We at LifeWay Women get these questions all the time: Should I go to seminary? What kind of training do I need to teach the Bible? Do I need to go back to school?
Here’s the thing: There isn’t one right answer to any of those questions.
Our LifeWay Women authors and speakers have a variety of educational backgrounds. A few went to seminary, a few went to a Christian undergraduate school, a few have done some other type of theological training. So it isn’t necessary to have any sort of training to teach the Bible.
However, it is necessary to study if you plan to teach. Beth Moore often says that if you don’t want to study, then you don’t want to teach; you just want to talk. Whether that study is done as a part of a degree or certification is up to you, but you must “do the work,” as Whitney Capps says. When handling the Word of God, we want to be faithful to research and learn as much as possible about it. The Bible is “sharper than any double-edged sword,” and therefore must be handled thoughtfully.
You can study the Bible through reading good books and commentaries, doing Bible studies, taking classes at your church, listening to podcasts or online lectures, talking with your pastor or church staff, discussing specific verses with believing friends, and by going to seminary.
Seminary may or may not be the best option for you at this time. As J.D. Greear said recently in an episode of the MARKED podcast, if you have the time and resources to go to seminary, do it. It isn’t easy work, but it is work studying God’s Word. That work will never be for naught and we don’t know anyone who has regretted studying the Bible in any way.
The good thing is, if you decide to go to seminary, it can be done from anywhere! While I (Mary Margaret) loved the experience of being a full-time student on campus, that’s not the best option for everyone. Most seminaries have online programs, so that can’t be an excuse. Whether it’s a full-blown degree, a Certificate program, or taking one class to better understand a book of the Bible or Hermeneutics, your time won’t be wasted.
I (Elizabeth) took advantage of my seminary’s online program and did most of my studies off campus. Through the technology available now with video lectures, online forums, and email, it was easier for me to get my degree one or two classes at a time while working full time.
There are a lot of scholarships available, and ways to make seminary education more approachable. If you’re a member of a Southern Baptist church and attend one of the six SBC seminaries, your tuition is greatly reduced through the efforts of the Cooperative Program. Do your homework and don’t let money be the reason to stay away from further education.
Many churches now have training opportunities that aren’t tied to a seminary, but teach the basics of doctrine, theology, and hermeneutics to help you as you study God’s Word for yourself or to teach others. If your church doesn’t have something like that, check with other area churches or talk with your pastor. There may be an opportunity just around the corner for you to learn more about the Bible!
For the two of us, seminary was well worth the time and resources our degrees required. We know seminary isn’t right for every person in every stage of life. As long as you’re studying Scripture in order to know God more and grow in Christlikeness, it doesn’t matter if you get a diploma at the end!
Mary Margaret West serves as the Girls Ministry Specialist for LifeWay Christian Resources, and is the author of Show Her the Way: Your Guide to Discipling Teen Girls. Connect with her on Twitter or Instagram.
Elizabeth Hyndman is a Content Editor at LifeWay. She managed to find a job where she uses both her English undergraduate and her seminary graduate degrees every day. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram.
Mary Margaret and Elizabeth host the MARKED podcast.