81% of all incoming seminary students do not expect to have a parish ministry position.

Less than half of all incoming students plan to be ordained.

School websites account for more incoming students than all traditional advertising combined.

Below is the second of three infographcis based on the 2011-2012 ATS ESQ. During the most recently completed academic year, 6,900 incoming students at 161 different ATS schools completed a survey. All three infogrphics are based on that data. In the first infographic we looked at “who” the incoming students were. Today, we look at why they came.

After reviewing this inforgraphic a few things jumped out at me. First, seminaries do much more than train pastors for the church. Only 19% of incoming students expect to have a full-time position in parish ministry upon graduation, which means 81% do not expect to have a full-time position as the pastor of a local church. I see the need to consider what that means for curriculum design and implementation. In addition, students come to seminary seeking fulfillment and guidance. The “opportunity for study and growth” is equally as important to incoming seminarians as “experiencing a call from God.” What does that mean for the formation programs at schools? How should that impact the services we offer students? How do we define and measure outcomes if a student isn’t coming to seminary in order to get a job (as was the case many years ago)? I think it requires us to consider the Great Commission as our measurement tool. Are we equipping disciples to “go and make [more] disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit?” Finally, financial aid is a huge factor for students. What can we do to make theological education more accessible and affordable? According to ATS data, the average tuition rate for the MDiv in ATS schools has increased by 350% since 1988. It’s no wonder financial aid is significant.

What stands out to you? What am I missing? Any questions? Where should I dig deeper? On Friday, we will look at what students “bring” to seminary with them (Spoiler Alert: they bring a lot of debt!).