So you’re in seminary and faced with the hard reality that it’s EXPENSIVE! Sure there are scholarships available but more often than not, they won’t cover the whole cost of attending seminary not to mention general living expenses. So now you are left with a couple alternatives. Either you fall into debt relying on student loans or you get a job. I have personally opted to avoid student loans and will be graduating in one year without any debt. I will be earning my Masters of Divinity, while holding a full time job, being married, and having a daughter. So here are some tips on how to have a job, go to seminary, and have a family (if that applies to you).
Let me start with some honesty. Having job and going to seminary is no easy task. I currently work full time as an accountant at a very large local church and take an average of 9 credit hours per semester. I also work with someone at my church that goes to seminary and is the Connections Pastors of our church. This individual admittedly thrives on feeling overwhelmed at times, yet he will confess the difficulty and struggles of working full-time, going to seminary, and yes…have a family. So I guess what I’m saying is don’t expect this to be a walk in the park but have hope that it is possible because there are a lot of people doing it.
Tip #1 – Apply for scholarships
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of being diligent about applying for financial aid. The more money you can receive in financial aid equates to less hours needed to work (if you have an hourly part-time job that is flexible of course). However, even if you have a full-time salaried job, receiving financial aid can only help you and lighten the financial burden of going to seminary.
Tip #2 – Find a job that is flexible
This relates to Tip #1 but let me go into it a little deeper. Several scholarships require a minimal credit hour enrollment per semester in order for the scholarship to be awarded to an individual. At Denver Seminary most scholarships require a minimum of 9 credit hours. In addition, depending on the size of the school you are attending, required core classes can potentially be offered only at specific times and days. This means that when you apply for a job, there needs to be a clear understanding between you and your boss that you are going to seminary and that there will be certain times and days where you have to be in class. Consequently, whatever job you apply for, be sure that they are flexible.
Tip #3 – BE ORGANIZED!
Reality is you are going to be extremely busy and have a full schedule. This means you have to schedule your time accordingly and have clear expectations with yourself (and your family if you have one) about what times you will be studying, what your work schedule looks like, and what your semester looks like. Personally, I create an excel spreadsheet every semester outlining all the due dates from all the syllabi so I know exactly what is due and when. This honestly takes a lot of weight off my shoulders and reduces my stress level enormously. I cannot emphasize the importance of being organized enough. The danger of not being organized is missing due dates, not getting things done at work, and added stress on the family. So be organized and perhaps create a schedule every semester.
Tip #4 – Create Margin!
I realize that your schedule is packed. However, you need to create margin in your schedule. In reading some of the Gospel accounts, we encounter Jesus during His earthly ministry going off to be alone with the Father by Himself. This is a practice that is essential to both our physical and spiritual health. Some of you may know that age old “joke” where people refer to Seminary as “Cemeteries.” I believe this “joke” (though not really funny) is a result of not creating enough margin and also not ensuring that you are doing Biblical Studies, studying Hermeneutics, Church History, Biblical Languages, Apologetics, etc…in a way that is more than just to earn a grade. Creating margin brings life to your studies and ultimately allows you to retain information better and having a better understanding on how to apply what you are learning. This is because you are going back to the Father while engaging in His word. My Executive Pastor told a story about how he went into Seminary in love with Jesus but left Seminary in love with the Bible and Ministry. The danger of going to seminary is your love for Jesus gets replaced with His word and your Ministry. Creating margin ensures that you focus on your relationship with God, which allows you to place everything you are doing in perspective of who you are in Christ rather than being defined by what you do.
Tip #5 – Have Fun
My last word of advice is to simply have fun. This doesn’t just mean having fun in class but be sure to have some hobbies and passions outside of school and work. This is similar to creating margin but focuses on enjoying life a little. Whether it is hiking, fishing, running, camping, painting, playing music, watching movies, playing paintball, or hanging out with friends, be sure that you enjoy the gift of life. I personally enjoy playing paintball and find it to be a stress relief that re-energizes me. Furthermore, a possibility of having hobbies is making friends with similar interests and ultimately leading them to Christ if they are not believers yet.
So these were a few of my tips and they have helped me throughout my seminary career. One final word of advice I have to offer is, when you work and go to Seminary don’t be ashamed if you don’t finish in three years. I have been doing this for over five years now and going slower at times has even benefited me by allowing me to process the information more effectively. So if you have to slow down, don’t be afraid to do so.
By Joseph Siacunco. Joseph is a Masters of Divinity Student at Denver Seminary located in Littleton, CO. He currently works at Mission Hills Church in the Finance Department and is a Certified Public Accountant. He has worked in Accounting since 2004 but also serves at his church in other ways including teaching and preaching.