One of my course mates shared an interesting lesson he learned early enough during orientation in the Seminary by one of the Professors. It was a word of caution about the danger of neglecting the family as a result of the academic demands.
The Professor is quoted to have told the newly enrolled students: “I want you to know that quite a number of students in the past came to the Seminary living happily with their spouses. They were so committed to pass Greek and Hebrew that upon their graduation they had straight “A’s” in the biblical languages but the result was a heartbreak of divorce with their spouses.”
These words may sound frightening at first, but they go to show the danger that seminarians may encounter if they fail to strike a balance between the time they spend studying their books and the time they spend with their family.
Every responsible spouse knows that the quality of time they spend with their partner determines to a greater extent the quality of their marriage. The same principle applies to parenting and child-rearing. We cannot spend less time with our family and expect some sort of magic or miracle to happen. If we want good result, we must spend quality time with them.
A popular preacher is quoted to have once observed with dismay and regret that one thing pastors through all generations will always live to regret is the small amount of time they spent with their families. He remarked that if pastors will be given opportunity on their deathbed to do something differently, there is none of them who will regret that they have spent too much time with their family.
The point is that the neglect of the family at the expense of ministry is something that starts right from the Seminary. Many seminarians hide under the rigorous demands of academic work in the Seminary as a legitimate excuse of not spending quality time with families. Little do they realize that this unhealthy attitude, if allowed to remain unchecked, can be easily carried into the ministry.
Indeed spending quality time with the family while in the Seminary is a matter of discipline and determination. While it is true that the academic demands in the Seminary can be overwhelming hence the need for you to be committed to your studies, you must constantly remind yourself that the family is the first “congregation” which you are called to minister to.
By neglecting the family at the expense of your studies, you are essentially misplacing your priorities. Of what benefit, for instance, will it be if after graduation you end up losing your family as a result of neglect? Will you rather graduate with wonderful grades from the Seminary at the detriment of your family? I suppose the answer is obvious.
Striking this balance may not be as easy, but it is something worth the effort. You must learn to set your priorities right in this regard.
By Seth Kajang Bature. Seth is a student at Westminster Theological Seminary, PA.