Just say no – Seminary triage

While taking some time reading through some posts on Seminary Survival Guide I was struck Mark’s obvious, yet often overlooked, observation that we must learn triage.

There’s no way for you to work all the hours to get all the money you need, AND make straight “A”s in school, AND maintain an intimate walk with God, AND pour yourself out in fruitful ministry, AND develop an impressive resume, AND see to the needs of your spouse and family, AND develop a network of friendships to support you AND get the rest, exercise and proper nutrition you need.

It’s just not possible. The time and energy demands for each of these endeavors is much too great for one person. So please give up on this now. It is a pipe dream.

Mark is right… we can’t do it and be good at all of it. We must take the time to prioritize our lives and learn to say “no” and “wait” to some of the items fighting for attention in our lives. And, as hard as this is to say, that probably means missing an assignment or failing a test every now and then… I know, it is counter intuitive… fail a test!?!?! Is this guy crazy? Well, maybe… but the point is that there are times in your life when passing an exam is not worth the sacrifice of other things… like your family or your love for God.

Now, I hope it goes without saying that this in not a plug for being lazy. If you fail your test or miss an assignment because you are lazy… well, you deserve it. But, the point is that you need to perform triage. You need to know what is important and when it is important. Don’t be lazy… be wise… I think that is in the Bible somewhere 😉

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Ryan Burns
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  • This is something you should definitely try to get down during your first semester of study. Bad habits are hard to break, so you may as well start off on the right foot. I’d suggest putting together a schedule for yourself. Be sure you schedule in time for your personal devotions, time with your family, time to study, etc. A good schedule can allow you to make the most of the time you have each day. I’d also suggest finding a good place to study that is quiet and free of distractions. This can be difficult if you have small children. If you want or need to study in your home office, I’d suggest investing some good ear plugs from the local hardware store. Happy studying and God bless!


  • I actually had a good transition into seminary. I’m a middle-aged guy going back to school. Before I enrolled, I was working out of the home. The disciplines are very similar.
    Best is a separate room that becomes the study-room. When the student is working it is important to create an expectation that they “shouldn’t” be interrupted. I close my office door to a crack as a signal. Obviously, if kids or spouse want to do a walk-by hug or snuggle, you aren’t going to refuse to see them!
    The hardest part was when I was at home during work hours and would get distracted by domestic chores or distractions (mine was the refrigerator). Non-student spouse should be very sensitive about asking student spouse to run an errand, do a chore, etc. because “you’re there at home anyway.”
    In a previous graduate program (I’ve done this student-with-family thing before), I’d make a point to take a study break once an hour, walk out to see what’s happening with the kids and spouse, chat or help with homework, and then go back to work.
    Being a parent is tough while in school. But being in ministry as a parent will probably be tougher. So I’m trying to start now to develop the reasonable boundaries between school-ministry and family.

  • I completely agree. It took me a while to realize that some things are more important than others. Last quarter it hit me that investing in ministry and in my family was more important than grades. It’s important for me to learn from seminary, but I’m focused on ministry in the end – not a PhD/academic track. That may come and I need to be responsible, but it leads to different priorities, and that’s OK!

Written by Ryan Burns