Age-Old Questions: Am I too Old for Seminary? Pt 2
Yesterday we tackled the question on the minds of some older men who feel called to the ministry, but fear the academic rigors of seminary. I promised to introduce you to the chief witness in my case that it’s never too late.
I took doctoral classes with a man in his 80s; I’ve met first year students in their 70s, but I have a friend who started seminary with me on the same day, who was a great inspiration to me, and I hope will be to any hoary headed aspiring seminoids out there. Let’s call him Gary (because that’s his real name).
Meet Gary A.
Gary and I met on the first day of school, the orientation class, like two timid preschoolers. We ended up sitting together at lunch (no, there were no Superman lunch boxes involved…but there may as well have been).
We were in the same classes for three years and he graduated 45 seconds before me (due to alphabetical serendipity). While in seminary, we served in the same ministry for a time, we took all the same exams, memorized the same Greek and Hebrew vocabulary, and got our papers baptized in the same red ink. The only difference was… well, 40 years. Gary was 63, I was 23.
We were quite a sight to behold. Of the two of us guess which one had the bifocals, rolling book bag, and an orthopedic cushion which was toted from class to class. Your guess is wrong. Gary was in prime physical shape, while I suffered from a back injury sustained in a very manly sporting encounter (no, not chess…that was my elbow injury). So here we were, this farmer-turned-seminoid who was strong as a you’d expect from a farmer– and me, the bespectacled invalid.
He would probably aver that I had an age-related academic advantage when it came to learning languages, but in the long run it was his gray beard gave him the upper hand when it came to finding a church. No search committee asked me my Greek grades.
Although we had equal experience as pastors in fulltime ministry (zero), any search committee understands that a 66-year-old graduate fresh out of seminary is probably more mature spiritually, and wiser in general, than his 26-year-old classmate. And they’d be right.
If you fear the thought of re-entering academia, know that your perseverance and determination will get you just as far as some whipper-snapper’s memorization aptitude. But your hoary head and silver whiskers will get you a flock before the ink dries on your résumé.
The greenhorn, on the other hand will need to go back to school and simmer for a few more years, which is exactly what I did. After rushing through a four year MDiv degree in three years, Gary went on to pastor a church, while I languished in the eddy of indecision, facing the only two options left to most young graduates: get a trendy haircut and be a youth pastor, or go back to school.
I enrolled in the ThM degree, which I took much more slowly this time. I was in no rush wait.
Gary was not the lone exception that proves the rule. He just happened to be a friend of mine. I had classmates who had worked in trades and professions and business and military careers for decades before coming to seminary. One classmate was a former Navy SEAL, another a practicing anesthesiologist (that’s like 12 years of study and internships before establishing a lucrative career, which he put the ka-bosh on to become a pastor).
Another friend of mine, Jim, fell off a pylon while repairing electric cables for the state, and injured his leg badly. His workers compensation fund offered to pay for any retraining he needed. He came to seminary sporting his silver hair, hobbling around with a newly acquired limp, but beaming from ear to ear—his dream of going to seminary was finally underway. He got his degree in the same time it took me, and he managed to find the energy to add arrows to his quiver, when his wife unexpectedly began expecting their 5th child, born shortly before graduation.
Time would fail if I told of all the geriatrics-turned-students who are now faithfully serving the Lord in the fields, which are still white unto harvest.
What are you waiting for?
This raises another question: Am I too young for seminary? Sounds like fodder for a future post.