When you hear the word “seminary,” what is the first thing that comes to mind? A group of students gathered as a professor lectures on systematic theology? Students listening to one another preach and receiving in-person feedback? Both of these pictures represent the way that seminary has been done for hundreds of years. This “traditional” mode of learning sees students congregating in the classroom for in-person lectures and community engagement.
In recent years, online learning has become more prevalent in a variety of fields. Seminary is no exception. Students can now experience a well-rounded seminary education from their homes while continuing to engage in their current ministry contexts. How does an online seminary student get the most out of their learning experience while balancing other responsibilities? Keep reading for some tips for going to seminary online:
1. Stick to a Study Schedule
One of the challenges of going to seminary online is that you need to self-start and self-schedule. You will need to schedule time for textbook reading, completing assignments, and watching lecture videos. The best way to do this is to get a planner, write down when each assignment is due, and then examine your daily life. Do you tend to have more energy in the morning or afternoon? Which day(s) do you find you have the most motivation to get things done? If you need some accountability to stay with your study schedule, try reaching out to your fellow classmates. It will be good to have a friend in your class, and you both will be able to help one another along.
2. Carefully Choose and Organize Your Study Location
Location and supplies are both essential elements to having a successful study session. When picking a location, you will want to consider several factors: noise level, light, and comfort. Do you need absolute quiet, or does background noise help you? Does your desired location have enough light? Do you want more natural or artificial light? Do you need to sit at a desk or would a comfortable chair be better? You’ll also want to consider the supplies you will need. Stock up on highlighters, pens, pencils, paper, and snacks.
3. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
A perk of in-person learning is you can ask questions face-to-face. When you are going to seminary online, it can feel daunting to reach out with questions. Do not be afraid to ask! Professors want you to succeed, and they are dedicated to helping you with your learning. Dr. Matthew Harmon, Professor of New Testament Studies, recommends reaching out early on in the class. “Do not wait until you are hopelessly lost or behind,” he states. “The sooner you reach out to the professor, the easier it is for a professor to help you.”
4. Start Your Assigned Readings Early
Most seminary classes will include several required textbooks and those readings will span over the entirety of the class. Starting these books early will give you plenty of time to understand the material and prepare for any related assignments. For those who do not typically enjoy reading or find it difficult, other options include listening in an audiobook format, reading in an enjoyable setting, finding an accountability partner, or taking notes while reading to keep focus.
5. Remember That Grades Are Not the Ultimate Goal
Prioritizing your education and grades is important, but remember that they are not the main goal of pursuing an online seminary degree. Current online seminary student Nina Gable recommends placing an equal emphasis on relationships while you get your degree. “Ministry happens anywhere there are people,” she states. “Study hard, but still take time to be intentional with people.” Remember that you are preparing to serve God by relating to others — so do not neglect to nurture the relational aspect of growing in Christ-likeness and preparing for ministry.
Here at Grace Theological Seminary, we have several exciting options for those who want to pursue seminary online. Our Deploy program is designed as a traditional seminary degree that happens in the context of your local church. Our Masters of Ministry Studies online offers a variety of concentrations and is available to traditional undergrad students as part of the accelerated bachelor’s and master’s degree program.