Students in seminary are busy people. They often work, study, take care of their family, and sleep (occasionally). There is a subtle temptation in the midst of this busyness to become too guarded with the use of one’s time and energies. The summer break is a welcome respite from due dates and required reading. Since most seminarians (if not all in some sense) are headed toward pastoral ministry, let me encourage those of you in this stage of life to purposefully make room for people in your life this summer. You may find that this type of education is every bit as valuable as sitting in the classroom. I want to recommend a couple of ways to do that as we approach the summer.
1. Since you are preparing for pastoral ministry, engage purposefully in opportunities to “rejoice when others rejoice” and “weep when others weep” (Rom 12:15). Be involved in “church family”-type events. Funerals, baby showers, weddings and other events like this will give you great opportunities to interact with people in all different stages of life. After all, the shepherds of these people must rejoice and weep with their flock, and the congregation you are a part of will soon give their approval of you as gifted and fit for pastoral ministry. If you wonder if visiting a family at the funeral home is more important than getting extra reading done or taking a hike or watching a movie, I will just tell you that it is. Your wife’s attendance at baby showers, funerals, and other events will help her immensely as she grows in interacting with a variety of ladies in the church.
2. Get to know “normal” people in your church. Be careful about spending most of your time with other seminary families talking theology, doing activities, or commiserating about your challenges. Without regular and time-consuming interaction with average church members your theology will become idealistic and antiseptic. You may finish seminary and find yourself practically aloof from the average church member. Spend time listening to people and asking them questions about their lives. Don’t be quick to give textbook answers, though certainly be ready to share how the Scriptures have changed you personally.
3. Finally, talk to lost people in your neighborhood. Make it your goal to get to know three or four people that live around you–people who see you around all the time. You will (or should) spend the rest of your pastoral life doing this, so get started now. Don’t depend on church programs to help you “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim 4:5) but do the work yourself.
Overall, have a great summer being refreshed!