Things I Wished I Learned in Seminary
2 Timothy 2:15 – Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.
A few months ago I stepped into a full time ministry position. It is truly a dream job. I had been chasing that dream since the end of 2013, so, almost 6 years. It took so long for several reasons, but, suffice it to say, God was preparing me for the ministry.
The position I took is a Director of Ministries role at a solidly medium-sized church. We run about 200 each Sunday and have over 65 people each week engaged in growth groups, which is an amazing percentage!
As Director of Ministries, I find that my role encompasses a lot. We only have 2 full-time staff: the pastor and myself. This means we both wear a lot of hats.
In all churches the staff wears many hats, but that number of hats you wear goes up exponentially as you get smaller. But I have found that the number of hats follows a sine curve. When the church is very small, the pastor wears all the hats, but the number of things that pastor is responsible for from a production standpoint is minimized simply because one person cannot do it all.
Then, on the other side of the curve is the megachurch. These churches typically have someone for almost every position in the church and the only reason someone would have to wear another hat is when they are transitioning between leaders.
Then you get to the mid-size churches. These are the churches that are between 200-400 people. In those churches you don’t have the congregation size to pull for every ministry that the church wants to do yet these churches are really starting to expand their community relations, build their worship teams, and see guests coming each week to check out the church.
It is in these churches, which don’t have the income to support full staffs, that the team is tasked with wearing several hats all at once so that the ministries continue to grow and the Sunday worship experience is on par with churches of larger size.
So when I went to seminary, I was told that the most important thing to understand was the Bible.
I still don’t doubt that.
Knowledge of God is the most important piece of ministry. I spent thousands of dollars studying a single book, The Bible.
But after seminary I feel woefully unprepared for many of the day to day parts of ministry.
Seminary is preparing people to be Ed Stetzer, Steven Furtick, David Platt, Louis Giglio, and many others. They aren’t preparing people to be the day-in and day-out shepherds of a congregation that can be challenging, amazing, beautiful, maddening, heartbreaking, and powerful. It also doesn’t prepare you for the operational aspects of ministry.
Colossians 3:23 – Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men
So what I would like to do is give a list of classes that I wish I had a chance to take in seminary. Seminaries don’t offer most of these classes, just so you know. These are things that you would never see in an MDiv or MAR.
- Rigging 101
The past couple of days I have been helping the pastor plan the 4 services we are going to have this Easter weekend. The first service is Good Friday at 7 PM. For this service, we are moving a huge, close to 200 pound, cross from its normal place on the stage to hanging it from the ceiling in the middle of the room. This is requiring chains, aircraft cable, and a lot of prayer. If this thing falls in the middle of the sanctuary, it won’t necessarily be a “good” Good Friday.
- Graphic Design
One of my first tasks was to prepare a brochure for the church that was to be used in the business meeting. Our goal was to make it something that looked professional yet didn’t cost an arm and a leg. I had the brochure almost completely done when I found one of our congregants has graphic design experience. I showed it to her and was almost laughed out of the room. I handed it to her and, within a week, she had something that was absolutely hands-down amazing. I wish I had that skill!
- Application of the Fruit of the Spirit
We all know the fruit of the Spirit. It is laid out in Galatians 5. Each one of those fruit will be tested by the congregation. They will be attacked by Satan. It would be amazing to hear from pastors who have stood the test of time to give a class on how to maintain the fruit of the Spirit while in ministry. The other day my pastor and I were talking about how I have a very corporate mindset and how I like to tell someone what to do and expect them to immediately do it. Unfortunately in ministry, it doesn’t work that way. It is much more relational. This is definitely a skill I need to learn more from him, and I am. But imagine if seminary had prepared me for this.
- Sound & Lighting
I realize that for those who take a worship track in seminary get a lot of this, but during my time at seminary it wasn’t even an option for me to take. I guess they figured that I was going for church planting and therefore would not have need for a worship team? (please note the sarcasm in that question). I am thankful that I studied it when I went to college, but that was in the 80’s and 90’s, so things have changed…a lot.
I have kids. I haven’t been the best father in the world. I will never win any dad awards. But when you have several other children and yours are grown, and children were never a strength of yours, it takes a lot more focus and energy for me to deal with children than it does for someone who is good with kids. I don’t know how to put together a lesson plan. I don’t know how to control a classroom (unless the people in it have already been through puberty). A basic class on classroom management for dummies would be awesome.
- Construction Techniques
Much of my job is working with people to keep the church from falling apart. The church is old. At least 40 years old for the main section. This means there are things that are breaking, falling apart, and not efficient. If I knew how to build, fix, and update all the things in the church for cheap it would be awesome!
- Keeping your marriage strong during ministry
This is another one of those things that I think would be an amazing class to have ministry couples teach a class about the storms, the tests, and the trials you will face as a ministry couple. There are times that I can see strain between us for things at the church. I am thankful that I have a pastor that has been through that storm and is a great resource for me.
So these are a few of the classes I wish were available at seminary. And I know that some seminaries do a better job at some of these than others, but for the most part, many of these aren’t even on the radar of seminaries to prepare future pastors for the calling.
Pastors and ministry professionals have a high burn-out rate and a high turnover rate. Perhaps if we spent more time in seminary preparing people for both the knowledge of God and the intricacies of bathroom cleaning, then we might see that turnover number go lower.
Jeremiah 3:15 – “‘And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.