Moms Going to Seminary

SusanThe other day I received an email from a mom who was planning on starting seminary. She mentioned that she had trouble finding any sites or resources online that helped her with her unique situation. So, I did some investigating and was able to find some women who had some advice to give from their seminary experience. Today is the first of those interviews.

Name: Susan J. Hetrick
Seminary: Phoenix Seminary
Age: I was 39 when I enrolled in Seminary (Aug. 2003) and 42 when I graduated (Dec. 2006).
Where you are in your seminary journey: I earned my Master of Divinity in Counseling & Family Ministry, graduating in December 2006, with Highest Honors.
Kids and ages while you were in seminary: We have four kids (2 girls, 2 boys): Zoni was 11 – 14; Tanner was 9 – 12; Lysa was 8 – 11; and Chase was 6 – 9 when I was in school.

So Susan, why did you decide to go to seminary?
Short answer: God told me to go. Longer answer: I felt God’s call on me from the time I was about 10 years old. By the time I was in my mid-thirties it seemed like everyone at my church was encouraging me to pursue Seminary. It felt like God was hitting me upside the head with a 2 x 4! When I finally decided to go for it, all the pieces fell into place. I lived in Las Vegas at the time, and oddly there are no Seminaries in Vegas, so my kids and I had to move to Scottsdale, AZ. (My husband and his kids lived in Michigan, and they joined us in AZ after our wedding in February, 2004.)

What was the greatest challenge of going to seminary while being a mom?
Missing out on things like “Back to School Nights” at my kids’ schools, because they conflicted with my class schedule. I learned to set limits on what I could and could not do. I promised the kids that I wouldn’t be away more than 2 evenings each week, which was tough — I had to rework my course schedule several times in order to get all my requirements in, while still keeping the promise to be home most nights. I also had to make a concerted effort to keep date nights with my husband without bringing along a theology book.

What has been the greatest joy of your seminary journey?
Showing my kids that it’s possible to achieve something great, and that hard work and discipline pay off. (Not that they were at all impressed with any of it—)

Any unique stories from your seminary experience as a result of your stage in life?
When I was taking a Biblical Sexuality course, my son was in 7th grade at the time and also taking Sex Ed. at school. He said to me, “Mom, why do you have to take sex ed? You have kids — doesn’t the Seminary know that you know all about sex already?”

What advice do you have for moms who might be considering going to seminary?
Go for it! At the same time, have realistic expectations. You can’t do everything, and it’s OK to ask for help. Let the housework go, let someone else teach the Sunday school class. Also, flashcards are very helpful when it comes to memorizing Greek and Hebrew vocabulary!

What advice do you have for students who are in the class with a mom?
Try to be understanding if the Mom in your class sometimes answers questions with anecdotes about her toddler — not all of us are employed full-time in ministry yet! God works through us in the stage of life we are in at the moment — and those lessons are just as valuable theologically as any other.

How did you balance school and family?
I have a fabulous husband who loves to cook —; he cooked dinner every night. He also drove the kids to soccer practice and guitar lessons when I was in class. I learned to take my homework with me wherever I was going, and would study in 5 – 20 minute increments as I waited for doctor’s appointments, kids in guitar lessons, etc. My saving grace was a color-coded calendar system: a different color for every person in the house, so I always knew who needed to be where, at a glance.

Any regrets about the decisions you made regarding seminary?
Nope! It would’ve been nice to have unlimited time or funds in order to take ALL the classes I wanted, but I thoroughly enjoyed my 3 years in the M.Div program.

If your kids were old enough, how did they feel about you going to seminary?
My kids were as ‘supportive’ as they could be, although they kept asking me over and over “exactly why” I was doing this. When I graduated my oldest daughter said, “Do we have to call you Father Mom’ now?”

What do you do now that you’ve graduated?
My first book, Advice From The Blender: What to know before you blend so nobody gets creamed, was published in 2007, by Xulon Press. The book was awarded the 2008 Christian Choice Book Award, in the parenting category. I run an online ministry for blended families, ( and write and speak on the subject frequently. I lead stepfamily support workshops at my church, and teach others how to do the same through the Association of Marriage and Family Ministries (AMFM).

I am the President of the Phoenix Seminary Alumni Association, and I am currently working towards ordination in the Reformed Church in America, with the goal of becoming an ordained pastor by next summer. I also try to keep up with our kids’ schedules, which isn’t easy since they are all teenagers now!

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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