When juggling ministry and full-time education, there are times when one will need to make decisions that lead to compromising one for the sake of the other. At times, it is easy to feel as if there are never enough hours in a day to finish all of the reading assignments, papers, and exams. Especially on top of sermon prep, grabbing a sandwich at Panera with my youth students, and teachers meetings. And so the question arises: which one do i have to compromise? The issue does not necessarily have to involve the idolatry of grades, or the laziness of a pastor. What if I have a genuine and God-honoring desire to excel in both? But then again, how can i do both in my limitations as a finite being?
In response to this tension, an mentor said to me, “Rather than thinking of yourself as a pastor who’s also a student, think of yourself as a Student who is also serving in ministry.”
I was taken aback at first; does this mean I have to neglect my flock? But then he explained himself by mentioning the bigger picture of the life of a minister. Ministry, at times, could be a black hole in terms of time. You can give all that you have, as much as you can, but things will never be at a point where you feel that it is “okay.” To take it one step further, seminary provides proper tools and knowledge of how to properly do ministry. Sacrificing the formal learning now may actually be more detrimental in the long run of your overall ministry. you may cripple yourself from better serving your ministry decades down the line.
In humility, I agree with his words. I know I shouldn’t forsake my ministry now, but I see the importance of our call to learn and study God’s word in order to equip myself for the future. In one sense, it is arrogant and ignorant of me to think that i can neglect my studies in an attempt to fix the needs of my flock with my limited understanding of theology and ministry experience.
While it may not be a hard and fast rule to follow all the time, we must remember why we are in seminary, and what God has called us to do as students in this period of our lives.
By Dan Sung. Dan is a part-time youth pastor who is currently studying at Westminster Theological Seminary.