Youth Pastors and PhDs

I had a startling realization on Tuesday. It is quite possible that I will never get a PhD (or ThD for that matter). I realized that although I love the Hebrew Bible as much as Mandy, and that although I would love to spend hours on end reading books, translating obscure texts, and researching for a dissertation it is quite likely that I will never have the opportunity to do those things. After all, how many youth pastors do you know who have PhDs? For that matter, how many youth pastors do you know who are even interested in getting a PhD? If you do happen to know one of the exceedingly small number of youth pastors who are interested in getting a PhD – that person is most likely looking into cultural anthropology of adolescent psychology as their PhD program. Nothing wrong with those programs, but I am uninterested in such things.

I doubt that too many Bible or Ancient Near East departments are interested in educating a PhD candidate who’s going to go and spend his time ministering to teens. Beyond that, I honestly don’t think I need a PhD to be a youth pastor – but I would certainly like one. I have this passion for the Bible, and I really wish more youth pastors were interested in learning about the Bible and its backgrounds, and how to work with the original languages. I would love to do something for my PhD that would involve spiritual formation in adolescents and the Bible. Perhaps something dealing with the wisdom literature or something of that nature.

Dreaming aside it is proving incredibly difficult for me to swallow the idea that I am not going to go on and get a PhD. My parents want to know why I don’t just go and teach at a college or university. I try to explain that I have this passion to work with teens and to see them really get to know the Bible (perhaps get to know it as well as they would going to a Bible college). I’m not sure they really understand though. Mandy understands though, which is awesome. She wants to teach Hebrew to teens! Of course, she also wants to teach at a college or university. Don’t get me wrong, its not that I wouldn’t love teaching at a college or university. But when I think about such a possibility I also think about missing out on the opportunities to mentor and shepherd students that I would have as a youth pastor. Perhaps one day I could adjunct, but I can hardly justify a PhD on the grounds that I might, at some undetermined time in the future, use it for a single class a semester, which is not to say that I wouldn’t use what I learn getting a PhD in ministry – I would, but still…

I guess I’ll stop rambling now. I don’t know as I’m actually going anywhere with this. I just wanted to throw my thoughts out on the table. I guess I’m a little depressed over this realization and I’m hoping that blogging it will be therapeutic. It has helped a little. I’ve worked through some of my thoughts. Still sorta depressed though.

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2 thoughts on “Youth Pastors and PhDs

  1. Hey, are you doing that Ph.D. yet? I am also a youth pastor that would really like to get a Ph.D. but I just can’t make the sacrifice at this stage in life. However, I will always be a little odd as youth pastor because of this. Anyway I have enjoyed reading this older posts of yours. I just googled youth pastors and Ph.D.’s and this came up.

  2. Van, not yet. I’m serving in a church outside of DC as a youth minister at present. I still hope to earn a doctorate one day, though at present it has proven to be an incredibly bad time for me to pursue a PhD. I still think we ought to expect more out of our youth pastors in terms of education, and especially education in the realms of religion and biblical studies.

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