This past week Methodist students at Memphis Theological Seminary met with the Rev. Mark Norman. Over pizza and soft drinks, Rev. Norman shared some words of wisdom on the topic, “Things I wish someone had told me when I was in seminary.”

Rev. Norman serves as the district superintendent of the Southeast District in the Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Because there are a lot of Methodist students on campus both Tuesdays and Wednesdays this semester, Rev. Norman was generous enough to visit with students on both days. The lunchtime gatherings were hosted by the Methodist House of Studies at MTS as a part of its ongoing luncheon series designed to promote fellowship amongst Methodist students at MTS while also equipping them for practical ministry.

During the lunch conversations, Rev. Norman shared these thoughts:2014-10-15_MHOS Mtg 4

  • Your devotional life is deeply important. You can never get too advanced for basic prayer and daily devotional reading of Scripture. Commitment to ongoing spiritual formation is essential, especially during the crowded time of a seminary experience.
  • Seminary is about preparation for real ministry. As students, the academic context can cause us to struggle at times to relate what we are doing to actual ministry. So we should always remind ourselves that the seminary is a place to be formed as pastors. Our calling is to love our people, like a shepherd loves the sheep. When we remember that foundational truth, we will go a long way in preserving the deeply spiritual component of both seminary (and pastoral ministry itself, for those students who are already serving as pastors). But it takes work!
  • Preparation for the practical side of ministry can be very helpful. If your seminary offers courses in business administration, financial leadership, or grant writing & fundraising, you should think hard about taking advantage of them. These sound like secular topics, but they are a part of every local church. And they can be embraced in very theological ways. [When Rev. Norman mentioned this topic, I thought immediately of the new Financial Leadership for Ministry program at MTS.]

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  • The hunger for theology will never go away. In fact, it will only grow stronger the longer you are away from seminary. Reading and meditating on theology can truly feed the soul of a pastor. So don’t throw those seminary books away—and plan on making the time to keep engaging thinkers and ideas as you move fully into pastoral ministry.

A lively conversation followed Rev. Norman’s talk on both the Tuesday and Wednesday gatherings. The lunchtime fellowship captured the best of what the Methodist House of Studies seeks to promote, which is the integration of theological conversation with a concern for practical ministry and the life of the church.