Resources On Pastoral Education

The internet has created a new world of possibilities for education. Seminaries and theological colleges have seized upon the potential of the internet by offering online courses and online degrees. For older non-traditional students, for those who already have families and other obligations (e.g., church or a secular job) the temptation to try to get an education online can be too much to resist.

Nevertheless, there are good reasons why students should resist and should think very carefully before the decide to choose the online option for their seminary education. Typically, students only go to seminary once and that eduction becomes the foundation for a lifetime of ministry so it is important to get it right.

As one who has taught at the undergraduate level (2 years) and the seminary level (22 years) at the same time as the rise of the rise of the internet and as one who is actively involved in using the internet for educational purposes, I have had opportunity to think about the positive and negative aspects of online eduction.

  1. Why Pastors Need Why Pastors Need A Seminary Education
  2. How Not To Train Pastors
  3. Training Pastors Face To Face Is Still Best
  4. Education True And False
  5. And Now For The Rest Of The Story
  6. Online Classes: Just Because They Are Hip And Convenient Does not Mean That They Educate
  7. When Philosophers Rebel Against Dystopia
  8. What Is A Seminary?
  9. Distance Ed: After The Hype
  10. Why “Distributed Pastoral Education” Is Not The Answer

    Post authored by:

  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

    More by R. Scott Clark ›

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  1. Thanks for this, Dr. Clark! I talked to you on March 8 (Seminary for a Day at WSC) about convicting & convincing me away from Distance Education applying for WSC (albeit a semester later than I originally wished for, because of the need for face-to-face instruction). Having the kind and depth of professors available at WSC is worth the investment, for, Lord willing, 50+ years of fruitful ministry. I’ll take the 4 years for 50 year ministry trade off, any day!

    I pray I’m admitted, and can begin my studies in Spring 2020 at Westminster!

  2. I think there is a place for online education in CPD – continuing professional / pastoral development. I am amazed that so much material is freely available. Now retired, I have the time to enjoy and benefit from such riches. However, a working minister has less time available and the practical reality is that for most the only way to lay a foundation is the initial investment of time and training at seminary. By all means continue using online materials to deepen your theological education, but there is no substitute for a solid seminary foundation on which to build.

    However, in the American model the cost of such an education is met by the individual. In Scotland it is borne by the Church (denomination) or, amazingly, by the State who provide grants for higher education. It is ironic that the most secular and godless government in Europe still subsidises theological education in a non-discriminatory manner. Not sure how long that will continue!

    • Pastor Walker,

      I appreciate this. Yes, I’ve been arguing for online continuing ed for a long time. I agree too that most of our American denominations are far too passive about training men for ministry. I understand it when men come from outside of the NAPARC world (e.g., Calvary Chapel) and become Reformed, go to sem, and then enter P&R ministry but I don’t understand how P&R churches can send men to sem and more or less abandon them to carry the burden by themselves and effectively say to calling churches, “He’s your problem now.”

      American taxpayers do subsidize federal student loans so that students are able to borrow money at below-market rates but I don’t think I want taxpayers subsidizing theological education (separation of church and state and all that).

      I’m deeply grateful for those individuals and congregations that do help support students but our denominations could do better. The RCUS does support their students well. They paid for my tuition back in the 1980s and they gave me book money to boot. That enabled me to do reading and take classes that I would otherwise have missed.

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