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For the past few months, I’ve felt a strong desire to attend seminary. After a lot of prayer, Scripture reading, and reaching out to my pastor and trusted, older, Godly friends for counsel, I began the process of applying [to a doctrinally sound seminary].

I’m in my early 30s, have never been married, and have no children. I lead middle school youth girls, women, and children in various classes at church, and work as a part time staff member in my church. I have a strong desire to pursue further education, and to teach and lead women and students. I am incredibly excited at the prospect of going to seminary.

I would like to know your thoughts about how a woman might know for sure she is being called to full-time ministry and what part attending seminary should or could play in that.

Great question, and one I wish more doctrinally sound women were asking!

Some might wonder, “What is the point of a woman getting a seminary degree if she can’t, biblically, become a pastor, elder, or exercise authority over men in the church?”. Because there are tons of other ways women can serve the Body of Christ, maybe in parachurch ministries or missions or as an author, or maybe by simply striving for godly excellence as a Christian woman, wife, mom, or church member.

Learning as much as you possibly can about the Bible, the church, and Christianity is never a waste, even if you don’t go into some sort of formal, paid position of ministry. If you’re a woman with time and resources on your hands, I’d encourage you to consider taking a seminary class or two, or even getting a degree, just for all the valuable things you’ll learn. Some seminaries will allow non-students to audit courses. Others offer degree and certificate programs specifically designed for women, online degree programs, and free online (non-degree) classes. A couple of good ones to check out are Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Reformed Theological Seminary. The Master’s University, while not a seminary, offers many courses and degree programs which are open to women. (The Master’s Seminary does not admit women as their scope is limited to preparing men for the pastorate.) Ligonier Ministries doesn’t offer a seminary degree program, but does offer many theologically rich online classes.

Whether you opt for a non-credit online course or move into campus housing and pursue a degree, be sure you keep your discernment radar on high alert, even at a doctrinally sound seminary. Believe it or not, even multi-degreed seminary professors can lack discernment or teach unbiblical doctrine. Don’t be intimidated by a string of letters and decades of experience behind someone’s name. If what he’s saying doesn’t match up with rightly handled, in context Scripture, he’s wrong.

Now let’s address a few of the more specific points the reader mentioned:

I think we way over-mysticalize this whole “call to ministry” thing. We think there’s got to be some kind of supernatural “road to Damascus” experience that we can point back to and say, “There! That’s the moment God ‘called’ me into ministry!”. But the Bible doesn’t really talk about a call to ministry in those kinds of terms. Remember, the account of Paul’s (and other Bible characters’) conversion and call experience is descriptive, not prescriptive. The prescriptive passage looks like this:

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 1 Timothy 3:1

No mention of God speaking to you or a particular feeling or goose bumps or feeling “a peace about it.” Scripture just says if a man has the desire to be a pastor, that’s a good and noble goal. Just an objective statement of fact. So, by the same underlying principle, if a woman wants to dedicate her life to full time ministry, that’s a good desire.

The next step is to see if you’re biblically qualified to be in full time ministry. Simply wanting to be in ministry does not mean you should be in ministry or that God thinks you’re qualified to be in ministry. A few biblical passages any woman considering seminary or a career in ministry should consider:

📖 1 Timothy 2:11-15 You cannot, without sinning, pursue the office of pastor, elder, associate pastor, or any other position which requires you to teach Scripture to men, or hold authority over men, in the gathered body of Believers. If you’re a woman who’s going to seminary in order to pursue such a position, you are already biblically disqualified from ministry.

📖 Galatians 5:22-23 How’s your fruit looking? If your life generally doesn’t reflect the Fruit of the Spirit, you’re probably not ready for seminary or ministry. (In fact, you might want to examine yourself against Scripture to see if you’re really saved.)

📖 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 These may be qualifications specifically for pastors, elders, and deacons (which are all offices restricted to men) but the underlying principles would extend to anyone in a position of Christian leadership, and nearly all of them apply to Christians in general. Indeed, Paul says in 1 Timothy 3:15 that he is writing these things so that “you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God.”

📖 Genesis 2:18, Ephesians 5:22-33, Titus 2:3-5, 1 Timothy 3:4-5 If you are married and/or have children, Scripture is clear that it is your primary calling to be a helper to your husband, raise godly children, and manage your household well. Any seminary classes or degrees or ministry positions you pursue may not interfere with or impede your first calling. Additionally, if your husband objects to you attending seminary or pursuing a career in ministry, Scripture mandates that you submit to him and respect his decision.

📖 1 Corinthians 7:32-35 If you’re single with no children, God has given you the precious gift of being able to serve and focus solely on Him, and it may be the perfect time for you to attend seminary or serve Him in full time ministry. 

If you have a strong desire to attend seminary or pursue a career in ministry and you meet the biblical qualifications, the next step is exactly what our reader has done: pray about it, search the Scriptures, seek wise counsel, consider and evaluate the ministry you’re already doing in your church (If you don’t already love being a faithful, serving member of a local church, why on earth would you want to go to seminary or into full time ministry?), realize that there are a lot of things about ministry that are difficult and that seminary doesn’t prepare you for, and if you still want to go to seminary or seek out a ministry position, trust God to guide you and go for it.

Yes, it really is that simple. Desiring to dedicate your life to the service of our Lord or to study more about Him in seminary is a good and God-pleasing desire. If you can accomplish those goals within the parameters Scripture has laid out for godly women, why wouldn’t you pursue it?


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

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