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A Woman in Seminary Training: A Personal Story
by: Kim Arnold
Why should women attend seminary? I hear this question posed often, and as a current seminarian myself, I have many responses. The purpose of this post is to share my own experience while encouraging other women in possibly attending seminary themselves. If you are a woman who is in a position of leadership over women or children, then I encourage you to seek wise, biblical training, whether that is through seminary or other in-depth theological instruction.
I have been in a seminary PhD program for over two years now, and here are three reasons why I think women should pursue seminary degrees.
1. You get to sit under orthodox theological teaching at the highest level. For my entire first semester, I felt like I was drinking water from a fire hose! After my first week of classes my husband handed me his pocket dictionary of theological terms because I had been scrambling to understand the words my professors were using. I constantly referenced that little book in every class until I became familiar with “seminary terminology.” I felt like I barely kept my head above water that entire first semester, but you know what? By the grace of God, I survived. And not only did I survive, but God started shaping my heart and mind toward him in ways that possibly would not have occurred outside the depth of the seminary classroom.
Here is an example of how a typical class has gone for me: my professor opens with the reading of a Psalm, and then he prays for our class and the discussion on which we are about to embark. After he prays, we spend time discussing the texts we read over the week, solidifying our own beliefs as he wisely leads the discussion. My particular program has classes that meet for 2.5 hours, once a week, so we have time to delve deep into specific topics. As we then go through the next six days between classes, we meditate on God’s Word and constantly examine where our texts draw specifically from Scripture. We write research papers for every seminar, so we spend time studying the Bible deeply, as well as commentaries and other historical research documents.
This combination of Scripture, prayer, meditation, and research at such a deep level allows for our entire being (mind, will, and affections) to be molded to Christ, from which we then teach others.
2. You make like-minded friends. Even though my program includes attending classes online (we were using Zoom before it was cool), I have made some dear friends from all over the country. I told my husband during my first semester, “I found my people!” God has allowed me to meet other men and women that serve him daily, and lead from a similar theological position as me. Knowing that these people exist outside of my own bubble helps me know that I am not alone, and we all cheer each other on as we apply in our daily lives what we learn in the classroom.
On this note, do not underestimate the influence of professors and fellow seminarians on your spiritual journey. Be diligent in seeking wise, biblical counsel in where you should attend seminary. Research your primary professors and know their biblical stances on specific topics related to your degree. You want to be faithful in your preparation to attend seminary so you can be taught accurate theology. This cannot be emphasized enough. Throughout the course of your study, your professors will (hopefully) lead you in wise, biblical education, and the friends you make along the way will also help shape your thinking on important biblical issues. As the author of the book of Proverbs mentions the importance of acquiring knowledge and understanding, and how it begins with the fear of the Lord (1:29, 2:5, 3:7, 8:13, 9:10, 19:23), so the seminarian responds appropriately with seeking discernment (1:5, 3:21, 14:6, 17:24, 18:15), heeding wisdom (2:1, 4:13), seeking understanding (2:3, 4:5, 8:14, 19:8, 23:12, 28:5), and guarding his heart (4:23, 21:2).
3. You prepare to the best of your ability, so that you can lead other women in the disciple-making process. I cannot begin to tell you how my mind, will, and affections have changed since I’ve been a seminarian. I have been challenged and encouraged in my faith every step of the way. My professors have made me define my exact beliefs on specific issues, which has helped me teach other women with confidence, and even helped me defend my position when it has come against opposition. If you are going to teach the Bible to women and children, you must be trained for the task set before you. Just like the Levites had to train to serve the Lord in worship, so women need to train for teaching God’s Word to other women and children. Training does not necessarily need to come from attending seminary! Michelle offers many valuable resources in knowing how to discern a true Bible teacher, from whom we can grow in our theology. From my experience, seminary has also provided me with a deep theological foundation so I can know specific truths while I continue to work out my own faith every day.
One last note on my personal story. When I started my seminary program, I was teaching at a local Christian liberal arts university. In May of 2020, the university decided to close their School of Music, leaving me halfway through a degree and no longer employed. I have asked myself many times why I am continuing to pay for a degree, especially when I no longer have a full-time job in the field. Here is my answer to that question: I want to be fully equipped to teach in any capacity (church, higher ed, etc.) when the opportunity arises. I think theologically trained women are in need in all areas right now, especially in teaching our younger generations. I obviously have no idea where God will lead my family in the future, but I can help lead and educate others with confidence wherever I am because I have sat under biblically sound professors at seminary.
The seminary journey may seem daunting to many women, exciting to others, and possibly unimportant to some. I encourage you to examine the areas in which you serve and see if seminary training would be helpful for you. As I have emphasized, women and children in our churches are in desperate need of theologically trained leaders. Many seminaries offer everything from certificate programs to doctorates, with many online options available today. Take some time to see what could be helpful in your own disciple-making process!
If you have any questions from this post, don’t hesitate to reach out to me or any other female seminarian with similar views. We would love to help you through the process!
Kim has been married to her husband, Jason, for 21 years, and they have one son. Jason is an executive pastor and holds two seminary degrees himself, so Kim has experienced life as a seminarian, and as the wife of one. She is currently pursuing her PhD in Church Music and Worship from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and enjoys teaching women in her church. When not reading or writing, Kim enjoys hiking with her husband and son, or playing with her family’s new labradoodle puppy! Check out Kim’s blog, and follow her on social media at Acceptable Worship.