Baby boomers flock to seminary - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Baby boomers flock to seminary

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -- The Association of Theological Schools reports a steady rise in people 50-years-old and older entering seminary.

That's over the course of 1995 to 2009, and it's in a wide variety of denominations and religions.

Nationwide, baby boomers find themselves facing either retirement or perhaps that career option they've always wanted to pursue.

52-year-old Don Glanzer Jr. left a nearly 25-year-long career to answer the call to ministry.

"I was in the army for about four years and the FBI for almost 25, so I guess this is a second if not a third venture in my professional life," Glanzer said.

This was no light decision for him and his family.

"My wife and I talked about how this was going to work with, I mean, me losing the majority of my income, with our two oldest daughters in school and how it was going to work with the additional expense of seminary," Glanzer said.

He felt a strong call, though, as have many others in his generation.

Wartburg Theological Seminary president Stan Olson said, for some people, it's a matter of, "'Well, the kids are gone now,' and that would probably especially true for women, who maybe didn't even consider it earlier in life, but now that the opportunity is there, they take a second look."

Olson said many factors play into Baby Boomer seminarians.

"'If I took that early retirement offer, I could go to seminary, and I've been thinking about that,'" Olson said, "or maybe they get laid off and they realize, 'Well, the house is paid for. I've got a decent retirement account. I could do this.'"

Olson does caution against people using their retirement savings for seminary only to find themselves coming up short later in life. A person's financial situation, Olson said, must be taken into consideration.

For Glanzer, the decision eventually became clear.

"You'll know when you are called into ordained ministry when you can do nothing else," Glanzer said.

Olson said older seminary students bring a lot of life experience to the classroom and ministry, compared with younger students, such as those fresh from getting their undergraduate degrees. However, those younger students, he said, can still learn the empathy required for a position in the ministry.

The Association of Theological Schools reports that while students younger than 30 still comprise the largest age group in seminary, Baby Boomers have seen the sharpest rise in enrollment over the course of 15 years.

Online Reporter Becca Habegger

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