Before I came to seminary, I asked some men who have been in the pastorate for some years and have graduated seminary some advice on what I should look for and accomplish while I am in seminary. Of the many tips I was given, one of those tips was
Find the professor(s) with whom God desires to unite you in a special way. Most professors pour themselves into students outside of class, but they obviously can’t pour themselves into every student. God seems to provide connections with certain professors/administrators that He uses to sanctify and grow you. Keep your spiritual eyes open for these opportunities. They may be for your entire seminary career or they may be for a season. Both are wonderful.
To be honest, I had no idea how this would work-especially at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Seriously, most of the professors on campus are actively engaged in other ministries as well as writing books. The thought kept going through my mind of why would one of these professors want to get to know an untimely-born, turning-30, seminary student who took 12 years to finish his undergrad (it is legitimate!)? Little did I know how God would “unite [me] in a special way.”
I was told by at least five different teachers, pastors, and friends to get to know a certain professor outside of class if I had the opportunity. Now, I would not recommend what I did to everyone (I have been told that it is not the ideal approach), but I sent this particular professor an email telling him I was instructed to get to know him outside of class if possible. I continued by telling him I realized how busy he was and that if there was anything I could do to help him in his ministry I would love to help. Guess what? He took me up on my offer.
Since then, a friendship has bloomed in a way that I never thought would be possible. This man has become a mentor to me as I continue my journey through seminary. While he is the one that I can say I have a special bond with, I have met with many other professors outside of the classroom. Quite a few of them have not even been my instructor.
In my two semesters at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, I have had lunch and or dinner with at least three different professors (hey, we all eat!), I have set up appointments to discuss personal and theological issues with two professors, and I have caught one professor in the hallway and asked if I could have a word with him because his name came up in a conversation and I wanted to know his view on an issue. We talked in his office for 20 minutes and pretty much disagreed the whole time!
They Are People, Too
The one thing I have learned (perhaps it is my old age?) is that these men are people just like you and me. I have talked with Dr. Mohler in the halls a few times and have always found him to be “just a regular guy.” Sometimes, it can be intimidating when your professor is a past president of the state convention. It is humbling to be able to ask your professor if he would sign the book he wrote that has been so influential to your life. In the end, these men have families and lives just like the students. While God has used them in a mighty way, they are usually more than willing to engage the students. After all, we are that next generation and the baton must be handed down at some point.
My advice would be to humbly ask your professor(s) if there is anything you could do to help them outside of class. Do not expect a “yes” every time or from every professor. Take advantage of where God has you and who He has put into your life. If you are active and engaged in the classroom, you will soon discover that the faculty and staff have a favorable opinion of who you are as a person. That being said, be careful that your goal is not to “get in good” with the professor. Rather, seek to drink from their well of knowledge and experience. Learn from these godly men every chance you get both inside and outside the classroom.