Your choice of classes in seminary can make or break your education. If you’re going to pay tens of thousands of dollars for a masters degree, you owe it to yourself to make sure you get the best education possible. More than that, you owe it to God to make sure you are as prepared as possible for whatever you plan to do after seminary. Taking the wrong classes can leave you ill-prepared for ministry, a career, and life.
So how do you pick the right classes? As a general rule, don’t take classes, take professors. My first year of seminary (MDiv program) was less than spectacular. I enjoyed Greek because I enjoy languages, and a couple other classes were enjoyable, but on the whole I didn’t feel like I was learning much. I was apprehensive about coming to seminary in the first place, so completing an entire year without feeling like I had been challenged or taught much new information had me questioning whether seminary really had anything to offer.
But then, God in his providence led me to a certain professor. He was ex-military, had more degrees than I had fingers, and lectured directly from his head while pacing back and forth. He was engaging, insightful, and demanded a lot from us. Because his lectures were so informative and fast-paced, I barely had time for my usual Facebook checks, and I could hardly get a text message out. But more than that, all the material was specifically designed to help ministers understand the different types of minds they will meet in ministry and the world. Finally, I had found a class–or really, a professor–that challenged me and helped prepare me for ministry and for engaging the world of ideas.
Following that class, I found another professor who challenged me in different ways, and who was similarly engaging. Although not all students will have the opportunity to be a teaching assistant, this professor asked me to TA for him, which allowed me to develop a real relationship, both professional and personal. This professor had me over to his house for dinner multiple times; he and his wife prayed for me and we danced to Michael Jackson tunes on the Wii with his kids. The first professor I mentioned frequently invited students to his house to grill out. He even took an entire day off to take me to a local university whose PhD program I was looking into in order to meet some professors and check out the program. Finding the right professors was the key to a successful seminary education and experience.
The main obstacle to finding the right professors is that new students don’t know who the right professors are. So here are some tips to help you find those professors:
- Different students will click with different professors. Some are extremely academic and willing to help you dig deeper into Scripture and scholarship. Some are more focused on missions and evangelism and will help you find ways to witness to your friends and family. The key to finding the right professors is to find the ones that will invest in you personally and help you prepare as best as possible for your future.
- Ask everyone you can about their favorite professors. Make sure you ask them why professors are their favorite. Some students like professors that make them do little work. Others like professors because they are extremely intelligent. Others like professors because they challenge them. Decide on what you want to get out of seminary, then find professors who are helping other students to do that.
- Don’t be discouraged if you don’t find your dream professor after a semester or two. Even if you can find oneprofessor to “attach” yourself to (professionally!), your seminary experience will be enhanced exponentially.
- Lastly, don’t cheat yourself out of the best education and experience possible. I took several classes that I knew would be easy and quick. I did that because I felt like seminary didn’t have much to offer, so I just wanted to finish the degree as quickly as possible and move on with my ministry. I seriously regretted that decision later, after I had found the right professors. I would give a lot to go back and take different classes than I did so I would be more prepared for my ministry.
This post was written by Todd Scacewater. Todd earned an MDiv and ThM at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, TX, and is currently completing a PhD in Hermeneutics at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, PA. After graduation, he hopes to teach, pastor, or both, either in the United States or abroad. Follow him on Twitter @Scacewater and at his blogs: Kingdom Now and Exegetical Tools.