Several years ago, I sat at the kitchen table with my husband, and I proceeded to hammer him with a list of questions related to a Bible study I was in. This, my friends, is one of the benefits of being married to a pastor. After exhausting him with my imploring questions, he looked at me and said, “You should consider going to seminary.”
I considered this for about six seconds before moving on to my next theological inquiry.
At that point in my life, I had not been in enrolled in an academic class since college. And the last class I remember in college was on Shakespeare. And the last academic paper I wrote was done in a computer lab—do those still exist? And so, six seconds was about all I gave to this far-fetched idea of going to seminary. Ridiculous.
But I couldn’t shake the thought, and so I jumped far out of my comfort zone and decided to audit a class. My plan was to sit in the back row, take a few notes, and just see what it was like.
By the end of the semester, I had moved to the front row and took notes so voraciously that the notebooks I have are hardly legible. I was a sponge, absorbing every word, and I was hungry for more. Not long after, I enrolled in seminary and began my journey toward a Master’s in theology.
You don’t think seminary is for you? Neither did I. For several reasons:
I’m Not A Theologian
My idea of seminary was that it was a room full of young men who were either experts in biblical studies or who were well on their way to being connoisseurs.
It didn’t take more than a week for this assumption to be shattered. In each class I met men and women from all walks of life, all different stages and ages. I was placed in a group for my first seminary assignment with three other students. The youngest student suggested that we keep our work on a Google doc, and I panicked. For the love of papers, I had never heard of a Google doc. I pulled up my trusted Microsoft Word and scrolled through the headers looking for “Google doc.”
Friends, this should do nothing but assuage your fears, especially if you are a “late” starter in higher education. We all come to seminary with different experiences, backgrounds, perspectives, assumptions, and we grow. We grow in our understanding of who Jesus is. We grow through discussions and honest questions. And we leave changed.
It’s Too Hard
But isn’t the content very difficult? Yes, the classes I’ve taken have stretched me. Actually, they’ve stretched me beyond what I thought would be the case, but not in a way that’s overwhelming. Instead, I have learned aspects about God that I didn’t even know I needed to learn. I had no idea that I kept my faith in such a small box, believing that I knew all I needed to know about Christianity. Seminary has forced open this box in an explosive way, and I’ve welcomed it because it has been necessary for my spiritual growth.
My husband found me in the living room crying over an assignment last semester. “Is it just that you don’t know what to write?” he asked. “No. It’s that I don’t understand the question.” So, yes. It’s hard, but if it were easy, I wouldn’t be forced to grow in my understanding of God and the Bible. It’s difficult in a profoundly beautiful way.
I Don’t Plan to Have A Job in Ministry
I listened in as my youngest lay in bed peppering my husband with questions about the story of Noah’s Ark. She pressed, clearly frustrated by an inability to grasp some of the details.
The apple does not fall far from the tree.
As I listened, she said to my husband, “The Bible says that God was grieved. So, does that mean God’s sorry that he made us?” I literally jumped out of my chair and ran up the stairs. Just that morning a professor had addressed this very question, and I was thrilled to engage with my daughter in my newfound understanding of this passage.
You don’t need to have a calling in a church to use a seminary degree. Friends, the knowledge you gain will be used in your own spiritual growth; it will be used as you engage in group Bible studies; you’ll utilize your learnings as you talk with your kids, your neighbors, your friends, and even your co-workers. This is not a degree that is useless unless you are on staff in a church. The knowledge gained is useful in daily, and in sometimes far-reaching, ways.
I’m Too Busy
I work as a high-school teacher and a music director, and I’m grateful to have the opportunity to write for various ministries. My seminary degree did not begin because I was looking to fill an empty plate. It was just the opposite. I was deeply intrenched in work and parenting when I enrolled. What has been remarkable is to see how the readings, lectures, and assignments have filled me, almost energized me because the material so clearly impacts all aspects of my life.
It’s not uncommon to dive in and finish a degree within a few years, but seminary can also happen one class at a time. It can happen by auditing classes or even taking courses online. There are many opportunities, now even more so, to adapt these classes into your daily life.
Friends, I am passionate about this subject, and while I know seminary isn’t for everyone, perhaps consider giving this idea more than six seconds of thought. I had every reason to not start in this journey, but by the grace of God, I am deeply grateful I took the first step.
About the Author:
Katie is wife to Chris, a PCA pastor at Trinity church in Kirkwood, MO, and together they have three children, Ella, J-Rod, and Lily. Katie works as the music director at Trinity and serves on the Women’s Ministry Committee. She also spends much of her time writing, playing piano, leading women’s Bible studies, and speaking to women’s groups about the joy she has found in Christ. Katie graduated from Covenant College with a BA in English Education and has served on the board of Covenant. She is currently pursuing her Master of Arts in Theology from Covenant Seminary in St. Louis. For more information, as well as various blog entries, you can visit her website at www.katiepolski.com