There are the Big Things you learn in seminary: how to study the Bible, how to do theology, how to read ancient Greek and Hebrew, how to preach. I totally learned those things (Pro Tip: Except for maybe the Hebrew), and I use them all the time (Pro Tip: Again, except for the Hebrew, and the Greek is not what it was, either).
But lately I’ve been thinking about the Little Things I learned in seminary. Tips and tricks that I find myself returning to again and again. I think they apply to other vocations, too. Check them out and see if you agree:
1. To stop yourself from swaying while praying or chanting, plant your feet in a wider stance. My worship professor made this offhand suggestion during my first semester of seminary, and it has helped me every Sunday morning since. Try it!
2. When you are new to a congregation, discuss troubling practices using the phrases “I was surprised” and “based on my limited experience”. For example: “I was surprised to see that you preach your sermons in biblical Greek. Based on my limited experience, that is bananas.”
3. Stop triangulation before it starts. When someone attempts to triangulate you (draw you into a conflict between that someone and another someone), respond with this question: “What did she say when you talked to her about it?”
4. Remember these wise words: “You are always and only responsible for your own behavior.” I find myself repeating this one more and more. It’s a good reminder for me as a pastor, both of the trust and responsibility I’ve been given by my people and by God, and also of my own limits. I’ve also used it in counseling and conversation with people in conflict. You can control what you do; you can’t control what your spouse or roommate or co-worker or neighbor does. (Now that I’m a parent, I really appreciate the truth of these words.)
5. I was really lucky to have Connie Kleingartner as a teacher. Tips 2, 3, and 4 are ones I got from Connie. The longer I serve in parish ministry, the more I appreciate her wisdom. Rest in peace, Connie. We miss you.
What are some of the best big or little things you learned in school?