I know of a student (through a friend at a different seminary than mine) that is finishing his M.div in 5 semesters. This means that in two and a half years, he finished a 90+ hour masters level degree. While it had to be cheaper, and quicker, I really have to think about how much he learned.
Terry wrote a great post just a few days ago about the different venues of learning while we are in seminary. The classroom is definitely one, but think about the workplace, or in simple conversation. Maybe your school offers extra-curricular learning in the form of seminars and lecture series. I work in the chapel office at Asbury and I can say that I have taken away a great deal from just being in worship with my community three times a week.
I also think about the friendships that I have made. I love that I have several different groups of people that challenge me to think in unique and creative ways. I am challenged to do original scholarship and have places to encourage and groom that practice. I am able to work at a small church (that is wildly different from my own views at times) and pour into a handful of teenagers that need a positive influence as well as take care of the elderly widows in my congregation.
I understand wanting to get through seminary quick. Many of my students are candidates for ordination in a denomination that requires an M.div. Others worked in ministry for several years beforehand, and need a degree to move up in the vocational world. Some simply want to get back on with life, start having a family or settle down. There are good reasons for wanting to stay on a schedule. But I question hurrying through, because there is so much that is missed. I can’t wait until I am older and my seminary friends and I can look back on a long career and remember the times that we were involved in each others formation during a short season in life. I am also worried that it is possible to develop a lifelong practice of rushing through important, formative experiences.
Flying through seminary means that you are able to “get on with the real ministry”, but I wonder how many chances were lost? How much schoolwork will be retained? If you loose a good bit, were you wasting the money you spent getting the education? I know that some of us can’t rip through the noun declensions in Greek every day, but still can work your way through a text with some resources. Did you get to really know anybody? Did you allow Christian friends access into your deepest thoughts and practice mutual confession and accountability? Ministry can be a lonely task-and seminary is one of the best places to build a strong group of friends that can be with you for the entire journey.
When all is done, I will have been at seminary a little over 5 years (finishing 2 degrees). I work full time and take full-time load, but not the max allowed hours and I have never taken class in the summer. I value the non-traditional side of my education as much as the classroom, maybe even more. When I was looking at seminaries, the community was as important as the classroom, and I feel that I made the right choice for me. I don’t want to step on anyones toes that is trying to “truck it” through, but I do hope that everyone will realize how important savoring this time is. Whenever I get tired of it, I remember two things. The first is how bad I wanted to be here, for many years. The second is the amount of people that would do anything to be in my (our) shoes, devoting our entire lives to the study of God. Then I step back, breathe and continue on.