Advice for families going to seminary

While scouring the internet today for more information to help us all on our seminary journeys I stumbled across a great post on tHe Resurgence (not to be confused with The post, Advice for Seminary Students with Families (& Full-Time Jobs) give 17 spot-on nuggets of wisdom for the family seminarian. While you should check out Colin’s site, it is so good I’d hate for you to miss it in the case that you don’t want to click the link… so, at length, here are his 17 points:

1. You are not single without children. Your priorities are 1) God, 2) Family, 3) everything else. If you lose your family for your ministerial aspirations, you have lost your qualifications for the ministry.

2. If you need A’s and B’s for possible doctoral studies, take fewer classes rather than upsetting the priority list above. If you were an A student in college, you must get past the idolatry of the grade.

3. You may not always be able to read everything assigned in a class. Be judicious in what you set out to accomplish. Rank the importance of the texts at the beginning of the semester, acquiring the professor’s help if necessary, and start with those. You must be diligent in your reading, even if you are not a quick reader. Nonetheless, set a goal and a corresponding calendar to get all your work completed for each class, having the important texts read in case (err, when) an emergency crops up.

4. Get papers completed early and utilize the Writing Lab (or similar writing/tutoring service if available). Since you may not be able to read the quantity of books a single or non-father student will devour while in seminary, and therefore without the benefit of exposure to as diverse examples writing quality, you must pay attention to edits and critiques of your writing in order to improve.

5. Do not neglect Bible study and devotion times. You may have to change your routine or your devotion time during the day. You must spend time in the Bible to supplement your seminary education. This means that you should not neglect Bible study for an assignment (but neither should you use it as an excuse for not completing something due to poor planning or management).

6. Read wisely. Select your books carefully. Read reviews. Open the book before you read, peruse the bibliography to get a feel for what main sources the author draws from, read the biographical information about the author, note the publisher, and read the last chapter. This will get your mind in tune to the work and ready to glean its significant points. Unfortunately many books in the bookstore today hide significant points within sermon illustrations, anecdotes and useless repetition of nonsense instead of coming right out and saying, “This is my point/thesis, this is what it means, this is why it’s true and this is why its significant.”

7. Keep up with your languages (see this site for help)!! Michael suggests to take them early, and if you want to get done in 3-4 years, you must take them right away. Also, try to group classes (like OT + Hebrew, NT + Greek, Preaching + NT Greek, etc.) and remember many electives usually require more outside study time than core classes. Pick your electives very carefully, especially if you want a concentration.

8. Do not ever, ever decide on a professor based on his soteriology. But try to pick classes based on the professor you want to take. This may mean figuring out a way to take Tuesday and/or Thursday classes, or changing your schedule. Yet never dismiss a professor. God has something for you to learn in every class, and if you think otherwise, you don’t need to be in seminary.

9. Debate other students wisely. Michael’s advice here is spot on- make sure you know what you are talking about and be humble. If you are a Calvinist, try to steer clear of debates on Calvinism. Do not say anyone is “not God-centered.” For all, do not dismiss anyone out of ignorance. Too many who pipe up in class debates on the subject quickly reveal they do not know what is going on. Do not say Reformed Baptist churches should call themselves Presbyterian. Do not call everyone attending non-Reformed churches “man-centered” or “seeker-sensitive.” And don’t discuss soteriology the first time you meet someone.

10. Do not believe what blogs say about seminaries. Once you begin attending, the ignorance of many bloggers is revealed when you see things are directly opposite what they dogmatically claim. If anyone comments on the intellectual level of the faculty, it reveals a biblical-realism disconnect (i.e. an affinity to academy rather than biblical theology).

11. Don’t be loud. Don’t dominate conversations and theological discussion. Do not ask questions every class period, and do not ask multiple questions per class. Everyone in the classroom is paying money to hear the professor.

12. Having obligations such as a professional job and a family will preclude you from fitting in to the “campus crowd.” Expect not to be a favored student. Be careful who you partner with in accountability.

13. Do ministry. Do not fall into the trap that ministry begins after seminary. One example: have people over for dinner often. Ministry does not have to mean teaching a class at your church. In fact, if you are not already on staff somewhere, volunteer for jobs you may never have the chance to do again, like parking duty or cleaning bathrooms.

14. Men, support your family. Don’t be shy about accepting help when offered, even if it is enough to live on. This is God’s provision. However, going into chronic debt is not healthy. Do not put your babies in day care for seminary.

15. Do not neglect family devotion time. Catechize your children. Read through Scripture and doctrine with your wife.

16. Try hard. Seminary is hard work. It is harder than you can imagine. Know this, but determine to do the best you can do (given various circumstances) on every assignment. The rewards are sweet.

17. Exercise. For you husbands who love your wives, buy a jogging stroller (do they make four-seaters?) and take the kids off her hands in the evening while you get some exercise. Give her time alone to do her quiet time, cook, or simply catch her breath. What a great stress reliever for you both! (Thanks SelahV for the reminder)

Brilliant post Collin. You are to be commended!

Written by
Ryan Burns

Ryan Burns is a past Marketing Manager at Faithlife and now works at Redemption Hill Church in Richmond, VA.

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Written by Ryan Burns
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