2,213. This is how many days went by from my very first class at Southern Seminary to the date my last assignment was due for my Master of Divinity degree. I started seminary with a systematic theology class at an extension center near Baltimore and ended with an online class about family ministry. When I began I was a youth intern about two weeks before becoming a full time youth pastor. Six years and 94 credits later I now have several years of youth pastoring done, a beautiful wife, and a baby daughter.
A lot has changed in my life over these 2,213 days. One thing that has not changed is the Word if God. This is one reason why I decided to spend so many days earning my MDIV at Southern Seminary while being a youth pastor. Below are four reasons why I am thankful I pursued a seminary degree while being in ministry.
First, classes at Southern prepared me by giving a biblical framework to view ministry. Although ministry is difficult, it is possible through the grace of God. The classes at Southern helped me think biblically about ministry strategy and how to reach and teach people the Gospel. There were times I wished I entered a MDIV program that required less, but ultimately I knew I wanted the best and felt like I was getting it at Southern.
Second, completing seminary while in ministry allowed me to learn and apply at a quick rate. The first class I took was Systematic Theology 1 during the season I was beginning as a youth pastor. It was incredible how much learning in a seminary classroom directly impacted my ability to pastor students. Whether it was a hard question a student asked me which happened to be in a book that was assigned reading or a teaching series I later formed as a project in hermeneutics class, seminary was helpful to learn and quickly apply.
Third, learning the ancient biblical languages while being a pastor equipped me to know the Bible better. I wasn’t sure how it was going to be with multiple semesters of required biblical language classes as a distance student. However, these classes served as deep Bible study and a unique opportunity to learn about the Bible in ways I never have before. Besides this, one of the coolest examples of God’s providence during this time was a man from our church who was in the process of earning his doctorate degree at a different seminary. One of his assignments was that he needed to teach someone Hebrew. In God’s grace I was an online Hebrew student that probably would’ve failed if it wasn’t for this extra help from my friend.
Fourth, although I missed out on the unique experience of being an on campus student, Southern’s distance program allowed me to work at a pace that fit my lifestyle. As seasons of life changed, so did my seminary workload. Ultimately, I’m thankful for a flexible seminary schedule and a wife that encouraged me through this whole journey.
I am so thankful for each of these 2,213 days that it took to complete my Master of Divinity degree. I don’t think all youth pastors need seminary degrees. However, I do think that for those who are able to pursue them at theologically solid schools should do what they can to learn and apply what they can from seminary. May God multiply what He taught me during these days!