So you’ve felt the call to ministry and prayed about your next steps. You’ve applied to seminary and been accepted. God is working in your life and you are excited to see what the next months and years bring.
But what now? What do you do during the period of waiting between hearing God’s call and beginning your seminary journey? Even when the Lord’s direction is made clear, seminary can still be a scary and intimidating creature. Maybe you haven’t been in school in years and you aren’t quite sure you are ready to dive into the demands of a graduate school education again. Maybe you are young and inexperienced in ministry, and you are still unsure about what exactly God is calling you to do.
Wherever you are in life when you begin seminary, it is common to be a little bit nervous. What is important, though, is that you begin preparing your heart and your mind for the demands that a seminary education brings. I wish that when I began seminary, I had someone to offer me tips and guidelines for navigating this sacred and transformative space. Based on my own experience and the experience of classmates, I have come up with 5 ways an incoming seminary student can begin to prepare their hearts and minds for what lies ahead.
- Connect with someone who has walked this path before you.
Seminary will bring challenges you couldn’t have dreamed of. The enemy will seek to attack you from every angle as you seek to do God’s work. It is important to connect with someone who has experienced this journey already with whom who you can talk and process different parts of your seminary experience as they happen. You are not alone in your seminary experience, and having a good mentor will help you through even the most difficult days. Try to meet regularly with your mentor and ask them for their advice as you navigate unfamiliar territory.
2. Remain in the Word and in prayer.
It should go without saying, but it is crucial to care for yourself spiritually as you learn how to shepherd a flock. When you begin to study Scripture for classes and homework, it can be easy to start viewing your time in Scripture as a chore. Do whatever you have to do to keep Scripture fresh and spiritual for you. Have a certain time of day you set aside to read Scripture for devotional purposes, not just for classwork. A good devotional book from a writer you respect can help with this. A strategy that helped me, personally, was to read a different translation of Scripture for devotional purposes than I used for the classroom. It helped God’s Word remain fresh and relevant even as I had to pick it apart for my classes.
3. Know your “limits”
One of the most surprising things about seminary for some people, is that it often presents a direct challenge to your faith and to the things you have always believed. This is not always a bad thing. Sometimes the things we grew up believing need to be corrected, and we should always come humbly before God with new theology or information to seek His direction regarding the Truth. However, certain things are non-negotiable for a person of faith. Decide where you draw the line between truth and heresy and ask God to help you navigate any doubts that may arise during your seminary experience. Your mind may change, but God’s truth does not.
4. Ask your church to pray for you.
A strong faith community is key to surviving your seminary experience. Whether you are able to continue attending your home church as you attend seminary, or must move somewhere else for a short time, ask to be added to your church’s prayer list and send them regular updates with prayer points. A praying community is powerful, and will help hold you accountable as you begin your journey.
5. Remain humble and listen for God’s voice.
The reason you go to seminary may not be the place you end up after you leave. Many people I went to seminary with entered seminary thinking they were called to be pastor of a church and left working for a Christian non-profit, or vice versa. God will reveal things to you about yourself and the world around you while you are in seminary that you couldn’t have imagined when you entered. Remain in prayer and present yourself at the feet of Jesus every day. Continue to trust that the one who called you to seminary has a plan for you and for the world, and that His plan is greater than our own plan.
Going to seminary is not for the faint of heart. It is normal to have fears and questions. As you begin your experience, I hope you will be blessed with a community of believers who will support you. I know you follow a God who continues to hold you and transform your heart, even when the road gets tough.