When Things Don't Go As Planned

by on July 23, 2008

I haven’t written a personal post in a while, so I thought I’d give you a little update.

A Quick Recap

Jennifer and I have been in Orlando for 7 months now. It has been just about a year since I quit my job as a campus minister in order to go to seminary. I’m not going to lie, it has been a tough journey. We almost didn’t come because our house wasn’t sold only weeks before we were planning to move. That obsticle was removed and we went into high gear trying to get down to Florida asap. Once here, things were good but tough.

Though not an entirely smooth transition, seminary itself was everything I had hoped it would be. I loved every minute of it (well… except the minutes spent writing papers… I don’t like papers). The professors were amazing and I was growing in my understanding of God and scripture. Not only that, but I could feel myself being transformed. It was amazing.

The Summer Sets In

The summer has been really difficult. For one, I have WAY too much free time. I’m taking two classes this summer, so there has been some reading and writing, but generally speaking my academic schedule is pretty light. Along with that, business has been really slow. While this has allowed me to work on some other projects and catch up on some things I’ve wanted to tweak on goingtoseminary.com, it has been a constant source of stress… no work = no money.

I also think that the summer has been tough on my wife because I am home all day, every day. Since I am self employed, I work out of an office in my house. I think there is an added stress in the house when dad is home all day. Not just for my wife and kids, but for me too… I’m not used to being in my house 24 hours a day… so, I think that is starting to wear us all down.

The Money Well Runs Dry

As you might guess, the whole no work = no money thing is a big deal. When we decided to come to seminary we made a step of faith that was informed by us crunching some numbers and thinking that we could make it for a year before things got really hairy (financially). Our hope was that, once down here God would either begin to prosper my web business or provide for us in some other way that he saw fit.

With the sale of our home we were able to put a nice chunk of money into savings. This money was designed to pay our rent and cover any monthly shortages (should we have them). Well, as you guessed, we’ve had more than a few shortages and every month the savings disappears quicker than we had planned. So, last night as I sat looking at course offerings for next semester I had to ask myself, “what do you do when things don’t go as planned?”

The Options

Well, since things are not going entirely as planned, here are some of the options I’ve come up with:

  1. Have faith, register for classes, keep walking forward.
  2. Have faith, register for only 2 classes, loose your scholarship, get a part time job
  3. Have faith, don’t register for any classes, get a job
  4. Have faith, move back to Richmond, get a job
  5. Have faith, change from M.Div to MA in Biblical Studies, take out a loan, try to knock out all my classes in under 8 months
  6. Have faith, play the lottery

Crunch Time

All six options have some merit and on any given hour I fluctuate between which one makes the most sense. I do my best to remember that all six options require that I have faith. I also try to remind myself that the challenges that we are facing are just as much a part of the journey and what God is teaching us. Though this is not a course for credit, this is part of my seminary education. Through these difficult days I trust that God is working in me and my family to shape us more into the image of his son.

That said, decisions do need to be made. I do need to register or not register. I do need to look for a job or apply for a loan. I can’t simply hang out in the valley of indecision forever. So, it is crunch time.

Table For Two

If you’re in seminary or considering seminary, odds are you’ll be joining me at this table. Now, your situation will probably be different, but from what I’ve seen we all face adversity of one sort or another while we are here (can I get an “amen” Terry?). It is highly likely that things will not go as you planned. In it all, just remember that God has not abandoned you. He loves you and is work in you and through you… that doesn’t mean it will always be easy and comfortable… but have faith friend, have faith.


The author of this post is noted above. GoingtoSeminary.com and Best-Seminary.com were created by Ryan Burns. He is currently on staff at Redemption Hill Church in Richmond, VA, and recently launched a site to help people find Seminary Scholarships and anther site to help people find Church Jobs. He also writes about his experiences doing GORUCK events on his hobby blog.


I’ve been going through, and continue to go through many of the things you are talking about in this post. There just never seems to be enough money to cover, tuition, books, daycare, rent, etc. Over the last month or so I’ve been reworking my budget and trying to figure out what I’m going to do in the fall as well. Thanks for the post, you gave me some insight into my own situation and reminded me that most of us in seminary are struggling with many of these same things.

jdantzlerws last blog post..iPhones and the Church


Brother, we will be praying for your family. I appreciate your openness in this post since most seminarians will have to deal with this sort of thing at one time or another.

