This post was written by Jon of Live.Work.Play. Jon is married to Grete and is a small group guy. He’s currently in Chi-town during Fuller Theological Seminary quarter break. (Hey Jon, grab a slice of this while you’re up there!)
I’ve decided that woodworking and ministry have a lot in common.
Here’s the deal. My uncle is one of those jack-of-all-traits types. He decided to pick up wood carving a few years back. Now he carves everything from those wooden ducks that look just like the real thing to wooden chests and wooden bowls. You name it, and I’ll bet he could make it. But what’s interesting to me is how he got into the woodworking hobby. He didn’t go take a class or buy a book. Instead, he invested in some great tools, found some people who knew what they were doing that he could learn from, and spent a lot of time practicing.
I’m always surprised when I talk with seminary students who are frustrated with the education they’re receiving. I’ve attended two very different seminaries so far, and the complainers existed both places. So I’m guessing this is a universal thing.
Most of the time they don’t feel like their education is fully preparing them for ministry. They may say it’s too theoretical. It’s not practical enough.
But honestly, I think they’re expecting too much.
When my uncle set out to learn woodcarving, he did three things — he grabbed the right tools, he found some good mentors, and he began to practice. Seminary is an important part of ministry preparation for many people. But it’s not the entirety of ministry preparation.
Here’s what I think: Seminary can do a great job filling your toolbox, but it’s up to you to find mentors and to dive into ministry.
I definitely don’t have this thing figured out, but there’s one thing I do know. Some of the most valuable experiences I’ve had so far in seminary have been because I’m working in ministry while attending school. It’s caused more stress. It’s meant less time on a few papers. But there’s something about learning about the doctrine of the Trinity one hour and then sitting in a small groups planning meeting with a tennis coach, a pharmacist, and a retired teacher the next that puts things into perspective.
I guess what I’m learning is that sometimes we expect too much from one piece of our lives. Seminary isn’t a machine that spits out perfect ministers. It’s one part of our pursuit to know and follow God. In the end, it’s up to each student to take the box of tools we’re gathering in classes, find some great mentors who can walk through this thing with us, and dive into the messiness that is ministry.