This article is by Austin McCann. Austin just finished his B.A. at Piedmont International University. He is currently working on his Master of Arts in Religion (MAR) at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary while starting in full-time student ministry. You can find more of Austin’s thoughts on his website.
One of the things I considered when planning for seminary was: am I going to do it full-time on campus or would I do it part-time, and maybe even full-time, online as I work in vocational ministry. I knew the latter would be hard and require discipline, but I wanted to get my feet wet in vocational ministry and didn’t want to wait for a few years while I was on campus as a seminary students. So I decided to do seminary online while pursing vocational ministry at a local church.
I’m only four classes into seminary, so by no means am I an expert at this yet, but I have been learning a few things about how to balance my seminary work with my ministry work. It’s a delicate balance that requires discipline and hard work. Here are a few things that have helped me with this balancing act that may be a help to you if your in the same place I am.
Take a day off to focus 100% on seminary. This has been the biggest help to me so far in this journey. Taking a day off during the week, for me Mondays, and focusing just on my seminary work is a great way to stay on top of your seminary work while staying busy in the ministry world. Find the weekday that works best for you, and stick with it. Don’t schedule any meetings or do any ministry work, find a quite place and work on your seminary stuff. Your ministry stuff will be waiting for you tomorrow, no worries!
Get ahead on your seminary work. Another way to balance seminary and ministry is to get ahead on whatever class work you can. On that day off, get extra reading done and get started on the next paper. Don’t wait until the week something is due to work on that assignment. Stay a week ahead. This will help you focus on your ministry work without feeling like your falling behind in your classes.
Don’t take too many classes. One of the biggest reasons people struggle with balancing seminary and ministry is because they take way too many classes. If you feel like God has called you to do vocational ministry while in seminary, make sure your giving yourself enough time to serve Him well in your ministry. Take a few classes so you stay on track with your program, but don’t overload yourself. Ministry seasons where it’s really busy, like summer for me since I am in youth ministry, take only one or two classes. When there is a season in ministry that you may have more free time, take a few more classes. Be wise and use discernment when planning your classes.
These are just three of the many ways I am learning how to balance seminary and ministry. In our culture, we are blessed with online education so we can serve God in vocational ministry while we do seminary. But remember, we need to be wise with our time so continue figuring out how you can balance seminary with your ministry.
Master of Arts in Religion at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary at Liberty University: A Current Student's Prospective
This student perspective is from Austin McCann. Austin just finished his B.A. at Piedmont International University. He is currently working on his Master of Arts in Religion (MAR) at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary while starting in full-time student ministry. You can find more of Austin’s thoughts on his website. Here are his thoughts on that particular school and program:
During my last few semesters at Piedmont International University, I started to think about seminary. I thought, "Do I even want to spend a few more years in school? Or, if I do attend seminary, do I want to work on a M. Div. or shorter Master’s program?" Eventually, after a lot of thought, prayer, and wise counsel I decided to attend Liberty Baptist Theological Baptist Seminary and decided to work on a Master’s of Arts in Religion with a specialization in Christian Leadership online. I wanted to take a few moments and explain how I decided the seminary track I am on and hopefully help you if your on the fence about seminary. Before I share my thoughts, I want to make one thing clear. I do not believe the way I am doing seminary is the only way to go about doing seminary work. There are many options and ways to go about it, but here is why I chose what I am doing.
Master’s of Arts in Religion. As much as I respect the M. Div. program and the practical, pastoral education it gives you, I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend that many more years in school and if seminary was even going to be a good fit for me. So I decided to start a MAR that is somewhat smaller than the M. Div. If you want a good, professional seminary degree that is not an M. Div., go for the MAR. One of the reasons I chose this route is because at most school’s the MAR can roll into an M. Div. that you can finish in another year or two. The MAR is a great degree because it allows you to continue in seminary if you’re financially and willing to do so.
Christian Leadership. Like the M. Div., when you take the MAR, you get to choose a particular specialization. I decided to specialize in Christian Leadership because I believe leadership is an extremely important part of church ministry that we do not focus on a lot. If you’re planning on being in local church ministry in a pastoral role you need to focus on leadership. Our churches need people who are trained leaders. Even if you’re not going into church ministry, leadership is an important aspect in business and family. I am going into full-time student ministry. Part of having an effective student ministry is building a team of leaders to help you serve students. Studying leadership in seminary is helping me become a better team builder, how to handle conflict in leadership, and how to be the right kind of leader in a local church.
Liberty Theological Baptist Seminary. There are so many good seminaries and graduate schools to choose from these days. I decided to go with Liberty for a few reasons. First, I love the legacy of Jerry Falwell and what he did with Liberty University. I respect the school and what the school has and continues to stand for. Second, they are extremely well-known. I went to a relatively unknown school for my undergrad. I wanted to go somewhere more well-known for seminary. I know we shouldn’t judge people by where they went to seminary, but a lot of churches will look for candidates that are from particular schools or schools that are more popular. Third, I went with Liberty because of their great online education.
Online. If you enjoy the classroom setting and learning in person from a professor, than make sure you attend a seminary on campus. Online education is not for everyone. If you can learn well and stay motivated by online work, than look into doing seminary online. Doing seminary online through Liberty is the most affordable seminary you will find. I went with online for two main reasons. First, it was cheaper and I didn’t want to spend too much on seminary. Second, I wanted to get into full-time ministry. If you want to jump straight into full-time ministry after undergrad, than do seminary online. It allows you to work on your education while doing what you love, ministry!
Mark Stevens is a former seminary student himself and currently researches and teaches in the area of theological studies.