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.