Just Graduated Seminary: Six Things to Do That Will Save Your Life (and Ministry).

In just a few weeks, somewhere between 1,500 and 2,500 people will graduate from various seminaries around the country. They will all be pursuing ministry in church planting, missionaries, teaching pastors, youth pastors, associate pastors, children’s workers and various other ministry assignments. Pray for them. And if you know one, pass this post on to them.

  1. Take a Day to Reflect on the Privilege of a Seminary Education. Journal your reflection and thanksgiving for that privilege. There will be days in the future when reading those reflections will be a great encouragement and affirmation to your soul.
  2. Study: Try the 5-5-5 plan. For five years, spend five days a week, 5 hours a day studying your Bible. If you work a 50 hour week (which is probably a minimum in ministry), you will have 25 hours to accomplish the other tasks of ministry. Bill Iverson, first introduced me to this plan and I have recommended it often. “If you will do this” Bill would say, “Two wonderful things will happen. One, you will survive. Two, at the end of 5 years you will actually have something to say.”
  3. Throw Every Seminar Brochure Away. For the first three years after graduation, take every conference and ministry seminar invitation you receive in the mail and immediately round file it if it has even the slightest hint of being a “how to . . .” You know the type, “How to do small groups better,” “how to preach better,” “how to grow your church,” “how to raise funds, etc, etc.” There may be a place for these in your future but in the first three years after seminary, your highest priority needs to be knowing God, knowing His word, and loving people.
  4. Find One Conference that Will Fill Your Pastoral Soul. Some years ago, my own denomination made a shift in their national conference. They went from 78 seminars and teaching sessions (74 of which were of the “how to variety”) to plenary sessions designed to nurture a bigger vision of God and the heart of the pastor as a worshiper first and a minister second. It was a recognition that healthy ministry flows out of healthy shepherds whose vision of God keeps them submitted to holiness. Find that conference in your network and go to it regularly. Suggestion: The Bethlehem Conference for Pastors is a great one that fits this idea..
  5. Cultivate Your Cycles of Rest.  Take a day of rest every week. Again. Obey God and take a day of rest weekly. A friend of mine calls this “taking a Father’s Day every week.” In addition, plan a monthly day of prayer. It is a work day spent in prayer. Plan a yearly, or better, twice yearly, prayer retreat of at least two and a half days. There are lots of resources on line for how to have a productive prayer retreat. (There are even a few on this Blog).
  6. Recruit a Prayer Team. Every time we added a staff member at our church I had, “the talk” with them. It went something like this: “We hired you because you have the training, education, personality and experience to do this job. We believe God is going to use you mightily. But nothing we are asking you to do is in your primary job description. Here’s what is: Your primary job description is to maintain a vital, visible and easily discernible love for Jesus. Second, maintain a vital, visible and easily discernible love for your spouse and family. Take care of those two things and we are sure you will have a successful ministry here. So, here is your first ministry assignment: In your first month of ministry recruit 25 people to a prayer team that will pray for your walk with Jesus and your marriage. We aren’t interested in them praying for your ministry. We want them praying for your walk with God and your love for your spouse.”

These six disciplines will extend your ministry life and effectiveness. They aren’t trivial. They are essential.

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