EDUCATION & Least educated are most likely to identify as religiously unaffiliated … those with a graduate level education are almost always the group that is the most likely to be religiously affiliated.

by Ryan Burge, Christianity Today, 4/19/19.

…the bar graph below displays the percentage of each educational group that identifies as a religious “none” (atheist, agnostic, or nothing in particular).

Educational attainment serves as a very good proxy for economic prosperity and provides a solid test of secularization theory. Note that each of the six waves of the Cooperative Congressional Election Study contain between 30,000 and 65,000 respondents.

The results are unambiguous: those with the least amount of education are consistently the most likely to identify as religiously unaffiliated. The far right bar in the graph, indicating those with a graduate level education are almost always the group that is the most likely to be religiously affiliated.

If one would like to argue that education is related to secularization, there is no evidence to support that conclusion to be found here.

However, there is a more specific way to approach this problem. The above graph lumps the entire sample into six education categories with little regard for whether they obtained their high school diploma in 1968 to 2008.

If secularization was a constantly accelerating process, we would expect to see younger people with graduate degrees unaffiliate at higher rates than their older counterparts with high levels of education. In order to test this, I broke the CCES 2018 sample into birth cohorts, which are created based on five year intervals.

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STUDENT SUCCESS & Tips about outside resources learned while earning a PhD, traveling, speaking & writing 5 books.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 10/2/15.

Many people today are bi-vocational, multi-tasking students. While taking courses they must travel, work, take care of a family, etc. … and adding homework to the mix can be a chore.  I know.

A personal juggling act.

2000s.  I earned my Ph.D. while serving as Director of Graduate Ministries, the department’s only full-time professor, keeping up a national speaking schedule and writing five books … to say nothing of parenting four daughters (with loads of help from my lovely wife).

1970s.  When I first went to seminary and earned a MDiv, my wife and I estimated I purchased over $7,000 of books (and this was in 1977 dollars!).  With the advent of electronic sources students don’t have to do that today.  Yet, as I professor I want to help them rise to the level of graduate school education where we scour what has been written and bring the best and most relevant insights to increase our effectiveness of fulfilling the Great Commission with a Great Compassion.

1.  So, I did a lot of my reading in airports, and especially on planes.  I would take with me 3-4 books on a trip, and put one in my carry-on bag for each flight. Then while the plane is taking off and ascending to cruising altitude and traveling to my destination, I would read the book and take notes.  I literally have hundreds of books I have read while traveling.  And, you will notice that most people on planes take books or iPads to read, I just read books on my chosen field of study.

Graduate School is: masters-level and research-based.

My students understand that “research” is a distinguishing “mark” of graduate school. That is why when they graduate, the Academy (the scholarly profession) calls them a “master” of a topic.  This is because as professors we have observed in your work that they have “mastered” the topic by looking at what many good scholars have said about this subject.  In addition, research means finding and applying relevant resources and bringing them into the conversations with other students.

Integrating such research from numerous sources is a characteristic of graduate school education (where you are becoming a “master” of a topic by pervasive reading and studying).  My syllabi state that my students only need to quote 1-2 textbooks and 2-3 outside sources each week, but this level of research is for an average grade.  Most of my students cite more sources, usually 2-3 textbooks and 3-5 outside sources per discussion forum, and the same per paper.

Ideas for finding and conducting research amid a busy schedule.

But there is good news!  And that is that finding such sources today is much easier (when I was in seminary for my first doctorate (D.Min.) I sometimes sequestered myself in stacks of the library :-O  Today however, you can find an abundance of sources online.  Therefore, let me give you some ideas on finding relevant outside sources.

The following can be of help to writers, leaders, professors and my even students who are looking for reliable and valid research sources for discussions and writings.

2.  Many graduate-level students/researchers borrow books from their friends in the field.  Many communities, churches, schools, colleges and even museums have a nice sized libraries and are usually willing to loan them to a seminary researcher.

