We are exceedingly blessed to live in an age when distance education is a viable option for theological education. Technology has enabled men to remain in the church where God planted them, thrive under the mentorship of their own pastors, and obtain a theological education that is both biblically faithful and academically credible. I work hard to make this as easy as possible, but the fact will always remain that seminary is just plain hard work. The following suggestions and admonitions are meant to help you get the most out of our programs by avoiding the pitfalls that are inherent to distance education.
1. Keep Biblical Priorities
You need to be absolutely determined to keep your priorities straight. Your wife, your children, your vocation, and your church responsibilities all need to take precedence over your studies. You must be vigilant in refusing to neglect your family, vocation, or church.
2. Make a Schedule
I think the best thing you can do to ensure success is to be very diligent in making and keeping a schedule. If you just let life happen, you won’t progress very quickly in your schooling. The hardest thing about distance education is keeping moving. Block off your school time and stick to it.
3. Clarify Your Goal
Carefully think through exactly why you are in seminary. You are seeking to glorify our risen Lord by gaining the theological training that will enable you to feed His dear sheep. Seminary is hard work, and there will be a little voice that comes back every so often telling you to ease up, this isn’t really that important. You need to tell that voice to shut up, because glorifying your Master is all that really matters at all.
4. Personal Piety & Devotion
You will certainly find your courses to be a great blessing to your spiritual life. But do not allow yourself to see them as a substitute for personal devotional time in the Word and in prayer. The same temptation will befall you as a pastor when you are preparing sermons on a regular basis. Stick to the habit of personal devotional time now, and never let it go.
5. Set a time goal
If you only complete 10 credit hours/year, it will take 10 years to complete an MDiv, 4 ½ to complete the MATS or 3 ½ to complete the MAPS. If this is legitimately all you can do without messing up your priorities, that’s fine. But keeping a time goal in mind can really help you to separate legitimate obstacles from trivial distractions.
6. Ask Questions
Take as many live classes as you can and participate in the Q & A time. But even if your schedule does not allow you to do this, you should still ask questions of your instructors. Most of our professors provide an email address at the top of the syllabus and welcome your questions. For the few classes in which this is not the case, please email me, and I will find the answer for you.
7. Interact with Fellow Students
This is the primary reason we so highly recommend attending as many modular courses as you are able to. The bonds of friendship and fellowship that are developed can provide a lifetime of encouragement. We plan to provide 2 credit hour courses for our modules whenever possible, this way students can attend without missing an entire week of work. I also hope to develop a student forum that will enable students to interact with each other with greater ease. More on this to come….
May our risen Lord mightily bless you in your studies!
His Throne is Forever and Ever!