A WORD FOR THOSE IN SEMINARY AND VOCATIONAL MINISTRY
Written by Kevin L. Howard   
I've been out of grad school for a few years now.  After six years in seminary and serving in several vocational ministry positions over the last 17 years, I figured I might have some helpful advice for those still in school or on staff.  May these words honor the Lord and help you whether you're in school or well established in your career.

 

Give particular attention to at least two areas:  your spiritual life and your physical health.

1. Take care of yourself spiritually. 

 

A. Avoid sarcasm that hurts others and course joking.  It'll wreck your ministry and ruin other people. 

 

B. Watch out for apathy and pride.  It's easy to turn God into a subject to study instead of a person to worship.  If you're not careful, you'll begin to despise the One you wanted to know better.

 

C. Prioritize time with God.  You may feel too busy to pray, read Scripture, and fellowship with other believers.  That's part of the problem with seminary and vocational ministry-you're too busy.  But if you ignore the problem now, you may never conquer it.  The fact that you're so busy is one of the reasons you need to make time for God.  Occasionally, stop during your busiest moment and be quiet before the Lord. 

 

D. Make sure your Christian walk is always a little challenging.  Take a risk and witness to someone you might ordinarily pass by.  Listen to people and pray with them. 

 

E. On a regular basis, confess your sins to a Christian of the same sex.  Ask friends to honestly evaluate your life.  It'll hurt, but it will be beneficial in the long run.  

 

F. Stay pure sexually.  Don't put yourself in compromising situations.  Passions easily fly out of control.  Stay away from pornography and lust.  They will destroy you.  If you're already trapped, get help.  Be careful with the Internet sites you visit, the shows you watch, and the music you listen to.  The evil one is crafty.  He's smarter than you, and if you don't think so, he'll prove it soon enough.

 

G. Guard your integrity.  Integrity will go a long way in sustaining you under life's hardships.  Good testimonies are hard to come by and even harder to get back.  So be upstanding in the dark and you'll be outstanding in the light.

 

H. For seminary students particularly, be faithful to the church.  Don't just go, be a part of your local fellowship. 

 

2. Take care of yourself physically.  Health may not sound so spiritual, but it affects your spiritual life immensely.  And if it sounds familiar, you probably heard it first from your mother.

 

A. Rest at least one day every week.  I know, you have too much to do to take a Sabbath.  But it's what the Lord wants for you and you need it.  Trust me, you're not so important that one day of rest each week will destroy your world.  Actually, it will help keep your world together.  Things will get done even without you.  If you feel you just can't take one day a week to rest, you're a workaholic.  Rearrange your schedule and put God first.  Taking a Sabbath will not only help you rest, but it's like saying to God, "Lord, you can do more with my six days of hard work, than I can do with seven of them."  It's worship!  It's like tithing your time to God.  Resting reminds you that there are things more important than doing.  Sometimes you just need to be without the flurry of the do.

 

B. Along the lines of resting, make sure you get plenty of sleep.  You probably think you can live on much less than eight hours, but it will catch up to you one day.  Commit to never pulling all-niters.  Do your best to get your work done during the day, so you can get plenty of sleep at night.  There will be unforeseen incidents that call for all-niters, but let those be the exceptions.

 

C. Watch your intake of caffeine and junk food.  This stuff may sustain you for a while, but eventually it takes its toll.  You'll handle stress much better if you have a healthy diet.  Work at it.

 

D. Lastly, exercise.  This will give you a break from your normal routine, and give you more energy for the daily pressures of life.  Exercising will be harder, maybe impossible, for parents raising small children.  But if you can exercise, you'll be better off.

 

These suggestions aren't panaceas, but if you observe them with a little balance and discipline, they can help you be a more enjoyable person and a more effective servant for Christ. 

 

O yeah, one final thing.  Smile and laugh as much as you can.  A friendly disposition and good sense of humor will add some elasticity to your already stressed life.  It helps others and it will help you.  Be sincere and honor Christ.  Put your heart into what you're doing, but don't take yourself too seriously.  If you don't laugh at yourself, somebody else will.  So laugh.  Laugh a lot!

 

Originally published on http://www.mondaymorninginsight.com/ on 12/6/06

as "A Word to Those 'Pastors-In-Training'..."