I received this question today through email: “Any advice for a person just starting seminary?”
I thought my response might make for a helpful post. I am a graduate of Southern Seminary, Louisville, KY, 2003. I’m not sure how many of you out there are considering seminary but maybe it will be an encouragement to you either way. Enjoy!
1) Don’t let the study of God replace the God of the study. Make sure your intimacy with Him (solitude, meditation on Scripture, prayer, and going places and doing that which stirs your affections and wonder in Christ) is first and foremost. Everything must flow from there. If you cheat yourself of this time while in seminary, you will cheat yourself of this time in future ministry.
2) If/when you get married, your wife comes next. Period. Not study. Not ministry. Your girl. Take the D in the class, not the D in your marriage. If you cheat her of time with you in seminary, you will cheat her of time with you in future ministry.
3) Get involved in a local church that needs you. Don’t go where all the other students are going. Get involved in a local church that you can serve–whether that means teaching a class, creating a curriculum, or sweeping floors and cleaning bathrooms.
Most of all, get into the grit of ministry where you can experience how to deal with people (conflict, complacency, hurt feelings, wrong beliefs, betrayal, frustration, and just people who generally dislike you for no apparent reason–i.e., leadership). Seminary does not and cannot teach you how to deal with people in church world.
4) Take care of your health. Get rest. Eat right. Exercise. Make them non-negotiable now. Those will be the first to go due to the academic load you’ll be under. If you rob yourself of these while in seminary, you’ll rob yourself of these in future ministry.
5) Be sure you make time to laugh, have some fun, and play. If you cheat yourself of this while in seminary… (you get the drill). And you will quickly become irrelevant, not to mention dour and harsh with your people in future ministry.
6) Share the gospel. This is another one of the firsts to go. You may even have to schedule this into your calendar. Get out of the library, out of your dom room, and meet unbelievers out and about. Do not lose touch with, or lose your heart for, those without Jesus. Take some risks while you’re at it!
7) Make deep, abiding friendships with a few that will last you the rest of your life. Not cheating yourself of deep, abiding friendships while in seminary, will grant you the gift of trusted brothers-in-arms to lean on in the toughest times of future ministry. This is the number one mistake I made in seminary: I didn’t make an effort to make these kind of relationships. Instead, I lived with this motto: “I am not here to make friends. I am here to study and learn.” I was a fool. I regret it.
Any other former seminarians want to add anything?