Monday, December 19, 2011

Advice for Seminarians from a Graduating Seminarian

We have just ended another term at Ashland. I am still grading, but the students are probably already enjoying their break. Some are enjoying it more than others because they graduated this month. For them, the process is over. For others, it will continue another six months or more.

Over at the Christianity Matters Blog, Casey has posted eleven things that students in seminary should know. I liked what he had to say and decided to repost here. The only thing I adjusted was number eight by assuming that, at least for my students, their supporting spouse could be either a husband or wife. So if you are currently in seminary or thinking about enrolling, have a read of what Casey has to say. And do please visit his blog and perhaps leave a comment.

1. Seminary requires you to be a good researcher and writer

In order to learn the trade well, it would be wise to spend time reading books on writing and research, knowing the better researcher and writer you become, the better speaker you will be. In addition, the better writer you become, the better reader you will be, helping you to better process the overwhelming material you will read during your time in seminary.

2. Seminary provides you with tools, it does not teach you everything you need to know

Receiving your diploma does not mean your studying is over. You could argue seminary is just the beginning of your theological education, giving you the ability to pursue further self-study. In order to serve a church well, those graduating from seminary need to continue to study, research, and write, faithfully exercising the skills developed during their time in seminary.

3. Make an effort to develop good friendships

Not only are you making friends for life, who will be a rock for you to lean on during your days in ministry, but you will learn more outside of the classroom in conversations with friends than during lectures. Since this is true, you should take as many classes as you can with your friends, and discuss the lectures and readings as often as possible. I have learned more, and been challenged more, during conversations with friends at Starbucks and over lunch than I would have if I solely relied on my personal study of class lectures.

4. Develop friendships with your professors

I have spent time getting to know several professors throughout my seminary career. These men have given me solid biblical advice, as well as challenged me in my spiritual life. It is worth it to put forth the effort to get to know a few professors on a deeper level.

5. Find a solid local church and pour into it

Don’t coast through your seminary career thinking you will minister when you take on your first church. Find a church now, plug in, spend as much time with the leadership there as you can, and minister to as many people as you can, even if it is not from the pulpit. In addition, you should give the church you attend during seminary the same opportunity to examine your calling to the ministry as you did your home church.

6. Buy as many books as you can

In order to find books at a reasonable price, spend time finding the discount book sellers in your area. A high concentration of seminary students equals a greater potential for a gold mine of cheap theology books to develop in your local used book stores. Visit these stores often; especially, at the end of a semester when other students may be unloading their unwanted books. What one student does not want, may be a gem to another.

7. Attend Conferences

Most conferences will allow you to attend at a cheaper rate while you are in seminary. Take the opportunity while you have it, knowing that traveling with friends and networking with other pastors from around the country is priceless. Not to mention, most conferences give away books like they are candy. It is not uncommon to walk away with 20-30 free books written by your favorite authors and speakers.

8. Set aside time for your wife/husband

Seminary can easily dominate all your free time, so it is important you set aside time to spend with your husband/wife, remembering she/he is your first ministry.

9. Make time for your personal relationship with the Lord

Even a theological education is no substitute for one’s devotional life. Setting aside time to do your daily devotion is crucial to your growth in the Christian life.

10. Plan out your semester

Nothing is more stressful than having to write three papers and study for two tests in the same week. In order to avoid that type of stress, setup a schedule and plan at the beginning of each semester and stick to it. If you planned well, and started your projects early enough, you should have no problem turning in your best work with minimal stress.

11. Have fun

Seminary is a time for serious study and preparation for ministry, but it is also a time to enjoy life. Don’t always act so serious, and take the opportunity to get involved in intramural sports, as well as seek out a hobby other than reading. Always make sure to set aside time during the week to relax with friends and family.


  1. Gee, only a couple years too late for this.

  2. John,
    Thanks for reposting my blog. Glad you enjoyed.

  3. The #1 item on this list should be:

    Be prepared to change your mind about your religious beliefs, even those that you have held for a long time and are deeply-seated. You are in seminary to learn from experts in theology and biblical studies. This means that you will need to enter classes prepared to recognize how limited many of your views are. Too many people enter seminary thinking that they will keep all of their current views and will just learn some skills about preaching or visitation or other things like that. Sadly, these individuals (if they keep this mindset) benefit *very little* from seminary. Others enter seminary and find new faith, oftentimes even stronger, by being challenged.

  4. addendum to Marcus...
    Be prepared to have those in your church not support your new understandings. Trying to bring the views learned to an average evangelical church can be as easy as Galileo trying to convince the Roman heirarchy that the earth is not the center of the universe.

  5. Let's revise the statement. Assuming the evangelical seminary exists to equip called students to minister effectively in the church and world in accordance with specific core values, what should the learning outcomes be? If you want to evaluate the worth of a seminary, examine its alumni for indicators of effective ministry.