Today marks the last day of class for me in my seminary career. I will graduate from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary on Friday with a Master of Divinity. As I reflect on my time in seminary, I want to share a few thoughts on what I learned from my experience:
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
Seminary can easily dominate all your free time, so it is important you set aside time to spend with your wife, remembering she 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.