What I Wish I Had Done In Seminary
March 24, 2014
Seminary changed my life. Through the Bible teaching and supplementary readings, I gained a more robust view of God, his word and church, the sacraments, and my marriage. Perhaps because of the transformation that took place in my life, I so highly recommend seminary to aspiring ministers. However, despite the amazing things that I learned and the glorious things that took place (e.g., sanctification), looking back there are many things that I wish I had done differently. Here is one.
1. Time management.
5 books to read per class, several exams and quizzes, and final papers. Amid the busyness, you also have family and church commitments. In all of this, is it possible to manage your time appropriately? Barring unforeseen emergencies I think it is. It may require the seminary student to watch a bit less television or maintain a tighter schedule, but again, I think it is possible.
When we do not manage our time well, multiple 24-hour nights writing papers and cramming for exams are the result. That paradigm, however, is of no benefit to us. Just as quickly as we stuff Hebrew paradigms into our minds the night before an exam, the information will escape our memory just as quickly a day or two later. The work we place into our final papers also significantly suffers, and correspondingly we suffer, too. Our papers that are due at 10AM Friday morning are sometimes nothing more than what a renown commentator says put into our own words. While we cannot expect our final papers to be original, much like a PhD dissertation, we should demand more of ourselves than that. What we put into our work may correspond to what we get out of it.
I think sometimes our mentality in seminary is, "I just need to graduate. Once I finish, I will manage my time better." Take it from me, life does not slow down once you graduate and enter pastoral ministry. You still need to manage your time well to include family commitments, word and sacrament ministry, witnessing, and personal reading. And just as easy as it is to slip into poor time management in seminary, it is similarly easy to fall into the same trouble in pastoral ministry.
What's the result? Instead of writing papers that are essentially a version of your favorite commentary put into your own words, your sermons become duplicates of your favorite commentary with a bit more pizazz. Instead of taking the time to dig into the languages, you become dependent on Logos Bible software (that one's for you, Carl) for parsing and syntax such that without the Bible software your insufficiencies in the original languages are manifest.
Poor time management can follow you directly into pastoral ministry if you are not careful. Therefore, our time management practices in seminary should help prepare us for how we navigate the waters of pastoral ministry should the Lord take us into this blessed calling.