Thursday, August 20, 2015

Message to Beginning Seminarians

Welcome to graduate school! If you want to be successful here, you need to know a few things about how seminary works.

First, this is school, not Sunday school or church. We do what we can to help you in your spiritual development. We have chapel. We have faculty advisee prayer groups. We have a course in Reformed spirituality. But you are responsible for your spiritual development, as a man and, as it applies, as a husband and father. We faculty can help, but we aren’t mind readers. If you need help, ask for it.

Second, classes are not exercises in test-preparation. Be aware that tests and examinations can cover anything that the professor covered in class, as well as whatever was in the required reading that he might not have covered in class. It is your responsibility to learn the material presented. If the professor is specific about what will be on tests, he is being kind. It is not in his job description to do so.

Third, you are no longer in college. In college, you might have gotten away without preparing for class, because the professor covered everything in his lecture. Some of your classes here will be like that. But some will not. Some will require that you have worked through the material ahead of time; that you have mastered it, and can discuss it in an intelligent fashion. Make it your aim to do that for every class, as a man studying to show himself approved.

Fourth, learn to listen and take notes. Most of you will want to use your computers to take notes. You are sufficiently fast typists that you can get down every word. But if you do that, all you are doing is taking dictation. Try taking notes with a pencil and paper. Listen carefully to what the professor, and other students in discussion, are saying. Write down the salient points and also what will help your remember the significance of those salient points. You will find that careful listening and note-taking are hard mental work. Then, after class review your notes. Make additional notes that will put everything in context. For some of your classes, your professor will distribute relatively detailed lecture outlines. Do not think of the lecture outline as a substitute for note-taking. Make your own notes and use the outline as a help to remembering.

Fifth, learn to use the Seminary style sheet and the resources given there. Learning to use proper academic style in writing papers is no more than common courtesy, and is part of the culture of an academic institution.

Finally, please do not think of seminary training as a series of hoops through which you must jump before you can get to the real work of the ministry. If that is your opinion, I ask you to drop out now. Seminary is introducing you to the tools of ministry and training you in their use. After seminary you will still have much to learn that can only be learned by practice. But at least you will have the tools you need, and you will know how to use them.

Again, welcome to seminary, and may God bless you in your studies.  

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1 comment:

Benjamin P. Glaser said...

Wish I would have heard that message (and would have been receptive to it) 10 years ago when I was getting ready to start seminary in the spring of '06.