As a recent seminary graduate, I have spent some time considering things I wish I had known when I started seminary. Here are a few:
1)It’s going to take some time to find a church. This seems counter-intuitive. After all, if you’re moving to a specific city to attend seminary then all those professors must be serving somewhere. And if professors at a seminary are serving in local churches in some capacity or another, then there must be a plethora of churches from which to choose. It seems like settling on a church should be an embarrassment of riches.
False. Finding a church in any new city under any circumstances is a difficult, time-consuming process. It’s ok if it takes 6 months or more. Seriously. The decision to connect with a church for your (and your family’s) spiritual development and missional engagement should not be a small decision. It should be undertaken with much time and prayer.
After all, if you’re going to serve on a staff this may be the last time you get this amount of freedom to choose where you will attend. Relax and enjoy the process.
2)The way you approach your own spiritual life will have to change. No one told me this and I spent the first year and a half resting on the things that I already knew. My relationship with Christ and my growth in grace was minimal as I memorized Hebrew and Greek paradigms, studied complex theological issues, and worked anywhere between 30 and 50 hours a week. Stubbornly I plowed ahead with the same spiritual discipline program that relied on in-depth Bible study. I felt my heart growing more cold to the Spirit by the day.
Finally, the Lord broke me. I resolved to focus my attention on very practical character and attitude aspects of my faith. After all, I could learn all the deep theological concepts my nerdy heart delighted in in my classes but who would care if I knew the difference between amillinialism and post-millinialism if I didn’t live a life worthy of leading people?
It’s ok if your quiet times don’t entail going increasingly in-depth on passages of Scripture. Focus on becoming a person of character who is worthy of leading others and, most importantly, pray.
3)Time management: practice it before you get to seminary. If you’re waiting to learn how to manage your time before you get to seminary your first semester will be incredibly difficult. Set aside time to work on specific classes. Use Saturdays wisely. It’s never a bad idea to go ahead and do the research for that 20 (or more) page paper that’s due at the end of the semester. If you don’t get it out of the way before everything else is due you’re going to have some awfully long nights when your stress level is already maxed out in a few months.
If you’re married, talk with your wife about how to prioritize time with her (and kids if applicable). After a period of neglecting my own wife, we resolved that I would not do any work 2 nights a week and give her the exclusive rights to my time. Remember, when she tells you you’re not spending enough time with her or the kids don’t bark about how much you have to do. She misses you. You would do well to prioritize your wife and kids over your grades.
4)Practice “Sabbathing.” Sabbaths were a revelation for me in seminary. For the first two years in seminary I reasoned that I had way too much going on to take a whole day off. When the Lord broke me of this stubborn insistence on “productivity” I found great rest, freedom, and increased productivity every other day of the week. Take the Lord at his word on this. Take. A. Sabbath.