Advice for New Seminarians

Here is my humble attempt at giving advice to new seminarians. I am beginning my third year of seminary (3 semesters left!). I thought it may be beneficial to write out (from a current students perspective) some of the things I wished I would have known before beginning seminary. It is by no means exhaustive and I didn’t necessarily order them in any particular way. If you have any questions/comments or anything to add let me know.

  1. Prayer. Coming into seminary you may think it is easy to stay spiritually nourished because you are always thinking about theology and the Bible. I have found the greatest spiritual discipline in seminary is prayer, both individually and with others. Take time often to sit down and shut everything else down and communion with God.
  2. Read the Bible. If you are going to seminary you will probably be teaching and preaching the Bible when you get out. Read the Bible for all different purposes: devotionally, knowledge, academically, and many others.
  3. Chapel. Some may disagree with me but you don’t have to feel burdened to go to every chapel session. If you are free, then great, go as much as you can. I have found that life gets busy. Sometimes not going to chapel to work on homework so you can spend time with your wife/family that night is better. But I also encourage you to make time to go. It is spiritually refreshing and it is great to sing and worship with the body of Christ.
  4. Library. Get to know all the resources at the library and utilize them. Here at Southern the research experts can pretty much answer any question you throw at them. There is also a wealth of tutorials and workshops to help you research and write better. See my post here explaining some of the resources offered at Southern.
  5. Write early write often. Writing is one of the best ways to articulate your thoughts on different subjects. For papers, write write write edit edit edit then repeat. Begin thinking and writing about a topic at the start of the class and don’t wait till the end of the semester. Not only will your paper not be as good (even if you can get an A!) but you will not get the most out of it.
  6. Take the languages early and often. Not only is this vital for any pastor or teacher’s tool belt but it also allows you to slow down and look more closely at the biblical text…in both Greek/Hebrew and English. It is hard work but well worth it.
  7. If married, make your wife a priority. Love her, serve her, and enjoy her. Don’t talk about seminary all the time! Show her you care about her.
  8. Read, read, read. Get your reading finished early. Don’t try to cram it all at the end.
  9. Think ahead. Plan your classes ahead of time. Make a base schedule then deviate from that. Know how many electives you have and don’t waste them.
  10. Get to know the professors. Talk in class. Ask them out for coffee or lunch.
  11. Community Community Community. Get to know other students around you. Everyone is in this together
  12. Church. Join a church, fellowship with believers, and join some type of community group. Don’t feel that you have to be a super student and be overly involved in your Church. See where the Church needs help and devote a small amount of time with that. Your calling now is seminary. Focus on that.
  13. Get up early. I find mornings to be the most productive time.
  14. Read people you disagree with. When writing a paper interact with others who you disagree with. Not only will your paper be better but you will learn to think more critically.
  15. Review your notes often
  16. Research for papers early! The is similar to earlier writing advice but you need to research early. If you have the syllabus then begin thinking about topics before the semester starts.
  17. Syllabus. The professors know they have to give the syllabus out. Don’t email and bug them about this. It will be up soon enough.
  18. Don’t feel like you have to do all the extras. On my campus you could be busy doing extras almost everyday of the week. You are here for school, that is your priority.
  19. Stay off social media when doing homework and reading. It’s distracting and it is not profitable to learning. Do you think Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, and Edwards had these types of distractions?
  20. Read the church fathers. See my post here for my thoughts on this.
  21. Take the hard classes. You only get to learn here once so challenge yourself. You will be a better teacher/pastor because of it.
  22. Be on time when meeting with professors and other faculty. This should be self-explanatory.
  23. Email the TA/Grader for logistical questions, not the professor.
  24. Grading. Realize that in many of the introductory courses the professor will not grade your homework or even your papers. This is why they have competent and smart graders.
  25. Try Handwritten notes. I have found that for some classes it is beneficial to memory to take handwritten notes.
  26. Exercise. I have found that when I do this I am more focused, less tired, and feel better all around.

I am sure there is much wiser and sound advice out there. If you have any just add them in the comments!

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