3.  You can often find books online available to download for free.  For example, Dr. Elmer Towns has 76 (yes, that’s right 76 😉 books on Church Growth (including The Practical Encyclopedia of Church Growth) that you can download free from his site:

4.  If you are an IWU or Wesley Seminary student, Off-campus Library Services (OCLS) can get you almost any book free.  You can search for books and request them by clicking on the OCLS “BUTTON” that appears on every MyIWU portal page.  It links you to the OCLS site:  The book will be mailed to you free, but it might take a week or so to arrive. Thus, requesting books from Off Campus Library Services (OCLS) is best to utilize when you are requesting books to use in your final Application Paper.

5.  In addition, the Off-campus Library Services (OCLS) has a website (which I’ve mentioned above).  It is and it can help you search for online journal articles. These articles can be immediately downloaded to your computer.  Just click on the You will be whisked to the OCLS site:  Once you are on the OCLS page, look for the section that says “Article Databases” and click on the one that says “Religion.”  Under the Religion category click on “ATLA (Religion Index)” and you will go to a search page where you can search for any topic.  (ATLA stands for the American Theological Library Association.) You will usually find hundreds of articles on your topic, so look carefully for the best resources for your discussion.  Also if you focus on articles  that are designated as a “.pdf” you can immediately download them to your computer.

6.  For a list of sources that an author or a professor might “recommend,” look for a “footnote trail” in your textbooks. These are footnotes in your textbooks, that can lead you to primary books that have important insights. As writers we put in “footnotes” because we are “recommending” them as original sources that are germane to the topic.  I am known for having many footnotes in my books for this very reason: to help students track down the original source and more data.  If during your readings for the week, you see a footnoted book that sounds interesting for your final paper, then email OCLS and they will send it to you in a couple of weeks.  It should arrive in plenty of time before your final Application Paper at the end of this course.  And remember, articles noted in footnotes can usually be downloaded immediately.

SCHOLARLY WRITING & Tips for the Wide-eyed & Mystified Graduate School Student

by Bob Whitesel Ph.D., 7/17/15.

Seminary writing, as well as graduate school writing, is a bit different from undergraduate writing and even writing for the regular marketplace.

This is because in graduate school you are seeking to obtain a “Master’s degree.” The “master” designation means you have demonstrated to the Academy (i.e. the faculty) that you have “mastered” the subject manner, e.g. have read widely in it and know how to apply it.  Thus, citations show the Academy that you are becoming a master of the material and its application.

To help my students I like to steer them toward a helpful titled, Surviving and Thriving in Seminary: A Practical Guide for the Wide-eyed and Mystified. It is available as a Kindle download for the amazingly low price of $4.99.

I hope this resource further helps you, the reader, adjust to your new scholarly and practical journey into missional leadership.

Chapter Ten, “Researching and Writing Essays” has some very helpful advice:

I have a simple source rule that I teach my students that if you follow will enable you to produce quality work.  The rule is 1 source per page +1. What this means is that for a 10-page paper, aim for at minimum 11 sources. For a 20-page paper, aim for at minimum 21 resources. Aiming for this number of quality resources and actually making use of them will signal to your professor that you took the time to find an adequate number of resources to research your topic.

In observing this rule for class essays, try and keep this mind: make 1/ 3 of your resources academic journal articles. Although they are not best-sellers nor are they widely read, academic journals is where the latest research first gets published in academia. That research (some, not all) then makes its way into books and book chapters— often many years later. So when you use journal articles for your research, you signal to your professor that you are engaging in the latest discussion on the matter at hand. (Kindle Locations 867-871)

Later in the chapter Zacharias offers some more helpful insights:

If you are researching a particular topic and already have either a book or a book chapter that covers the topic, then the bibliography and footnotes of these resources will provide you with a wealth of possible resources. Like the above methods, you will need to judge for yourself based on the title if the source is worth your time (see the Reading chapter for more on this).

