You earned your degree! The hard work and long hours have paid off – you are now a certified Seminary graduate, ready to take on the spiritual battleground that is today’s church environment. You are truly on your way! However, Seminary grads are facing the same issue as most college grads – the job market isn’t as open as you expected.
Whether you have a pastoral position or not, there are ways to put your education into practice that will not only enhance your experience list on your resume, they will help you to hone your skills and be an effective counselor (formal or informal). Here are 5 ways to apply what you learned in Seminary:
Serve at a homeless shelter. Jesus was keenly aware of those on the fringe of society. He showed compassion for the weak and downtrodden. Some would describe that as being a “rag picker” – serving the unlovely and forgotten; showing the kindness and gentleness of a loving father to those who need it most. This can be a humbling experience; there are few honors and awards for dedicated service. But what is it worth to hear your Father say “as did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40)?
Foster children. Similarly, if your situation permits, fostering children is a great way to show the compassion of Jesus to those on the edge of the culture. There are many children currently in state-sponsored foster care that are older (and many about to ‘age out’ of the system – see below). Yes, they will have issues; you have the words of life (John 6:68). Love them; guide them; show them God’s goodness and discipline. Society as a whole will appreciate it when these children are adult members of our culture.
Mentor “at-risk” teens. If you aren’t able to take on Fostering duties, there are myriad opportunities to reach out to today’s teenagers. Most schools and government and social organizations can place you in contact with a group that targets teenagers in difficult circumstances for mentoring. This is a good opportunity to help today’s and tomorrow’s culture by offering hope and life to a young person who is vulnerable. One of the deepest desires of teens is acceptance – and there are any number of gangs or other shady groups that will readily accept a vulnerable teen. Mentoring these young people will show them that not everyone ignores or refuses them. Your simple respect for their time and opinions will pay great dividends in their future – and yours. As you learn of their struggles, you will stay current on trends and issues beneath the surface of the culture.
Share your residence. Whether you take in boarders or live with another family as the boarder, this is a great opportunity to connect with others on a deeper level. Nearly everyone can put on the ‘good face’ for a time; sharing a residence shows you more of the other person’s struggles, character and life. This type of intimacy is dwindling in our society as we maintain “relationships” online or in brief meetings only. It is in living and striving with one another that ‘iron sharpens iron’ and relationships are deepened. Don’t overlook the fact that you will be exposed and vulnerable at the same time! This arrangement can reveal your own weaknesses and vulnerabilities (also called “opportunities” or “agents of sanctification”), leading you to a more righteous walk in your faith.
Volunteer at your church – for anything needed. Your church has needs. All churches have needs, both material and ethereal. If the Nursery needs painting, offer to paint (if you lack skills, offer to help and learn). If the grass needs cutting, offer to mow. If the building needs vacuuming before a service, be the one pushing the machine! It is a servant’s heart that catches God’s eye (see Job 1:8 as one example of who God “brags” about); it is a servant’s heart that is elusive when one has an education (1 Cor 8:1b)! What an example you will be if you are the one found doing the mundane tasks. Yes, you will run the risk of being taken advantage of – so what? Better is the reward that awaits the humble and faithful than the praise of men now (see Matthew 6:2-4).
The common theme in all these recommendations is humility. You cannot effectively serve in ANY of these ways if you think such tasks are below you (or your station in life). Original sin is pride, leading to rejection of God. Seminary graduates, Associate Pastors and Senior Pastors are not immune from it; they may be at more risk for having the “right” knowledge – 1 Corinthians 8 makes no distinction of what kind of knowledge puffs up! Each one should consider Romans 11:17-24 as we continue on our spiritual journey. We (as Gentiles) were grafted (or adopted) into the family of God – God has authority to replace us, too! These recommendations will reveal pride and spur the growth of humility, making you more valuable in God’s sight and more of a blessing to others (which is a high calling). There is no limitation on any of these ideas; they can be enacted while working full-time or not. They are always available and will enrich your walk along the way (Micah 6:8).