Posted On August 12, 2014

Dear Seminarian: Four Lessons For Seminary Students Part 1

by | Aug 12, 2014 | Dear Seminarian

Editor’s Note:

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.


If you’re called to ministry, there are few things better to give yourself to than an outstanding seminary education. Yet, there are also stumbling blocks and pitfalls along the way in seminary education. Right now there are thousands of young men entering seminary, as green as can be, excited about the academic pursuit ahead. If you know someone who is starting seminary, please share this with them. This is a four part series of invaluable lessons I learned in my five years of seminary education. These lessons are offered in the form of four admonishments.

Admonishment: Don’t Lock Yourself in the Ivory Tower

It’s easy to get distracted and stuck in both your library and office during seminary. Whether you are a reader or not, you went to seminary because you wanted to learn. Likely you will pursue that avenue with great zeal. However, there is a danger to this. There is a gap that must be bridged between the theoretical and the practical. When seminary students become lost in theory without any practice, their study becomes fruitless. But when seminary students apply theory to a robust practice in a church environment, much will be gained.

1. Plug into a Church body Immediately.

Unfortunately, too many students start deconstructing every church they go to while in seminary. I remember meeting many students who never really landed in a church. They bounced from church to church for four years evaluating and critiquing every program and pastor they encountered. This is a toxic pursuit. As soon as you get to seminary, take one month to visit four churches and then make a decision and commit to it. Every church has its blemishes.

Become a member and a thriving contributing member that cares and shepherds souls. This is what you plan to do with your life. Start giving yourself to it now. If you’re bouncing from church to church as a member during seminary, don’t expect this to change as a pastor. You may find that your family will be moving from pastorate to pastorate every year of your brief stint in ministry. I imagine a wife can only stand for that for about four moves.

 2. Practice the theories you learn.

Be involved in the life of the church. There is no role in the church below a seminary student. If I could do it all over again I would have taught in the children’s ministry rather than the youth ministry. First, there is something wondrous about taking complex doctrine and making it digestable for the simple, little minds in the children’s ministry. Second, as a parent now I would have been better prepared to answer the difficult questions that my children are asking.

3. Consider not filling a role in teaching for some time.

I think if I did my seminary time over again I would have spent more time scrubbing toilets, mowing grass and swinging a hammer in our church. I would have done less teaching and allowed what I heard in the classroom to simmer and marinade a little longer before I started teaching and instructing in the church. I would have focused more time and energy in developing relationships and less in developing curriculum.

4. Make quality time for your family.

If you’re engaged, married or have children you must protect time for your family. Seminary is daunting. You could study all evening and never see your family. Your family needs you far more than your books. Take a B or C if you have too. Nobody cares if you were a B or C student after seminary unless you plan to study a PhD.

Beyond making time, you must plan that time to be quality. You can be present in body but allow your mind to stray to your studies. This will be a temptation in ministry as well. If your wife is constantly saying to you, “Where are you?” There might be a problem. I encourage you to plan your quality time beforehand. Take fifteen minutes and think about things to share about or discuss. Have questions prepared to quiz your kids about what is going on in their lives. Don’t let seminary become your greatest interest. Then it becomes an idol. Be most interested in God. Be very interested in the health of your family. Then study well.

This post first appeared at Joey’s blog and is posted here with his permission.

Related Posts

The Future is Now

The Future is Now

It was not the most promising day. Fifty-nine degrees, light rain, and gusty winds were not exactly ideal for my daily bike ride. Yet, I dutifully hopped on my road bike and made my way through the scenic roads of Whatcom County. I found myself praying that day for a...

Know Your Bible!

Know Your Bible!

A number of years ago, as I was preparing to take the written and oral exams for ordination in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), I realized how little I knew about the English Bible (as opposed to the Greek and Hebrew Scriptures). Sure, I knew the stories,...

Ten Helpful Pieces of Advice to Seminary Students

Ten Helpful Pieces of Advice to Seminary Students

Dear Seminary Student, The year leading up to our move to Louisville to attend The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary my wife and I committed to a very frugal lifestyle of beans and rice in order to save as much money as possible for the northward transition from...

Three Ways to Use Your Writing in Seminary for the Local Church

Three Ways to Use Your Writing in Seminary for the Local Church

One of the ways seminarian can love the local church and serve her is by writing, a lot. The beauty is that as a seminary student you are already writing a lot. As you write, think of how what you’re writing can serve the Lord and His church body. The local church can...

Dear Seminarian: A Little Advice

Dear Seminarian: A Little Advice

Dear Seminarian, It seems like just yesterday that I was sitting in my first seminary class. I was excited as that first professor walked into the room, wrote his name on the board, and proceeded to hand out the class syllabus. My excitement quickly migrated to being...

Cultivating Relational Maturity

Cultivating Relational Maturity

It happened again; I interrupted one of my pastor’s conversations on a Sunday morning. In my desire to speak to him I was rude and interrupted his conversation. He gently pulled me aside after his conversation finished and said we needed to get together...



  1. Dear Seminarian: Entering Seminary Student Admonishments: Part Four | - […] Joey Cochran starts a four part series on advice to those entering seminary. […]
  2. The Daily Roundup: 12 August 2014 - Servants of Grace - […] Dear Seminarian: Four Lessons For Seminary Students Part 1 – Joey Cochran continues the Dear Seminarian Series with the…

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.