If your bibliography is still thin for your essay, ATLA is the place to go. ATLA was covered in the Skills chapter (including the bonus video). Getting the Resources Getting a list of resources is only half of the battle— you still need to go and actually collect them. This is where your library skills will come into play. If you have not yet followed my advice and received a tutorial from your library, I strongly suggest you do that. You will need to tap into your library’s online catalogue as well as ATLA Serials to determine if your library has the resource, and if not, then how to attain it. (Kindle Location 911)

And, the book includes a helpful video.  I cannot say enough good things about the video.  When you buy the book it includes a link to a video that demonstrates how to do an ATLA search.  Here is how one student described the book:

“This little gem of a book is filled with some great pointers like this one: ‘Remember that as you enter your studies, you are meeting and rubbing shoulders with people that are already on the same team as you. You are not entering a competitive business school where one-upmanship may ensure you securing a limited pool of jobs. You are not in the rat race of private-sector work— you are a fellow builder of God’s kingdom. You and your fellow students are in this together. Their success is your success.’ (Kindle Locations 218-221).

The bonus video and the chapters on reading and writing are helpful for not only any current assignments, but also for the duration of your seminary journey.

Zacharias, D. (2013). Surviving and thriving in seminary: a practical guide for the wide-eyed and mystified. Kindle: Danny Zacharias

WESLEY SEMINARY & Why it models the future of theological schools #WesleySem

An interview with Daniel O. Aleshire by Faith and Leadership Magazine, Assoc. of Theological Schools, 5/5/15.

“The professional master’s degree has been growing — a trend that’s likely to continue, says the executive director of The Association of Theological Schools in an interview reflecting on a new report on theological education.”

When The Association of Theological Schools released a report on enrollment trends over the last five years, the headline was a bit surprising. “Seminaries set six enrollment records(link is external)” was the title of the report, which went on to describe the growth trends, including a record number of professional master’s degree students. Another recent report identified 100 seminaries that have grown over the past five years(link is external) and examined the reasons why. “The trends described here suggest a brighter future for graduate theological education — six years out from the recession — than is often reported,” the enrollment report said. As executive director of ATS(link is external), Daniel O. Aleshire is in a unique position to observe and reflect on the fast-changing landscape of theological education. He spoke to Faith & Leadership about educational trends and what they mean for mainline institutions. The following is an edited transcript.

Q: What do you see as the most significant bright spots? Forty percent of ATS schools have had increasing enrollment. But the primary learning is that there’s no one set of characteristics that is applicable across these growing schools. They’re growing for different reasons, so there’s not the opportunity to mimic a particular institutional behavior and expect the same institutional result by other schools. Some of the schools that were growing, for example, were candidates for accreditation. They experienced a jump in enrollment once they attained accredited status. Other schools have developed new educational programs, and it appears that increases in enrollment are directly related to either new degree programs or new patterns of educational delivery. Some schools have revamped their admissions process — the way they are posturing the school, describing its mission, focusing in on a particular constituency — and for some schools, that appears to be what contributed to their growth.

Q: Degree-seeking students have declined by 3 percent since 2009, but some numbers are rising. Talk a little bit about that. The master of divinity degree continues to be the program with the most students enrolled, but the enrollment in the M.Div. has been declining, while the enrollment in the professional master’s degrees has been increasing — in fact, increasing pretty significantly over the last several years. The professional master’s degrees in the olden days of theological education used to be a degree in religious education or a degree in church music. We now have professional master’s degrees offered in almost 250 different degree titles… There is no one of those programs that’s running away. We don’t have the numbers of enrollment by specific title, but my perception is that the primary growth has come in areas of leadership and areas of counseling, and some in areas of intercultural ministry. I think that another possible reason for this growth in professional master’s degree program enrollment has been the growth over the last 30 years of evangelical Protestant schools. Many of these schools are related to church bodies that have a more free-church pattern of polity that means there’s not an entity requiring the M.Div. ordination…

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