Theological Seminary, Divinity School, Bible College or Bible Institute? What’s the Difference?
God has called you to serve Him, and now you need biblical and theological preparation to pursue that call.
A variety of educational options are available to you, ranging from theological seminaries and divinity schools to Bible colleges and church-based training programs. What do you look for in a school that best suits your ministry objectives?
The following guide may be helpful in determining your next important steps.
A theological seminary educates students for leadership roles in Christian ministry, such as pastors, missionaries, church planters, counselors and other avenues of service to the Church. Its curriculum places strong emphasis on study and understanding of the Bible and theology, spiritual formation and practical tools for church ministry.
A divinity school is usually affiliated with a university. Like a law or medical school, a divinity school is essentially a theological division within a larger university. Its students can take courses unrelated to theological education. Some are more focused on the academic study of religion and Christianity, preparing students to serve in academic, religious and non-sectarian settings, while others are more pastorally-focused.
Theological seminaries and divinity schools provide graduate level education, offering degrees such as Master of Divinity, Master of Arts in Religion, Master of Christian Counseling and many more. A bachelor’s degree is required for admission. Divinity and theological schools are typically accredited by a federal agency, and are eligible for federally-funded student loans.
Bible colleges were once very prevalent throughout the U.S. Fewer exist today.
Bible colleges provide undergraduate education, and usually require a high school education for admission. The curriculum is based largely on the Bible, with many entry-level courses available in Old and New Testament. Some schools may teach biblical languages.
Some Bible colleges are not accredited, and, hence, not eligible for federal student loans. However, there are exceptions. Multnomah Bible College in Portland, OR, is an example of an accredited evangelical Bible college.
Bible institutes typically provide training for people wanting to understand the Bible better.
In most instances, these schools are not accredited, and may not require a high school degree for admission. Some online programs fall in this category.
Moody Bible Institute in Chicago is a notable exception. Fully accredited, it offers both undergraduate and graduate education to prepare students for Christian ministry.
Church-Based Seminary Education
A relatively recent trend is the development of seminaries by churches. Still rare in the U.S., these schools may offer both undergraduate and graduate degrees that prepare students to understand and apply the Bible and theology in vocational ministry. Typically, they are not accredited.
One of the best-known church based theological schools is Bethlehem College and Seminary developed by Minneapolis Bethlehem Baptist Church.