Seminary school attendance has been on the rise in the last five years, according to a report released this week from The Association of Theological Schools. In fact, 12 schools have seen attendance grow by more than 50 percent, with 34 schools growing by 25 percent.
And there’s been a shift towards online education, too, with the online student seminary population rising from 13,750 members to 18,5000 members — a 35 percent increase, the ATS reported.
This is happening at a time when religious worship attendance and interest in joining priesthoods and ministries has decreased in the United States. Still, seminary schools across the country and in Canada have found ways to bring students in.
“There is no silver bullet,” Daniel O. Aleshire, executive director of ATS, said in the report. “The reasons that some schools have enjoyed extraordinary enrollment growth during the past five years are idiosyncratic. Each growing school has its own success story to tell.”
Here’s a list of the 12 fastest growing seminary schools. The report didn’t specifically state how much of an increase each of these schools had, but it did note that they have all experienced at least 50 percent enrollment growth in the last five years.
Baptist Missionary Association Theological Seminary — Jacksonville, Texas
This Texas theological seminary had 68 enrolled students during the 2014 school year. The seminary also has an Arkansas campus.
Central Baptist Theological Seminary — Shawnee, Kansas
Christian Witness Theological Seminary — San Jose, California
Some sun, surf and Bible studying? Not a bad way to spend the semester. The Christian Witness seminary has a primarily Chinese student population, and students learn about multiple denominations of Christianity. The school had 78 students in 2014.
Immaculate Conception Seminary at Seton Hall University — South Orange, New Jersey
Seton Hall is a primarily Catholic university, and the Immaculate Conception school helps prepare men for the Catholic priesthood at the House of Formation. The School of Theology within the seminary helps men and women learn religious and theological principles.
Knox Theological Seminary — Fort Lauderdale, Florida
This Florida-based seminary had 277 members in 2014. It’s an independent evangelical seminary that prepares prospective ministers. There’s also an online version of the school, called Knox Online.
Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary — Kansas City, Missouri
This is one of the six official seminaries of the Southern Baptist Convention, one of the largest Christian denominations in the country. The school, which had 804 members in 2014, the most of any of the fastest growing seminaries, has an 88 percent acceptance rate.
Mount Angel Seminary — St. Benedict, Oregon
This Oregon-based seminary is home to Benedictine monks and had 87 students in 2014. The seminary’s graduates have served more than 100 religious communities in the United States, according to the seminary’s website.
Northwest Baptist Seminary — Langley, British Columbia, Canada
This Canadian seminary had 34 members in 2014, which is impressive for a seminary that started in 2009. The seminary helps serve the Evangelical Baptist Church in Canada.
Notre Dame Seminary — New Orleans, Louisiana
Notre Dame Seminary looks to prepare Catholic men for the priesthood and helps Catholic believers learn more about their church's history and practice. The school had 200 students in 2014.
University of Notre Dame Department of Theology — Notre Dame, Indiana
This is the Notre Dame you’re probably more familiar with. The program, which had 318 students in 2014, aims to teach moral theology, world religious history, biblical studies and the history of Christianity, according to the program’s website.
St. Mark’s College — Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
St. Mark’s College is another Catholic-based seminary, only this one’s in Canada. The school, which had 54 members in 2014, offers degrees and programs centered around Catholic doctrine and values.
United Theological Seminary — Dayton, Ohio
The United Theological Seminary had 538 members in 2014. The school serves the United Methodist church in the Dayton, Ohio, area.
Herb Scribner is a writer for Deseret News National. Send him an email at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @herbscribner.