Seminary will challenge you beyond what you might imagine—spiritually, intellectually, and even physically.1 For me, going to seminary was the hardest and most wonderful experience of my life.
Whether you are already going to seminary or plan to start soon, here are three things you can do now to help smooth out potential bumps in the road and make the journey a pleasant one.
1. Embrace the challenge
You will likely feel uncomfortable early on and perhaps even doubt your decision. You might feel unprepared to read and study at an academic level, even if you’ve studied the Bible your entire life. Professors will talk about subjects you are already familiar with in new ways, which might challenge what you believe about certain theological topics.2 You may struggle with new terms and concepts and find yourself resistant to new ideas—or even question your professor’s faith.3
If you’re tempted to raise the white flag, turn, and run far, far away, remember why you chose to begin seminary. Likely it involved time on your knees and wise counsel from friends, a spouse, or colleagues. Trust your decision, but recognize that this doesn’t mean you won’t have challenges on the journey.
Seminary is a chance to offer your body as a “living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God,” an act of true and proper worship (Rom 12:1). You can flip your perspective about potential challenges by embracing them as an opportunity for growth and a way to honor and worship God.
2. Plan ahead for language study
Original language studies are often what make incoming students the most anxious about going to seminary.
But they don’t have to. Zacharias and Forrest write that learning Hebrew and Greek is like going from watching a movie on a 13-inch black-and-white television to a 27-inch color television—and then finally sitting in a theater with 3-D glasses and watching it on a big screen. You see things you haven’t seen before in stories you already know by heart because you were not equipped to engage in deeper research and study of the Bible.4
You can get a head start on your Greek or Hebrew classes by first getting refreshed on English grammar, especially if English is your second language. Here are some other helpful hints to getting ahead of the game:
1. Learn unfamiliar terminology like “morphology,” “phonology,” “dialects,” and so on. The authors of Surviving and Thriving in Seminary recommend reading How Biblical Languages Work by Thomas John Finley and Peter James Silzer prior to starting an original language course to get an overview of how languages work in a general sense.
2. Purchase your textbooks early, and read the introductory chapters.
3. Memorize the alphabet before the class starts. There are numerous videos online. Many are set to catchy tunes that make it fun. (My daughter learned the Hebrew aleph-bet with me, and we still sing it on occasion.)
Don’t worry—your classmates are probably just as anxious as you. Try to enjoy the journey, and as I suggested in the “Embrace discomfort” section, make learning the biblical languages an act of worship. You’ll be blessed.
3. Invest in the right tools
Bible software is no longer a luxury for seminary students but a necessity, and choosing the right one can dramatically reduce the time spent flipping through print books. I recommend trying Logos 9 Academic Basic, a free Bible software program you can try and see if it’s right for you.
Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias, lexicons, books, and more are integrated within Logos that make valuable connections—without extra work. It’s like having a personal Bible study assistant, one who has every book in the Bible and your library totally memorized. You’ll do in seconds what would normally take hours and keep track of everything you learn with a high-powered notes system. In just a click, you can study the meaning of a word in its original language.
You can add textbooks and other theological works to build a substantial digital theological library in the same place you study—many are discounted through the Logos Academic discount program.
Another huge perk? When you paste quotes into research documents, it cites everything for you. With the number of papers you’ll be writing, this is a no-brainer.
Plus, you get to take all this with you after you go. Your books don’t stay in the seminary library.
Want more tips on surviving seminary with your faith intact? Get your free seminary guide here.