Online seminary schools vary from the only vaguely serious to the authentic seminary experience intended for people who want to educate themselves at home. Correspondence courses in seminary have been offered since as early as 1901 in America when the Moody Bible Institute began their at-home seminary correspondence courses. There are now hundreds of schools offering correspondence classes in subjects like “Christian Studies”, “Evangelism”, and “Divinity”. Selecting the right program for your needs is the key to figuring out what online theology or semianry courses you want to take.
Why do you want to take seminary classes?
Your experience in online seminary and theology classes is extremely mutable. Some people are looking to get quickly ordained so they can officiate a wedding, still other people want to “become ordained” as a joke or a novelty. There are plenty of sources for that kind of online material — YourSeminary.com promises training and accreditation for under $50 (they’ll even throw in a OFFICIAL PARKING badge indicating that you are a member of the clergy). Universal Ministries, operating out of Chicago, has been providing cheap (and only half legal) ordination for years now — you can order a regular ordination certificate for $10 or a “fancy” certificate for $20. Pretty good deal. If you’re just looking to get ordained on a whim or you need ordination material to officiate a wedding, website like these will be fine.
If you’re looking into theology for a more serious reason, there’s plenty for you to choose from as well. If you’re interested in taking an online course in seminary, this means you really want to study Christianity in one of many forms. Many bricks-and-mortar schools offer seminary courses online — big names in the Christian community like Liberty University, Creighton University, and the Denver Seminary offer Masters of Arts degrees in subjects like Worship Studies, and you can even earn a PhD online in Philosophy with an emphasis in theology from Liberty University. If you’re interested in a serious course of theological study, many online seminaries provide just that.
What are of seminary are you interested in?
Benefits of Online Study
Many people who are skeptical of online learning are concerned with the legitimacy of the program, the accreditation of their degree, and how they will “look” if they have a degree they earned online. And yes, there is a prejudice in favor of residential seminaries, just as there is a prejudice in favor of four-year residential univerisites in the secular world. If you pick the right online seminary, your degree will look no different from the degree they give to students who attended on-campus. A degree from a school like Creighton, which hands out degrees both online and on-campus, will appear to your future employer just like any other degree. Online seminaries (the ones that are accredited) offer the same education and support to their online students as they do to more traditional scholars.
The obvious benefit to online seminary is that you can study theology without shaking up your life. There are plenty of young pastors, young ministers, and college students out there who want to study theology but can’t afford it or can’t arrange their lives tp suit a traditional on-campus education. Why should these people be left out of the seminary experience? Taking online courses in seminary is convenient and you can pace yourself — there’s no classroom of people to compete with or to match the pace of.
Many people find it refreshing that with online course work you can complete your work at your own pace. If you work ahead, you can take exams and quizzes earlier than scheduled. Be careful about being late, though — the same rule doesn’t apply. If you push a little bit ahead every week, you’ll find that the end of the semester comes earlier than most people. Finishing courses early means finishing your entire study time early, and saving yourself money over a traditional college.
There are some other benefits to online education — it is much cheaper to take seminary courses online. Also — since you’ll be taking courses from your computer, you can save on travel expenses (like gas and parking) and continue the work or school you are already involved in.
Drawbacks of Online Study
The most obvious drawback for taking seminary courses online is the lack of face to face time with a professor and the lack of social interaction. Meeting other students, studying together, eating meals together and taking part in campus activities — these are all vital parts of the college experience for most people, and earning a degree in seminary online will keep you from doing that. You will be studying by yourself (unless you arrange for something on your own) and you won’t have much if any personal contact with a professor.
To combat this lack of contact with others, most online seminaries have forums where you can chat with other students, get help with questions or concerns, or just sit around and gossip. These forums are a fun way to get study help or to meet folks online, but it just doesn’t compensate for the total lack of social time that you’d get at a traditional campus based seminary.
For people who want to study theology at their own pace, can’t afford a traditional college, or want to continue studying while they stay at work, online seminaries are the way to go.