This is a big question and deserves a more detailed response than today’s quick answer by John Fuder below. I can tell you one interesting fact from our experience at 20schemes. At the moment we are turning down a large majority of applicants for our work – probably about 80%+. Seminary students (from the states, at least) have a 100% failure rate when applying to us. Why is this? Because we hate students? No. Far from it. We find seminary that seminary students:
- Lack the faith for this kind of ministry. They want concrete answers and guarantees for every doubt. They want a guaranteed salary and don’t want the embarrassment of raising financial support (expressed more than once by individuals and couples).
- Have unrealistic expectations of the mission field. Will I have “me time”? Will we have a pension? Can we return home for medical care (my favourite)?
- More often than not they want to do “further studies” to “prepare for the ministry” (read, seminary is great and we get to drink coffee, read books and have lovely debates – they don’t want it to end).
- Seem unable to share the gospel but more than ready to pontificate on the problem of 16th Century debates around the ingrowing toenails of angels vs the hairstyles of cherubs. Or something equally as meaningless.
- Just completely unprepared for anything in life ever! I have met students who have ‘never really met an unbeliever’ (I kid you not). I have met those who were scared we wouldn’t have wi-fi and they wouldn’t be able to maintain contact with family. I could go on…
I’m not sure what is going on in theologically conservative, evangelical seminaries and Bible Colleges in the western world when it comes to training people for the mission field, particularly scheme and council estate ministry in the UK. Well, I do really. Nothing is going on. Hardly anybody is being equipped to go (there are exceptions before you write in and tell me about your amazing course in Urban Missiology). The reversal of this trend is not going to come from these places but from local churches getting serious about church revitalisation, planting, discipleship and leadership training in our poorest communities.
Below is an American perspective. Pretty much the same thing but said more sweetly.