I suspect that more seminarians these days are expecting and looking for a “staff position” (though it may have “pastor” in the title) rather than a pastoral ministry in which they will be preaching on a regular basis. That may be where some will function best, but I fear that many are underestimating what God could do through them in not aspiring to pastoral pulpit ministry. In most cases I would rather see a seminary graduate take a smaller church as “the pastor” rather than joining the staff of a large church. There is a place for “staff” roles, especially for those who may not have a solid local church background—perhaps having come to Christ during their university days and then come directly to seminary. Some of these staff positions may become life-long ministries (and that is legitimate in some cases); others may be for a few years to gain some experience. I would like to think, however, that these would be the exceptions rather than the usual pattern; unfortunately (I think) they have become the norm. A seminary grad will learn far more about ministry, about preaching, about the Bible and theology in two years of such ministry in the smaller church than they are likely to learn in twice that time as an assistant. Yes, they will make some mistakes—and learn from them. But hopefully their seminary training will have helped them avoid the worst missteps, and remember that seminary can never teach everything an aspiring pastor needs to know; it can never give them all the answers. But a good seminary program can give them the tools and teach them how to think and how to approach ministry. There is an excellent essay on this topic by Kevin Bauder, “It’s the Theology!” posted at <http://seminary.wcts1030.com/publications/Nick/Nick131.html>.
I can say without hesitation, that this is true. We learned a lot when we pastored at the Grand Canyon National Park (South Rim). Sure, we made some mistakes but we learned from them and we moved on. Rod isn’t knocking staff pastor positions, but I think more folk need to think about stepping out and taking thchurhces congregations, or planting them… That can be when can really take on all that is involved in the pastoral vocation, especially the sacred talks of preaching, which is the topic of the article from which thesis quote is taken.