When I knew that God was leading me to a church vocation 17 years ago, I knew I would go to seminary. I wasn’t raised by a pastor. I wasn’t excited about church as a child. I went, but I went because it was a safe place from me. I had never heard of seminary, but knew I was going.
Years later, I attended Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. I am thankful for those few years and the lessons learned. But now in ministry 15 years later, I didn’t learn all I needed to.
What I didn’t learn in seminary:
- How to disciple a child: Yes, many classes taught me about evangelism. I even had one lecture on child evangelism. But never how to disciple children. In fact, I never learned how to disciple an adult. Shouldn’t that be vital for any minister? I don’t believe there is a quick read that will teach us how disciple, because sanctification is a process for life. However, I have learned over my years of the great resource, “Spiritual Disciplines of a Godly Life.” (by Donald S. Whitney) We, as ministers of the gospel, need to be disciple making.
- How to not let ministry over take you: I had classes called “Spiritual Formations” and others that I think were established to help ministers survive ministry. It’s hard. It’s 24/7. It demands your Sundays from sitting with your family in church. It demands your Bible study hour (depending on your title), and does not allow for small group time of being fed and help with accountability in Christian growth. It demands time to prepare for teaching. No class prepared me for what I now label “take the hats off”. This is when “hats” or “jobs” must be swapped, such as: Walk in the office, put on the minister hat. Walk out, take off the minister hat, and for me, put on the mommy hat. When I walk in on Sunday, my children know that mommy is at work. They GET to go to church while mommy SERVES many families while at church. But it’s hard. It can take over your spirit. See the challenge and don’t let it happen to you. Be prepared. Find ways to be fed spiritually when you are not at church gatherings.
- How to be the only female in a man’s world: Yep, this isn’t taught in seminary as this is not a current love by most seminaries. This blog post is not to debate that, but to say, “Women, it’s a hard road.” We sit in staff meetings as the only female in a man’s world. We go on staff retreats as the only female in a man’s world. We are seen as the emotional, feisty ones when we have to stand up for our ministry areas at times. But it doesn’t have to be that way. I am still learning what is appropriate. I have no answer. I can say, prepare yourself for it. Realize that your calling was given to you by God, not man. And where He calls you, He will gift you for that calling, man or female. Be aware of your gender weaknesses and let them be your strength in the ministry.
- Policies, policies, policies: Seminary didn’t prepare me for all the developing and implementing of policies. I think this has probably changed in most seminaries. Some are now offering classes on safe guarding your ministry. But for me, I had to learn how to develop policies, implement them, and enforce them when not everyone feels the same, or the budget doesn’t allow. Policies are important and vital to giving guidelines, expectations, and security to your ministry. Without them, well, I don’t want to think about it. Be prepared to develop policies for any area you will lead. And develop a way to challenge those you lead. It has been beneficial for me to follow other ministers in the ministry as they can help a lot in this area. We are support for each other.
I could probably come up with more, but I am afraid if I continue, people would think I was saying don’t go to seminary. But I am not. Go! Go be prepared by those that have been where you are and are going to be some of the best prayer warriors and support system any minister could hope for.
And be sure to read part two!
Beth Howe has been married to Jonathan Howe since January 2003 and they have 3 boys, Ethan, Parker, Micah, and one daughter, Avery. They enjoy swimming, bowling, soccer, and just being together watching movies and playing games.
She received a bachelor’s degree in psychology at The University of Southern Mississippi and a master’s in Christian education from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Her experience in ministry ranges from serving as a children’s ministry intern to a mother’s day out director to a grade school minister till she joined the FBCMJ staff in October of 2013 as the Director of Children’s Ministries.
She is most passionate about seeing children come to salvation and grow in their knowledge of God’s Word as well as working alongside parents to instill a love for Christ, the church, and the world.