LIVING THROUGH FINANCIAL REGRET: Use Caution in Pursuit of Ministry Education.

I have thought of writing for sometime. I am part of a denomination that doesn’t require a Masters Degree to pastor, in fact up until about 10 years ago the usual people going on for a Masters degree were teachers and some upper leaders or pastors of very large or Mega-churches.

Then we started pushing a seminary, and encouraging more education. I chose to get a jump on the band wagon, and went for a four-year M-DIV. I was warned of the risks financially, but hoped for opportunity to teach part-time at a college or online. I never had aspirations of a larger church or denominational position, since God placed the call of local church ministry on my heart.

Seven years later I honestly feel much of my extra training has proven of little value. When the financial strain of debt and serving in a small local church is considered then the payoff seems far less than helpful.

Here are the good and bad that I see and have experienced.


  • A deeper understanding of the technical terms and biblical languages: Yes, I can say I have a better understanding of language and the Bible. However, with the great Bible programs available the knowledge is available to all of us.
  • A bit of growth in my personal devotion life: I did grow in spiritual discipline and growth. I believe there are far less expensive ways to achieve this.
  • Some understanding of how the administration of church works: again I may have grown un this area, but a community college might have helped in managment for a far more reasonable price.
  • Bringing me into contact with people outside my normal daily contacts: we need to learn to move beyond out of our comfort zones and be comfortable with all people. This is a plus to seminary, but could be accomplished with mission trips or serving local mission groups.


  • A huge financial burden: I am no different than others. I’d just paid off my 4 year Bachelors when I returned to pursue a Masters degree. I racked up a burden of $100,000. I pastor, like many in a small rural community, and never should have pursed further education.
  • A degree that serves no purpose outside of church realm: An MDIV, or Masters in the Bible are only recognized by churches and church administrators. No one in the world cares that you know Greek, Hebrew, or planning worship. In fact having a Masters Degree will close some doors, because people will not think you will take a job with a high degree.
  • A flooded system of seminarians means the job market isn’t easy: I had hoped to supplement income as a part-yine college professor. Here’s the rub, like most jobs,if you don’t know the right people you will not get a second look. Furthermore, with so many others now pursuing higher degree you’ll be lost in the pile of others seeking jobs or supplements to their income. Many tell us there is need of pastors, but you must consider that most places in need are smaller churches. This means lower pay and in most cases the need to be bi-vocational to supplement income.


  • Cost: Seminary will cost anywhere from $65,000 – $150,000 depending on where you attend.
  • Find seminars or even mission trips to grow your personal life: I realize today that most of the lasting benefits of my extra higher education only built on my Bachelor’s in Bible and religion. Most of those enhanced training could have come from seminars. I’d say over 25 years of ministry I’ve received far more from pastor and leadership retreats than any degree class I’ve taken.
  • Realize a piece of paper has little or no serious effect on serving, teaching, or preaching: Training is needed, but a degree doesn’t make good preachers or pastors. A heart of faith and service make a person a minister. Many less trained people preach and teach better then higher trained ministers.
  • In a growing bi-vocational ministry world consider what training will truly serve you, your family, and your church outreach in the future: In my experience I would have done better ten years ago pursuing a teaching degree. I am limited to substitute teaching as one of the few jobs in my are to supplement income. I’ve wondered how if I’d have gotten a degree for teaching I might be less financially burdened, and my church freer to put more money toward other ministry. A business degree, counseling degree, or technical training in some cases might actually provide a better place for bi-vicational work and open more doors for witness and ministry in your community.
  • Above all, be sure it’s really God’s Plan and not your human hope or desire that drives you: be in deep prayer. It’s easy to think something is right, while missing what God really desires.

I am not saying not to pursue education or that education is evil. I am saying that we should be more open to God’s leading, and be very cautious about pursuing extra higher educational degrees. I also believe most denominations need to reconsider what the need in ministers, and find ways to offer needed training without the financial burden. Such burdens always effect the minister, family, and church. This is s burden for all in the church and we must find better ways to increase knowledge and depth without the destruction of debt.

I wish I had the miraculous answer, but I don’t. All I can do is share my experience and hope others are more cautious than I was.

May Jesus bless your journey.


Dealing with Frustrations in Ministry


By Robert “Duane” Cragun

Ok, you have invested a great deal of time and energy in a new family, they get involved, their children develop relationship with other kids in the church, its looking good and then it happens. Maybe in a few months or, in the situation I am thinking about, after two years a separation happens.  Despite all of your hard work and caring, your disciplining and loving them, they stop coming. Some times they will tell you why and other times they wont talk to you anymore. You try to discover what happened and how to make it work, but in the end they stop coming. And you feel abandoned. If this is your situation right now don’t feel alone, it happens to all of us! I have seen some devastating effects this can have on the minister and the congregation alike. Lets talk about a couple of them and what to do about it.


The sense of feeling abandoned: Its normal to have these feeling to a point, after all both you and members of your congregation have opened your hearts to these people and now their gone. You know Jesus had the same problem, he shared his heart and some rejected Him as well. This can have a side affect if we allow it to. It can bring you and your congregations willingness to reach out to others down to where fear could stop us in fulfilling the Great Commission. So what do we do? First of all you need to pray over the situation, keeping in mind that their reasons for leaving could be valid. We are not perfect, we can make mistakes. So with this in mind, prayer that the Lord will give you wisdom in this situation, pray for insight and what and how to act in trying to being them back and how to keep the congregation incurred and pray for the Lord t keep you encouraged as well.

Another effect can be a loss of desire to extend ourselves out to others: Yes the pain is real and the disappointment is also, but we are called to be His witness and we cannot allow anyone of thing stop us in the ministry we have been given. So what do we do? Learn from this experience. See what happened and be ready the next time to address it before it become’s a problem.  And help the church body to understand that these things happen sometimes let move forward!

To sum up this little blog, if their were no sin in the world, then everyne would see the light and turn to the Lord. Our churches would never do anything wrong and we and this problem would never exist, but sin is here and so are we. If they leave, try to keep them in prayer try to offer help and let them know you are there if they need you, but don’t give up. What we do hase eternal affects. As Dory in finding Nemo says, “Just keep swimming.”


God Bless

Duane Cragun