I have been enrolled in Christian education since the Fall of 2007. I have had a total of three semesters off during that time. That education includes a BA in Biblical Studies from Northland International University (2007-2011), an MA in Theology from Central Baptist Theological Seminary (2012-2014), and currently the pursuit of an M.Div in Christian Ministry from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. During that time God has been gracious to bring my wife into my life (2012) and the addition of two wonderful children (2014 and 2016). What have I learned with all those books, papers, and lectures? Below are some of the lessons I’m learning along the way.
1. Work/Family/Church/School balance is formidable.
I heard that it was important for seminary students to keep a good work/life balance. But I’ve come to realize that seminary students with families have at least four areas in their daily lives that are in constant battle for their undivided attention. Each month there are bills to be paid, debt to reduce, or continually try to outpace. Because of the former reality, jobs must be kept, clients need to be made happy, sales must be made. My wife and I take our jobs seriously and rarely work less than 40 hours a week.
Then, at the end of each day I want to come home and spend time with my family and friends. Once the kids were in the picture, I wanted to be “super” dad and change the diapers (okay, maybe not), teach them Greek (ask my son about Present Active Indicative verbs), and memorize lengthy portions of the Bible with my wife. How in the world do I find time to do that when, there are papers that do not write themselves, thousands of pages to read, quizzes to study for, and study groups to attend?
Later the local church calls and asks me to lead that teen group, teach the Sunday school class, and have an internship. Oh, but it gets better because I married a godly woman, and the church wants her to lead break out conference sessions, mission’s trips, and she wants to lead woman’s studies on how to study the Bible (she liked Jen Wilken before it was cool). Simply put, there are a lot of directions that Bible students are pulled and hats aplenty to wear.
The task of balance is in itself a full-time job at times. Our lives are full to over flowing, but the conviction that God has called us to this is what helps when burn out, fatigue, discouragement, and depression rear their ugly heads from time to time (read, day to day).
2. Church is more important than school.
Going into seminary my wife and I made the choice to make the local church more important than school and grades. We saw that being active and healthy church members as infinitely more valuable than having all the names to drop on a resume. We were not mature enough to come to this conclusion on our own, but godly mentors in our lives modeled this principle for us and we wanted to emulate it. That’s not to say that we have done it perfectly. It is easy, precariously easy, to fall into the trap of thinking I’m preparing for ministry rather than already in ministry if I’m part of a local church (pro tip: if you’re saved you need to be active in a local church). If our desire and call is to be leaders in the local church now is the time to be involved, not after the degree. To this day, we have no remorse over valuing our local church above seminary.
3. Family is more important than school.
This is where I struggle a lot. I want to be with my wife and children more. My kids are only young once (and my wife and I are only young once too). I want to see their first steps and hear their first words. I want to be present so that they don’t simply think dad is a student before he is a dad or husband. Again, the hard part is that my wife doesn’t give me a report card each semester (maybe I would be a better husband if she did). My kids don’t give me deadlines that I need to work on each month. But their lives are infinitely more important than the book to read or the paper to write. The temptation is to think I can make up time after the degree, but I am coming to realize and have seen that the seeds I am sowing now with my family will bear fruit one day. What type of fruit do I want to reap from my family ten years after no one remembers me at seminary?
4. God will provide.
This may be the hardest one for me to grasp. While juggling all these responsibilities, I begin to think that I can provide and accomplish each of the areas that I am called to fulfill. But at the end of the day, all the anxiety that is in my heart must be cast on the Father who loves to provide for me, His blood bought child. I claim to believe God for my eternal destiny, but so often find myself in the bonds of unbelief. Can He really put a simple loaf of bread on my table or a job to provide for my family in my life? The answer is yes!
To sum up what 10 plus years of Christian education has taught me is this: education does not produce godliness. Rather, I believe that Christian education in general is a training ground for godly affections. What do I mean? All the responsibilities (stresses) that come with an educational life inevitably boil into a conflict of what is most important to me. Do I skip church to study for the test? Do I forgo family night again for the paper? Do I take the work phone call instead of reading that book? Am I sending my boss to voice mail to listen to my children talk about nothing (which is wonderfully delightful)? In other words, seminary and life for everyone is about values. Do I value God’s kingdom above my own? Yes? Then how I live my life will produce godly fruit whether a seminary graduate or an isolated Christian in the jungles of the Amazon.
My education has been indispensable for who God is shaping me to be as a Christian, husband, dad, employee, friend, son, and brother. I cannot thank all the people that I have watched, talked to, and learned from through these 10 years of education enough for the way God used them in my life. But, I thank God most of all for the way each church my family has been part of has influenced and changed us into the image of Christ.
Article by: Caleb Nedimyer