Home Outreach Leaders Articles for Outreach & Missions An Overlooked Reason for Decline in Seminary Enrollment

An Overlooked Reason for Decline in Seminary Enrollment

While such is not the only hypothesis for declining seminary enrollment (as noted above), it is a significant contributor. Of course, this trickle-down effect is never felt overnight. A school will never see a change in its Full-Time Equivalent statistics because of last year’s lack of evangelistic ministries. However, such neglect will have an impact over 10, 20, and 30 years.

Because the decline is slow and over a lengthy period of time, such micro-shifts go unnoticed until a generation later. And while missiologists across time are outspoken with concerns, they are often viewed as making mountains out of molehills and not canaries in coal mines.

Though institutions will still deny my hypothesis (and that of others, just expressed differently), they now not only recognize but acutely feel the problem. Since they did not consider, discern, and take the lead to make changes years ago, many now are forced to change–and the contemporary change is, and will be, painful.

But one has to acknowledge the root of the problem and not just the uncomfortable surface issues. Of course, most changes made, and being made, are insufficient over the long-run and will not address the problem of declining evangelistic work (e.g., schools will diminish entrance standards, cut costs, move to more on-line training, give more attention to training leaders in other countries). Structural shifts, new economic models, and innovative delivery systems, though oftentimes much needed, are band-aids on a hemorrhaging patient.

With the crisis at hand, many institutions will make many sacrifices but never address the evangelistic problem in their backyards. They will do little to help churches, denominations, and networks. They will do little to embrace an apostolic imagination among their leadership and pass it along to their current students. Evangelism, if offered, will remain a three-hour course at best and disconnected from the broader curriculum.

Disclaimer: It is one thing for churches to be involved significantly in evangelistic work throughout their communities and the Holy Spirit does not bring many people into the Kingdom. It is another matter altogether for churches to be uninvolved significantly in evangelistic work throughout their communities and the Holy Spirit does not bring people into the Kingdom. But I am unconvinced that the former applies to most U. S. churches.


This article about seminary enrollment originally appeared here, and is used by permission.