Your done! You did it! You survived your first (second or third) year of seminary. Look at how far you’ve come. Bask in how much you’ve accomplished – academically, spiritually, personally.
Seminary is not for the faint of heart, nor is it for those undisciplined with their rest time. Seminary models itself after ministry and it is designed to be a marathon, not a sprint. Thankfully in this marathon there are rest periods in between lengths. These are your summers (unless you take classes all year round – than you may disregard the following and know that my prayers are with you furiously motivated learners!).
If you’re like me than your summers probably are not any less busy than the rest of the year, they just have a different set of responsibilities and tasks to manage. Still, for most of us being outside the academic rigor of seminary offers us a few unique opportunities. These opportunities afford us the chance to regroup, get ahead, and evaluate both our current situation and where we want to go from there.
Here are a few ideas on how to best spend your seminary summer.
This should be the highest priority on your list: rest. You cannot run your whole life at a 100mph. Everyone needs to break, breathe and rest. There are a number of reasons you should be zealous to take a break.
First, your spiritual life depends on it. There’s a reason keeping the Sabbath is one the commandments; it’s a necessity for anyone seriously concerned with developing their spiritual maturity and especially for those who plan on leading others.
Second, your physical health needs rest. I am not just talking about the 6-8 hours a night of sleep (if anyone out there is actually getting that much). I am also talking about the physical feeling of relaxation: letting go of stress, dropping off anxiety, letting yourself have a lazy day (or a lazy week!). Ministry taxes your body as much as it does your heart and mind and spirit. Pay attention to your body, it’s the only one you get.
Third, your mind needs a day off. It took me a long time to believe this but its true – it is okay to go a day without learning something new. Try it, not picking up a book for an entire day. Not defending a theological perspective or not writing an article. Do it – take time to let your brain just be – it will help it become all the more ready to learn afterwards.
Celebrate Your Progress
There is always the next step in front of us. The next class to take, the next position to move into, the next event to plan, the next degree to earn, etc.
Most of us live our lives 5 steps in front of us and rarely take time to celebrate where how far we have come. This summer treat yourself as a reward for finishing the year. Splurge on an expensive dinner, buy a new tie, take a weekend vacation. Do something out of the ordinary that shows you are happy and even proud of where you currently are in life.
These little rewards along the way can help keep us moving in the direction we want to be heading in. Not to mention they are a lot of fun!
No, not all of this advice is about fulfilling your adolescent dreams of having no responsibility. You are not done yet, and even when you are you will never be finished learning and growing.
Summer acts as a great time read, especially to read ahead. During the semesters the piles of books seem to never end. Weekly reading requirements are almost humorous at times at their impossibility.
Using the summer to get a leg up on the coming year shows wisdom and discipline. Plus, it will certainly lighten the load which will make your next year much more enjoyable – at least in terms of required reading.
Keep Up Your Languages
Greek is not like riding a bike. You cannot just jump back on after a few years and translate like you’re the Lance Armstrong of New Testament Greek. Continual practice is required.
There are a number of resources available to help with this goal such as workbooks, readers, and of course good ole’ translation and parsing exercises. Even doing half an hour a week will help tremendously down the road. Don’t risk letting all your hard work waste away. Make a small investment of your time now so that you may continue to reap the benefits of your language knowledge for years to come.
Even with our busy schedules not having the demands of seminary opens up some windows in our day. Use that extra time to serve. Do something extra with the ministry you are already involved in or spend the summer getting acquainted with another ministry in your church.
It is also a great opportunity to connect outside of your church. Volunteer at a church where one of your classmates attends. Get outside of your comfort zone. Put to use what you spent the last year learning.
The bottom line: summer is a gift. Do not treat it as a void between one academic year and another. It’s wide open so that you can fill it with things to enrich your life and ministry.
Written by David Ramos. David is a friend of God and a lover of the Old Testament. When he is not working on his M.Div at Ashland Seminary you can find him teaching Sunday-school or cooking pasta. You can read more from David at OffsetInnocence or connect with him on Twitter and Facebook. He currently lives and works in Cleveland, Ohio.