It is no secret that seminary is quite demanding academically but, add a job onto it and it feels impossible. However, there are a few ways to more easily balance (if there is such a thing) the two. As someone who goes to school full time, works part time, and has a husband in ministry that she tries to help serve with, I can say with certainty that the following tips make life much easier in the midst of a chaotic semester.
Stay organized. The #1 way to manage having a job and going to school is to stay organized. Though it may seem obvious, one of the best ways to accomplish this is by utilizing a planner and writing in all the due dates before the semester begins. Then, at the beginning of each week go through and make a list of what needs to be done each day to accomplish the weeks assignments and any upcoming ones. This allows you to plan around your work schedule and be disciplined in your use of time for studying.
Meal Plan. The reality is when you are working and going to seminary, there is much more going on than just those two things. On top of studying and working you may, like me, be married or have children, or have meals to cook and a house to keep up. If you are not already in ministry, you also may be serving in your church in addition to your work and school. Therefore, you do not have much time to waste! So an easy way to shave off a little time each week is to plan all of your meals at the beginning of the week when you fill out your planner. Some people even choose to do this at the beginning of each month and purchase their items then to save them time in the coming weeks. Either option is helpful in saving time as those small trips back and forth to the grocery store or time spent deciding on dinner can really add up.
Read in Between Semesters. A lot of times, professors will post their required readings early so that if the students want to get a head start they can. If the professor does not post the required readings, they often know at least some of the books they want to use so an e-mail can be sent to them to inquire what those are. By knowing this, you can save yourself some added work and stress during the semester and get ahead while time allows. While I recommend taking advantage of each break from school you have to get well rested before another semester begins, even reading one or two books before beginning the semester helps. This will allow you to not only get ahead but also to get started on future assignments before you get caught in the busy-ness of mid-terms or finals and will be something you are grateful for having done when a hectic work week pops up, you get sick, or any other unexpected events occur.
Flexible Job. This may not be possible for everybody but if you have yet to find a job, try looking for something with flexible hours or at least one that understands the priority of and demands of school. My job has allowed me to choose set hours at the beginning of each semester and that has helped me to be more disciplined in my use of time when I am not at work and plan my week out accordingly. If your bosses are understanding of your school demands then when exceptionally crazy times of the semester arise you might can work with them on working a lighter amount of hours.
Growth Not Perfection. One of the most important things to remember about seminary is that it is about growth not perfection when it comes to your grades. I have had many professors tell me they often have a student who makes C’s in the course but understands the material more than anyone in the class whereas they have had all A students who cannot articulate the material hardly at all. Many of my professors, and I’m sure many others, are not concerned that you have a perfect GPA but are more concerned that you understand and grow in your knowledge of the Word and how to minister it. This was a hard lesson for me to learn as I have always battled being a perfectionist but, once I did, this looked like me sometimes only editing my paper once before submitting it or only reading 70% of the book instead of 100% and be stressed, speed through the material, or possibly miss out on quality time with God. I’m not saying this is an excuse to not make your best efforts because we ought to work as we are working unto the Lord but we have to make sure our dedication to grades never leads us into sin (stress, anxiety, worry) or causes us to neglect the current ministry God has us in.
Though it is going to be time consuming regardless to work and go to seminary, I’m hopeful these simple tips can help to make the most of your time and help you survive this short season of life. All in all just remember, it is HIM who gives us strength!
By Macy Tyler. Macy is a student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary working on her Masters of Arts in Biblical Counseling. She is passionate about teaching and counseling women and guiding them to deeper relationship with Christ. She is married to Trey who is also studying at Southwestern and is working on his Masters of Arts in Christian Education. Macy and Trey are seeking to church plant in the future wherever God may lead.