Keeping Your Mind Fresh During the Summer

For kids, having the summer off from school means lots of sitting around watching TV, riding bicycles or playing sports, and sleeping in. But seminary students are no longer kids, and summer break is not going to be like that anymore. At least they shouldn’t be.

If you don’t take any classes during the summer, it is easy to get lazy. Once the required reading is done it is hard to find the motivation to pick up a book again and read. It is hard find the desire to open the Greek textbook once in a while in order to keep your mind fresh on what the aorist middle participle of a certain verb is. It can also be difficult to keep your mind thinking through a lot of the ideas and issues you came into contact with during the semester when you would rather sit with a bowl of chips in front of the game.

But these things are important. Those of us who are in seminary need to keep our minds fresh during the summer. Before I started seminary I spent a year working, and hardly did any reading during that time. Once the semester started I fell behind quickly and spent the rest of the semester playing catch-up. I’d let my mind be idle for too long and it wasn’t quite ready for the intellectual challenge of seminary.

So let me offer a couple of suggestions. First, keep reading. If you are like me, you have a lot of books on your shelf that have never been read, or you have seen a lot of new books in the bookstore that have piqued your interest. Go ahead and read them! Don’t feel the need to rush through them like you often need to do during the semester, but pace yourself. It’s very easy to read a book a week, or if you are working or busy with other tasks, to do so over a period of two weeks. The point is just to keep your nose in a book and keep your mind accustomed to reading. Someone once suggested to me that reading a good novel along with a non-fiction book is helpful. Novels are much easier to read, and if you spend a half-hour reading that before you go to the other book, reading that non-fiction book will be a lot easier as well. Plus, your imagination gets a workout then too.

Second, if you are a student of the languages, you must keep active in studying those. There are ample opportunities to do so. At my seminary, a local pastor comes in to the bookstore every Friday morning and sits with about five students reading through a chapter of the Old Testament in Hebrew, translating as they go. They spend about an hour together. See if you can find a group like that to be a part of. Another thing you can do is take your original language text to church. My pastor is preaching through the gospel of John right now, and so I sometimes take my Greek New Testament with me and follow along. It’s a simple way to keep on top of it.

Third, make sure you keep interacting with people on the levels you do during the seminary. Keeping discussing theology, faith, and the Church. Allow your mind to be active because you have a lot of free time to engage these issues during the summer. Also, take advantage of podcasts–sermons, lectures, conference audio–and set aside an hour every few days to listen to these. Some seminaries have material available through iTunesU or available for download elsewhere online. Lots of conferences makes their audio resources available online as well, and almost every church has sermons available for download.

By all means, enjoy your summer. Spend time with your family, take a vacation, and go to a ball game. But by keeping up with some simple things like reading, once summer is over you will be well prepared to get back into studying.

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Written by
Jake Belder
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  • Jake,

    Thanks for the reminder to keep reading. That’s my default impulse (and am taking summer classes too), but still, it needs to be stated. Also the reminder to read fiction too. I take those in very sparingly and need to increase, for the sake of creativity, story telling and just plain understanding people.

  • languages… sheesh… the only studying I’ve done of Hebrew is the studying of my online grades which has yet to return a grade from my Hebrew class… I really need to polish up my Hebrew least I end up as nervous next semester at grade time as I am now…

  • One of my problems is that I want to read too much. I have a list of like at least 30 books I want to read. The other problem is I feel like if I am not reading something related to theology I am wasting my time.

    I have yet to start my language studies at the seminary level (I took Greek with a massive concussion) so I am not too worried about keeping that sharp. 🙂

  • Jeff, a very wise and knowledgeable man whom I respect a great deal told me of the importance of reading fiction for some of the same reasons you said. And further, he emphasized that it was especially important to read good fiction (notably classics and significant literary works). This means tackling figures like Dostoevsky and Austen who can be imposing but are immensely rewarding at the same time.

    Ryan, go for it man. You don’t want to lose it at this stage you’re at now, or you are going to be in trouble! Not to scare you or anything… 😉

    Terry, yeah, I know what you mean. Sometimes it can be feeling like a waste of time. But there can be great reward from reading other things, not to mention the ability to expand your mind.

    Jake Belders last blog post..Not I, But Christ

  • In summer class today a fellow student (church planter among the hardest places in the world for most of 2 decades, now in seminary) called himself “an avid non-reader.” He said it with a smirk when we were each talking about the most influential book outside the Bible in our lives. This first year of seminary has taught him the need to learn and grow and read, especially as he wants to be a resource and mentor to the next generation of radical church planters in the hardest, unreached places.

    In our home reading is a delight and the best form of entertainment. We muse instead of a-muse, I guess. While I didn’t read hardly a page until college (yea for public schools!), my Mom did model voracious reading growing up and I married a reader — it all caught up in the last decade. So many books, so little time, yet as Spurgeon would say, “read much, not many.”

    Jeff Pattersons last blog post..Listening takes time

  • A very good suggestion. Thank you! I personally like to mix up my genres a little. My first pick this summer is something I have been looking forward to reading for a while now. Return to Middle Kingdom is an insider’s account of the Cultural Revolution that unravels the perplexities of modern Chinese history for the reader. A remarkable story of adventure, political intrigue and family life. 🙂

Written by Jake Belder