Are you considering attending seminary away from family, friends, and your home church? If so, you want to consider quite a few things beyond physical distance. Below is a list of benefits and deficits to taking the plunge for seminary away from home.
Benefit: A Completely New Experience
When you relocate, the city you live in will have a different feel than the one you left. I left a blue-collar, rural town and relocated to a mostly white-collar, affluent suburb of one of the largest cities in the U.S. You have the chance, when moving to attend seminary, of choosing the environment in which you want to pursue ministry. If you’ve always wanted to try soup kitchens, urban mission opportunities, and are considering work in a larger non-profit Christian organization, choosing a seminary in a large city is likely a good fit. If you want to focus more on rural concerns, choose a seminary in a sparsely-populated or relaxed area.
When you relocate for seminary, you have the opportunity to expand your social circles. Differences in your social experiences will better prepare you for ministry and it allows you to make connections outside of the familiar. Since you will be networking if you decide to pursue ordination, it is a free opening to make those beneficial connections early on.
Deficit: Relocation Expenses
One of the biggest expenses you will have to initially address is moving expenses. It costs a significant amount of money to move, especially if you’re considering moving across the state line. I relocated three states away, a total of over 450 miles and a 10+ hour drive one way. With fuel prices high and truck rentals even steeper, consider asking if the rental office has discounts if you plan on traveling one-way or any potential fuel deals to help save money. Also, some companies might give discounts depending on the time of year and truck availability.
Where will you live? Most seminaries do not house students on campus. You will need to take into consideration the area around the college. Can you afford living close to the seminary or will you be required to drive quite a bit to get to classes daily? Also, all apartments now require a deposit and depending on when you relocate, the first month’s rent will come due quickly. Have enough in your savings to cover these expenses or you find yourself in a sticky situation before you attend your first class.
Benefit: Commitment to the Call
One benefit in my eyes to attend seminary away from the familiar is the complete immersion in your studies and personal growth. Seminary is difficult, energy-sapping, and deeply fulfilling all at the same time, but distractions can detract from you learning the best ways to pursue ministry in the long term. Your home church and friends will have one way of teaching and preaching their doctrine and attending seminary exposes you to that way and about 50+ others. Keeping too close to home will automatically blind you to the other explanations out there, one that might fit closer to your own personal doctrine than the ones you have currently learned.
Your studies will benefit the church as well, introducing or enforcing to them beliefs that they may have not considered. They will be able to experience your growth without limitations. I considered it a benefit to my own self-enrichment to go without close contact. If your church is going through changes of its own such as staff changes or educational upgrades, this may also be a better option so they can grow without your influence.
Benefit/Deficit: The Job Market
Currently, the job market is suffering for full-time jobs, but part-time jobs seem to be widely available. Most seminarians will make use of loans and scholarships, but for paying the rent and daily expenses, most will also search for some sort of employment. Part-time jobs are easier to find and will most likely be compatible with your class schedule. You also have the benefit of longevity, considering your education will take at least 2 to 3 years (or more), which makes you a better benefit to your employer.
The only deficit is finding employment while you live farther away. Most companies won’t hire someone with a resume that comes from a long distance because it might be either junk mail or they can’t waste their time on it. Consider enclosing a cover letter that explains your schooling and put it on your resume, even if it’s pending. It allows the employer to know your reliability and commitment before you step foot on different soil. Realize you may not get a job for weeks, so be prepared for a little stress. Overall, if you can visit before you relocate and scope out some potential employers, you’ll have a leg up when you start scheduling those face-to-face interviews upon relocation.
Written by Rebecca Mularski. Rebecca is a student at Eden Theological Seminary. She blogs at Seeking Eden.