My tertiary education experience has led me to think that the main aim of tertiary education is to produce more tertiary academics and for them to engage with one another (by publication and conferences).
The fact they have to educate people whose aim is not to become tertiary academics is understood to be the sacrifical means by which their lifestyle is supported.
It’s one of the reasons why I think that the places where people are educated for pastoral ministry should be designated ‘Trade Schools’ instead of ‘Theological Colleges’.
Having gotten that off my chest, Michael Jensen has provided some notes about Theological Education that are very helpful.
Here’s point 5. Read them all here.
I’d want to add, do the lecturers genuinely engage with the students?
5. What to look for in a theological education
a) is the whole Scripture central and authoritative in the institution?
You can’t claim to be studying the knowledge of God if you aren’t taking the Scriptures with utmost seriousness, or if you are prizing other sources.
b) is it theological?
I object to the term ‘bible college’ because the purpose of theological education is not to know the Bible better: it is to know God better. The word ‘theology’ indicates that study of the texts is the means and not the end. It also indicates that there will be a prayerful integration of the curriculum, and that the confessions and creeds of church history will have their place.
c) are the original languages emphasised?
Not every Christian or even every Christian leader needs to learn Greek and Hebrew to have an effective ministry, but I don’t theological study is really serious if it does not ask you to learn at least one of these languages. Given the choice, most people would NOT learn even Greek. Don’t take the easy option – because serious study of the Scripture by someone who would teach God’s people demands the harder path!
d) are Church History and Ethics and Philosophy a part of the course?
These subjects are all auxiliaries to the study of Theology in a way. But without them the theological task is scarcely complete.
e) is community life emphasised?
The nature of theological knowledge is that it is a shared knowledge – learning it on your own is counter to the kind of knowledge it is.
f) is there regular corporate worship and prayer?
Goes without saying.
g) are the practical ministry subjects taught in a theological way?
You aren’t going into theological education to learn secular counselling methods, or bits of pop psychology.
h) is the theological curriculum calibrated for ministry and mission?
I would asking why a theological curriculum does not address itself to the context in which those who are studying it are going to have to work. These days, it is simply not enough to say ‘we teach the theology stuff, you work out how to put it into practice where you are’.