Seminary: What I Expected, What I Got

On the seminary note, has an interesting post about a a dissertation by Charles R. DeGroat who teaches at Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS).

The purpose of the study was to examine the relationship between expectations formed in seminary and the relationship to the reality experienced within the pastorate.

Here are some key thoughts of some subjects in the study:

  • I had to do a funeral three weeks into my first gig in ministry and I didn’t have freaking clue what to do.
  • I wish I learned more about a number of practical ministry things – Weddings. Pastoral counseling. A dude’s kid was molested at one point, and I thought “some good my class notes are for this.” I mean, are you getting the disconnect?
  • I expected that I’d grow spiritually in seminary. I didn’t. And then, I expected that I’d grow spiritually after seminary. And that happened a little. But it mostly didn’t happen. Because the busyness just doesn’t stop. You move from the busyness of papers and essays and exams to the busyness of getting a job to the busyness of preparing for ordination to the busyness of phone calls and hospital visits and teachings and kids being born and interviews with guys like you.
  • If I could say one thing to the seminary, I’d say it’s no use graduating pastors who know how to pass an exam but are spiritually dead.
  • And now I’m realizing that, as I reflect on my seminary experience, is that it was just too much information to absorb and process. So, you scramble to perform to pass tests, and to get credentialed, and to become a preacher. My seminary experience became a means to an end.
  • Nothing in seminary helped with the relational difficulties I’d experience in ministry. The bulk of it I gained in my first ministry position. I saw the level of pain, level of fragmentation, level of brokenness in people’s lives.
  • I didn’t realize how much emotionally energy this (ministry) would require. It’s gigantic.
  • Seminary provided important information for theological and ecclesiastical exams, but not for ministering to broken people.
  • I spend far more time, for good or bad, worrying over how to deal with conflict, or help marriages on the brink of disaster or the best way to accommodate more people, or how to get a group of men who are all older than I, and whom I fear a bit, to get on the same page about something, all relational sorts of things than I do about the exegesis of particular passages of scripture.
  • It is awfully tempting to give one’s time and energy to the things that make it look like you are on the job. I don’t believe I had a good sense of just how much this would be a temptation.

The whole study can be found here.

A large hat tip to

Read the rest of the post here.


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