Things I wish I would have learned in seminary
The question provided to prompt this blog post was, “now that you are working in ministry, what is one thing you wish you would have been told or would have learned to prepare you?”
Even though I only started ministry in October 2013 and am very new to ordained ministry, I have already been greatly enriched, encouraged, challenged, stretched, discouraged, blessed, and baffled by God’s abundant grace. I loved my time at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and believe my time began to prepare me for ministry. I say “began” because ministry is truly a unique calling where something new is learned every day.
Therefore, narrowing down what I wish I would have been told or learned to better prepare me for ministry is difficult. Ministry really does require life-long learning. Theology books should not be closed and packed away after graduation. Keep a collective list of all books (including non-theology books) you have read and a brief summary. You would be surprised with how helpful this can be for sermon preparation. Try to learn something new daily.
Other bonus tidbits of potentially helpful advice:
1) C.P.E-Even if you are not required to do a unit; do one anyway. Yes, I truly believe lots of pastoral care skills can only really be learned in the field. I do think it is possible to be a pastoral leader without having a C.P.E unit. However, chances are as you visit parishioners in their homes or hospitals you will not have the chance to reflect theologically with either your senior pastor or others. It is a benefit I wish I had after driving home from the nursing home to visit an elderly and lonely parishioner. I am currently looking into using continuing education to complete a unit of congregational C.P.E, but while you are in seminary go ahead and do C.P.E.
2) Administrative/ business type tasks– Administrative tasks also vary from day to day. Be prepared for anything and everything. I have done lots various tasks that end with me laughing and saying “I didn’t learn this in seminary!” Also, I am not great with numbers and I wish someone would have suggested to take a class which teaches administrative, budgets, numbers, how to run a business, etc.
3) Estimated Taxes– Check and see if there are any withholdings from your check and ask if you are not sure. Please do yourselves a favor and learn about estimated taxes. I am grateful my senior pastor filled me in on the process but I have had friends who went a while without budgeting for estimated quarterly taxes who ended up owing tons of money to the Federal and State governments.
I’m sure if asked in another month or day, I would have more to add to this list. But above all, remember to rely on our Lord, who created, called, and sustains us. Remember the words of 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Maybe even post these verses somewhere in your future offices or work spaces and read them whenever you face trials.
Blessings and prayers for each of you on your journeys,
Written by The Rev. Amanda Maguire ’13, Associate Pastor at Graham Presbyterian Church in Graham, NC.