If there is anything I can do to help at all, please let me know. God bless.

I am dealing with a similar situation, and from your possible options, I chose to go with number two (except I’ll be doing 3 classes). I am working a data entry job right now which is pretty dull, but pays okay, and they are being very flexible with me so that I’ll be able to keep it come fall. My hope is to go part time this year, and then save up a bit so I can crack down on it the final year and get it all done (note: I’m doing an MATS, a two-year program, stretching it to three).

These are tough decisions, man, and responsible choices have to be made. It definitely is not how I planned it. But it’s okay. I’ve learned a lot in that big classroom called life, and always need to be reminded that my plans are not necessarily God’s plans.

Hope it all works out for you, and of course, will be praying for you all.

Jake Belders last blog post..Newbigin: The Urgent Task of the Church

Hey Ryan,

I dropped out in Mar 2007 to “transition” to a different seminary. We had hoped our house would sell in a few months and we would start back in to school in the fall. We waited and waited. Then we took a huge step of faith and decided to move to KY and wait until our house sold. Well, our house sold–in June 2008. And instead of being able to put aside a chunk of money for savings, we had the privilege of coming up with about $15K to give the bank in order to get rid of the house (over the last 15 months, the value dropped well below what we paid for it in 2004). So now, I am choosing your Option #2–I’m taking only 1 class this fall, auditing another, and building up our savings. Then, God-willing, in the spring of 2009, I’ll be back into it full-swing. Realize, my original plan was to graduate in May 2009. That ain’t happening now…

Sometimes we don’t get the things we want right away and it’s in those times that I’m reminded that God’s grace can be a disappointing grace (to borrow from Paul Tripp).

We will be praying for wisdom as you face ahead in the journey.

Paul Fullers last blog post..Call Me Paranoid…

Ryan, I appreciate watching from afar, your faith, diligence, common sense (which is in fact, uncommon) and sense of humor. I will remember to pray for discernment and especially clarity mixed with some sovereign joy.

jdantzlerw, Terry and Jake, I think it is encouraging to read and resonate with the similar challenges of our Brothers in Grace.

Similar spot here … except for the slow part. >> much work = little money (???)

Last fall we took the plunge for me to quit my job and attend full-time (had two years scattered with part-part-time) fully expecting something to change after one year. Still uncertain of the exact path ahead.

We’re doing option 7: have faith, register full-time for me, some school loans, look & hope for a flexible job, Kari finishing up her last class in the Fall, while pregnant.

(All but the baby subject to change.)

Back to a summer class project due tomorrow…

Man, am I glad I did not take a summer course! Although I think I have written more papers in the form of book reviews this summer than I did during both semesters.

Anyway, one of my drill sergeants in basic training used to always say that our diet must consist of rubber bands and ex-lax! We must always be flexible and ready for change at any moment. That is perhaps the only piece of advice I retained from basic training (other than walking in step and holding my roles of quarters).

It still remains somewhat of a motto I live by to this day. Now that it is strengthened by the knowledge of Christ as Lord and Savior, it makes my life so much easier.

Guys/Ladies it is truely an encouragement to see others fighting in this battle to make this world a better place. I know it is a struggle, and i am right there in it with you, but don’t give up on what God told/showed you. He said in Habakkuk (2:2-3) to write the vision and make it plan. If he told you that this was what you were suppose to do you just have to stand. Remember Paul and all his letters from prison to the various churches, and how it was thru his struggle that many believed. When you guys are faced with all this turmoil, but with a pure heart you still are able to smile and press on and say thank you Jesus when those that know you see you or ask…..that does more to them and this world than anything that TBN or T.D Jakes can do, and that is nothing taken from them but people are looking at the life those who profess the faith are living. So I say press on each of you towards that prize of the high calling in Christ Jesus. And as I pray for you please pray for me. i thank God for every one of you!