5 Fears for Seminary

This past week I spent in Pasadena, CA, interviewing for a possible part-time youth ministry job. Mike and I are headed out to Pasadena in July so I can attend Fuller Seminary. I spent a lot of time interviewing for the job but was able to catch some time around the seminary to take care of housing, advising, financial aid, and even got a chance to sit in on another class.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to get out of my seminary experience and why I am going. I know seminary doesn’t really get you ready for ministry as much as it gives you a lot of information that will hopefully help you as you actually practice ministry. I know that seminary is just another piece of the puzzle, something that builds on all the experience I have already had, something that may answer some of my big questions and fill in my blanks of knowledge, and something that may give me a new framework to keep building my experience in the future.

I also have a few fears as I go into seminary:

1) The Christian Bubble. Going to seminary, with a whole bunch of “super-Christians” and living in seminary housing so that they live next to me scares the crap out of me. If I work for a church, how much deeper I will be diving into the Christian Bubble- the place where you are in a weird Christian subculture, talking about Christian things with your Christian friends. I don’t know how seminary, seminary housing, and working for a church will allow me the time to really get out of the bubble. I’m afraid a few years from now I will be changed for the irrelevant worse having spent so much time in the bubble. I’m not quite sure what to do about this one in this stage of my life, but I think one of the above three may have to change so I can have a little bit of my life outside the bubble. My dream? A housing co-op with non-Christians. Know of one in LA? let me know.

2) Cynicism. It seems like seminary is an easy place to become cynical. As you learn more and get into the dirty history of the church, it seems inevitable to start to develop a sense of cynicism. I’m afraid I will develop a “I’ve seen it all” attitude where it becomes hard to see anything as truly authentic and not just another program or strategy. With cynicism you lose a sense of joy, playfulness, and trust, and I don’t want to leave seminary with wariness and cynicism.

3) Thinking not Doing. Seminary seems to be a great place to think, write, and reflect, but a difficult place to do. I’m afraid of spending too much time developing my theology and thinking, but not enough time acting upon it. I’m hoping that seminary is a formational and not just educational process for me, but I know that I will constantly have to fight against the tide to put what I learn into practice in daily life. I am hoping that working in ministry part-time while in school will help me both learn in both formal and practical ways, and give me a good balance between thinking and doing.

4) Competition & Comparing. This seems like an odd one, but I am afraid that there is a sense of competitiveness between people at seminary. It seems that any time you have a school full of people who all want to do the same profession, it will lead to a sense of competitiveness between those people. I am also afraid of spending time comparing myself to others… “wow, that person can really preach…”, “jeez, how did they get so much experience so young?”, “dang, I wish I had thought of that…”. I want to spend seminary becoming more of me, and not feel like I need to be more of what I see around me. I also know that I may feel like I have lost a uniqueness about me by entering into an environment where so many people want to do the same thing that I do. I think I will have to rest in my own calling to ministry throughout seminary so I don’t get swept into any feelings of competition or comparison.

5) Becoming a “Pastor”. Lastly I am afraid that seminary will put a greater gap between me and the rest of the world. All the sudden you are not even just an average-joe Christian but a “pastor”. Eeek! Even in the Christian bubble, there seems to be a certain stigma that pastors a higher echelons of Christians. I am afraid of increased stereotypes that I am even more “judgmental”, “irrelevant”, and “sheltered” since I have gone to a “special Christian school”.

I don’t know which of these fears will be true issues in seminary or which issues will simply not be issues for me when I get there. Just realizing these fears gives me hope that I can be watchful for them and overcome them if they come up. Fears may not even be the right word, but more “things to be watchful for”. I’m very hopeful for my seminary experience, but also going in cautiously, knowing that if I am not careful, I may come out with a lot more information but not the person I want to be.

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