldn’t sell. They couldn’t refinance. First sales slowed, then prices started falling and then the housing bubble burst. Housing prices crashed. We know the rest of the story. We are still mired in the consequences.
Can someone please explain to me how what is happening in higher education is any different ?
Its far too easy to borrow money for college. Did you know that there is more outstanding debt for student loans than there is for Auto Loans or Credit Card loans ? Thats right. The 37mm holders of student loans have more debt than the 175mm or so credit card owners in this country and more than the all of the debt on cars in this country. While the average student loan debt is about 23k. The median is close to $12,500. And growing. Past 1 TRILLION DOLLARS. (I’d encourage you to read the rest).
We have talked about this whole issue of educational debt recently at our church in one of our Adult Bible Fellowships. It’s something Christians need to think about carefully.
Which brings me back to how to do seminary. I have two simple thoughts which were also mentioned at the BASICS Conference by all three pastors. 1) Make is local-church centered. I am thankful that I was heavily involved in local church ministry while I was in seminary. I went to a seminary that was affiliated with a local church. Although I didn’t attend that local church–their philosophy was very evident and I think is very Scriptural. If you don’t go to a church that is based or connected to a local church, make sure you are involved in a local church ministry! 2) Graduate as close to debt-free as possible. Make the sacrifices or take the extra time to make this goal a reality. It’s not possible for everyone, but I think if you really work at it, you can significantly reduce the debt load you may carry.
It will be fascinating to watch how the new technologies for education make the above two goals even more accessible in the future. At least that is my sincere hope!