This is a brand new series we are doing to help those who are interested in going to, already in or who have graduated Bible College or seminary. The purpose of this series is to help you grow in the grace of God while you are preparing for, while you are attending and after you graduate from seminary.
- C. Walter wrote the first post in this series in which he gave five suggestions for future seminarians.
- Matthew Fretwell wrote the second post in this series on growing in grace.
- Dave wrote the third post in cultivating humility while in seminary.
- Griffin Gulledge wrote the fourth post in this series on a call to ministry.
- Dr. Brian Cosby wrote the fifth post on knowing your Bible.
- Zach Kendrick wrote the sixth post on understanding on motivations for going to seminary.
- Joey Cochran starts a four part series on advice to those entering seminary.
- Joey continues his four part series on advice to those entering seminary.
- Joey continues his four part series on advice to those entering seminary.
- Joey concludes his four part series on advice to seminary students.
- Today Joey writes on how to handle life after seminary.
So you finished seminary…finally. Right? That’s the way you feel. You just set aside grueling years of rigorous study for your future ministry. You’ll look back upon those years with an incredible sense of gratitude and relief. But don’t check your brain at the doorway into your ministry vocation and don’t be a stranger to your Alma Mata. Here are a few things to consider post-seminary.
1. Keep Studying
Never stop studying. That is a key component to the makeup of a called minister of the gospel. I’m reading Charles Bridges, The Christian Ministry this week. In part one Bridges discusses the preparation for ministry. From the get go he puts the importance of general study as a priority of every minister, and rightly so. Pastors should devote time to the study of Scriptures and to the applying of that study into the lives of their people. I love Charles Bridge’s extensive quotation of Quensel at the end of this section:
“Not to read or study at all is to tempt God: to do nothing but study, is to forget the Ministry: to study, only to glory in one’s knowledge, is a shameful vanity: to study, in search of the means to flatter sinners, a deplorable prevarication: but to store one’s mind with the knowledge proper to the saints by study and by prayer, and to diffuse the knowledge in solid instructions and practical exhortations, — this is to be a prudent, zealous, and laborious Minister” (50)
As Quensel says, there is a right motive and order to a pastor’s studies. But he must continue to study. His flock relies on him weekly to provide spiritual food in the pulpit. This does not come through winging it. I’m afraid too many pastors do so by relying on podcasts and other means to “entertain” their congregation.
Please, recent seminary graduates: I plead with you – keep studying! Read classic literature. Culturally exegete contemporary culture. Read important popular level Christian works. Dabble in the reading of old dead dudes. Maintain your understanding of the Old and New Testament’s original languages, moreover, expand your knowledge of them.
You might be surprised to discover that your seminary so believes in the importance of your continued studies that they will provide free resources for you. I graduated from Dallas Seminary and every graduate from there has free access to all of DTS’s online course videos and access to ATLA, which is a major database of academic journals. These two resources have proven to be extremely valuable to my ongoing edification. I bet your seminary has free resources at your disposal too.
The people you shepherd, your family, and yourself will all profit from this exercise of continuing your studies.
2. Stay Connected
You don’t just want to keep studying; you want to stay connected to your seminary.
Try to visit it if you’re ever traveling through your seminary’s city. I grew up in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, so we’re always visiting that area to see family. Every time we do, we stop on campus at DTS and visit folks in Administration, Admissions, and we definitely check out the bookstore. Part of this experience is sharing with our children about how wonderful your time in seminary was. Maybe they’ll catch the vision too!
Also, if your seminary is coming to you for the purpose of admissions, see how you can help. Come to a luncheon and share with prospective students about your experience. I did this once at OSU in Stillwater when I pastored in Tulsa. It was a great experience for me to meet OSU students who were processing their internal call to ministry.
And if you are the Sr. Pastor of a church or in another pastoral role, look to see how your church can support the mission of your seminary. Maybe your church can host an extension campus or your church can give to the school. Maybe your church can be an internship site for the seminary. There are tons of ways to play a role.
Whatever you do, don’t just drop off the planet. Keep your Alumni information up to date in your seminary’s database and let them know what’s going on with your family and ministry.
Besides continuing your studies and staying connected, you want seminary to be a reproducible experience for others: not for the sake of your school but for the sake of the gospel. If the gospel is to spread to all nations and peoples, then men must be trained to carry out that commission.
Paul is one who saw the significance of this. He identified men like Titus and Timothy (Titus 1:5; 1 Tim. 1:3). He set them apart for pastoral ministry along with other elders and commissioned them to do gospel work (1 Tim. 4:14). You likewise should aspire to that mission.
Look for men in your ministry who indicate a gifting for the ministry. Help them discern their internal call to ministry and do what you can to externally affirm that call (2 Tim. 1:6). Meet with them regularly. Develop an internship program that prepares men for seminary and pastoral ministry. Scholarship those individuals and keep a vested interest in their piety while they are in their studies. Too few seminarians are being shepherded by a pastor and every one of them should have a pastor who is taking a serious interest in them as a spiritual father (1 Tim. 1:2; 2 Tim. 1:2; Titus 1:4). O to return to the days of Pastoral Assistants. That’s something that I look forward to having in my pastoral ministry, men who assist and in turn are prepared to be sent out.
If you are pastoring a church, then you especially need to have a keen eye for those who are called (2 Tim. 2:2). Sometimes a guy is waiting to be told that he possesses gifts and skills that are fitting for pastoral ministry. Then before you know it you have a man who is set on fire by God for God to preach the gospel. It’s wonderful to behold. Someone will one day fill the pulpit that you currently fill. Why not play a role in identifying, training, and preparing that person?
No doubt seminary was a wonderful experience for you. After seminary is over keep fanning the flame of that experience in your heart by continuing your studies, staying connected and reproducing it with others.
Joey Cochran (Th.M., Dallas Theological Seminary) follows Christ, is the husband of Kendall, and the father of Chloe, Asher, and Adalie. He is the pastor of middle school discipleship and communication at Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park, Illinois and a PhD student in Church History at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.