A seasoned faculty member once complained to me after completing a long counseling session with a student. He lamented about how he was spending more and more of his on-campus time: “Sometimes I feel like I’m spending more time counseling my students than teaching them. This was not the case 20 years ago when I began teaching. Something has changed.”
Something has changed when you read articles like "An Epidemic of Anguish" in The Chronicle of Higher Education from September 4, 2015. The headline: “Today’s Anguished Students.” The article goes on to rehearse some troubling statistics:
- 58 percent of campuses have seen a rise in anxiety disorders.
- 89 percent of campuses have seen a rise in clinical depression.
- 33 percent of campuses have no psychiatrists available.
- 31 percent of campus counseling centers have waiting lists.
- 8 percent of students in the past 12 months have seriously considered suicide.
It's true that college campuses are not theological schools. Nevertheless, these statistics point to a common struggle in both environments -- students need more emotional and psychological support than 20 years ago. Their needs have changed. And for seminaries, these needs go right to the heart of spiritual formation.
The professor went on to ask the following question, with his critique barely hidden: “I think we function more like a church today than a school.”
So are seminaries becoming more like churches, providing all the necessary pastoral and clinical support to their members? Or should seminaries be actually guiding their students into real congregations where they can be more adequately nurtured and cared for?
Formation has become a central theme in all seminaries today. How a school addresses the formation question will determine what kind of Christian community it desires to become.
How has your school approached this issue?