Finishing strong: persevering through your mid-degree crisis
Higher-ed institutions across the country are filled with exhausted, irritable and weary students searching for light at the end of the academic tunnel.
Southern’s master of divinity degree is a behemoth 88-credit hour program, no small feat for anyone. Academic exhaustion and burnt-out enthusiasm aren’t reflective of a lazy spirit, but if not properly corrected those feelings evolve to affect you, the student, as well as your family and future ministry.
“At some point in your seminary career you will question not only the worthiness of your education, but even its morality,” said Hershael York, Victor and Louise Lester Professor of Christian Preaching and associate dean of ministry and proclamation. “After all, you don’t need a diploma hanging on your wall in order to serve Jesus. You’ll further adorn your excuses with a pious veneer, lamenting the lostness of the world and the urgency of the front lines of spiritual battle, or the inherent unfairness of asking others to sacrifice for you to boast the appendage of a few letters after your name.”
“When that moment comes, don’t be fooled into forgetting why you came to seminary in the first place. God brought you here, calling you not only to minister, but also to prepare. The battles that lie ahead will find you better equipped for victory because of the struggles of seminary you face today. Discovering God’s faithfulness in defeating the lion and the bear will one day give you confidence as you face Goliath,” said York.
The disciplines of prayer, faith and perseverance are the solutions to struggle, despair and fear.
“If Jesus called you to take up a cross and follow him, don’t be shocked that it involves pain,” said York.
The road to graduation is not always smooth for seminarians. Realizing this, Southern Seminary created the Center for Student Success to help students as they progress toward graduation. The center, housed in Norton 154, provides services for academic advising, academic achievement and support for international students and students with disabilities.
“Academic success is relative to each student – but graduation is every student’s goal,” said Matt Minier, director of Student Success.
Despite the difficulties of a rigorous degree, how can students press on toward the goal of graduation? One way is to use the upcoming summer break well. The Student Success office compiled several ways you can use your summer well while moving forward to graduation.
- Spend time planning: Summer is a great time to plan and prepare for the future. Spend some focused energy this summer planning for the upcoming academic year. For degree planning purposes, schedule a time to meet with an academic advisor. They can provide an academic roadmap and help chart the straightest path to graduation. At the same time, make an appointment with Ministry Connections and talk through your vocational calling. Make sure that what you’re doing today is what’s required for you to be able fulfill your calling tomorrow.
- Get some practical experience: Summer isn’t just a time to plan; it’s also a great time to gain practical ministry experience. You are in seminary because you feel called to serve the church. As a future pastor, missionary or lay leader, you need to supplement what you are learning in the classroom with real world experience. Don’t wait until your degree is in hand before you seek out ministry opportunities. If you want to earn academic credit while gaining practical experience, you can go on a SBTS sponsored mission trip, taking Applied Ministry, or by participating in the Ministry Apprenticeship Program. If none of these opportunities work for you, at the very least, take on more responsibility at your local church.
- Take a class: one of the ways the seminary helps students get to the goal of graduation is through summer courses, encouraging students not to waste their break. Students can find more information about summer courses at sbts.edu
- Get a head start: If you’re not taking summer classes but plan to take a full load in the fall, use the summer to get ahead on your upcoming fall assignments. Register for classes early and print off all syllabi. When students do these things early it allows a more manageable schedule.
- Rest and recoup: Everyone needs time for rest. Although summer is a great time for productivity, don’t neglect building in time for rest and recreation. Take advantage of the summer weather and appreciate God’s creation. Enjoy community with friends, neighbors and family members. Practice spiritual disciplines. Read for pleasure and enjoy good works of fiction. Sleep in on a Saturday morning or two and take full advantage of the Sunday Sabbath.
*Editor’s Note: This post is a compilation of an article that appeared in the March 2014 issue of Towers by Emily Griffin and an article written by Matt Minier, the Director of Student Success.