Urban Ministry Training

My brother John recently wrote some good blogs on seminary training for urban ministry. We are both seminary grads and take ministry training seriously. One blog was "What I would look for in a seminary." The other was "Seminary training for urban ministry." Although I agree with John about the great difficulties suburban seminaries face in training men for urban ministry, I hesitated to reference the latter blog since I have friends in suburban seminaries and have taught courses at some of them. I have been told that I am critical of most thingss traditional and suburban. Since mere criticism is not my intention (I would use the word “challenge”) I thought it best to lie low on semnary training. However I decided I would rather risk being misunderstood and criticized or well understood and criticized than being silenced.


How does a prospective student know if the training offered will prepare him for urban ministry? Look at the seminary location and the faculty and ask some questions. Does the suburban setting resemble in any way where you plan to minister? Does the faculty have any experience in ministry in urban centers or any significant pastoral/church planting experience of any kind anywhere? Have any of the professors ever lived in the city? Does the faculty reflect even a smidgen of ethnic diversity or is it all mono-everything? Have professors teaching church planting classes actually planted churches? Have professors teaching missions classes ever been engaged in long-term cross-cultural ministry? If not, a student may still receive good theological training but should be prepared to go elsewhere at some point for urban ministry training or at the very least be involved in urban ministry while in seminary. Suburban seminaries should encourage or require student internships in urban churches.


Many suburban seminaries do a great job of theological training and have outstanding, well-educated professors. But if seminaries cannot wed the theological to practical, real-life ministry experiences which approximate what their graduates will face, then they might be shortchanging their students. It is not my intention to pit suburban against urban or to elevate one as more important or more spiritual. Neither would I suggest that real ministry only takes place in the city. Suburban partnership with urban ministries remains the key to well-rounded training for urban pastors and church planters.


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