So, you are going to seminary and don’t know what to expect? Well, one little blog is hardly going to tell you everything you need to know, but after a year at Asbury here are some important things for those who are starting seminary. It is by no means a comprehensive list, and anybody is willing to offer their own two-cents in the comment section.
1. Be formed spiritually by your studies. This sounds easy enough heading into seminary. You might think that having a class with the Bible as your main reading would just automatically enter you into some sort of spiritual nirvana. Not necessarily. It is easy to get burdened by an assignment and to spend 30 hours writing a paper on the meaning of Matthew 5:48b, and never fully grasp the radical call of holiness in Christ for our own personal lives. I believe these persons are the kind of people that Jesus often preached against: Pharisees and the teachers of the law.
2. Don’t let your studies be your only encounter with God. It is easy to feel like you have read the Bible after doing an assignment like the above mentioned. Don’t let it. Keep your relationship with God vital. Spend time with Him in prayer, however you pray. Spend time in the Scriptures, being transformed into God’s image. Love and serve you neighbor and see God in one another.
3. There is more to learning in Seminary than class. I’ve learned as much in community as I have in class. Allow for opportunities to communicate with your fellow brothers and sisters. Bounce ideas off of one another. Share insights. Asks questions. These are going to be fellow leaders of the church: learn from them as well. One practical tip: don’t schedule your life where you have to be somewhere right after class, give yourself a little time to communion with your classmates.
4. Stop Studying. Life is more important than to just study in Seminary. Yea, studying is important, vital, and necessary, but it is not the only thing. Spend time with your family. Make them a priority. Even if it is just for 30 good minutes, your spouse will be extremely thankful. Take a Saturday and get away for the day. It will even help you study, trust me. If you don’t have a family with you, spend time with good friends.
5. Seminary is a journey. Many words could be added to this, but try to keep a perspective of where you are, and be attentive to your peculiar calling in this world. Take a step back, frequently and reflect on what the massive God is doing and how the Father has shaped you thus far.
6. Find a small group community. Heather and I meet with 2 other seminary couples, and it has been one of the best things for us. We travel this journey together, share our joys, our struggles. We play games. We pray. We will be friends forever. Wouldn’t trade this for anything. I cannot emphasis this enough.
7. Be involved in a community outside your seminary community. It is easy to get locked into the seminary bubble. Rather it be a job, a mission opportunity, a hobby, a church do something so that you are continually interacting with God’s people. Not everybody that you will serve will be like seminary students, we are in fact a peculiar bunch. Break out of the bubble, no matter how comfortable that bubble is.
8. But be involved in the community spiritual life. Go to Chapel (especially if you are at Asbury)! Take advantage of the spiritual gifts of those in the community and be renewed while in this community. As our president Dr. Kalas said at the first chapel that you will be hard pressed to find this much faith in one room.
9. Stay connected to home. Many thing here. Talk to family, friends, and share your journey with them. Also, keep in touch with your boards & conferences that you will be returning to (if you are in fact returning). It is easy to get so busy with classes that you put off those relationships. That will be your home longer than this will be your home. Make sure you stay connected there.
10. Don’t be financially selfish. You will one day be preaching faithful stewardship, make sure you practice it, now. But more than that don’t be selfish in paying for your school. Let me explain. I am 24, married for 3 years, and we want to be financially independent. We could be, too. We could also be 20,000 and counting in debt. We have had financial support from organizations, associations, churches, friends, and family. Don’t be selfish and let others help you if they have the means. You can be one expression for their love of God. Do you want to stand in the way of someone loving God? Something to think about.
11. Be transformed. How can we teach others to be disciples, if we are not. Seminary does not exist so that we can stand high behind a pulpit and proclaim a “Christian Life Well Conceived,” but it exists so that we can, full of God’s love and through the power of that grace, be the hands and feet of Christ that transform our neighbors, all of them, into the image of God and God’s kingdom can reign on Earth as it is in Heaven.