The last post was well-received and, let’s face it, I was ignorant in more than 4 ways when I got here. So here’s part 2!
1. Fill Up Where You’re Lacking— Be honest with yourself. You have weaknesses and holes in your personal life and/or ministry that you would do well to identify and intentionally improve in during your time in seminary. Are you good at efficiently facilitating a group meeting? How quickly do you lose your patience with people who disagree with you? Can you consistently and clearly communicate a complicated idea in a succinct way?
If you can’t think of anything on your own you really need to have someone in your life who has the right to speak bluntly and honestly with you at all times. There, I just identified an area of weakness for you. You’re welcome.
2. Strive for Balance– Don’t become so specialized in one area that you’re absolutely useless in other areas, especially if you ever plan on working with people. It’s great if you know how to locate that obscure Hebrew verb in Ecclesiastes and give me an etymology identifying its origins in Ugaritic. Maybe spend a little less time in the books and a little more time getting to know someone who isn’t a Christian or someone who doesn’t share your affinity for the minutiae of biblical languages or theology. Learn how to navigate the balance between the “ivory tower” Christian whose nose is in books 24/7 and the “bleeding heart” Christian who routinely feeds the homeless.
3. Get to Know People From Different Backgrounds— When you’re consistently around people who look and think like you and who come from a similar background you’re asking for blind spots and insensitivity in your thinking to develop. One of the greatest things that happened to me in seminary was I spent the first year working at a church in a town with a lot of Cajun folks whose backgrounds and thinking were nothing like mine. Then, God blessed me with friends from several different nationalities and backgrounds: Lithuanians, South Koreans, Mexicans, African-Americans, and a Nigerian professor. This seemingly random amalgam of backgrounds has stretched me and challenged me in ways I never thought possible… and that’s the whole point.
4. Don’t Neglect the Practical Things— I’m a nerd by trade so when I realized that I had to take classes on how to run the various administrative aspects of a church and that my preaching classes actually entailed me.. you know.. preaching, I was somewhat disappointed. Where were the books and the ideas? The truth of the matter is, the practical things are what you will quickly realize are the most helpful aspects of your seminary education. When you get to your first church and you have no idea how to develop that first sermon series or you don’t know where to begin in developing an outreach strategy (much less how to implement it!) you will wish you had paid more attention in those practical classes you disparaged.