March 25th, 2009
Have you ever picked up one of those books and thought, “Man, where was this book at two years ago?!? So You’re Thinking About Going to Seminary (TAS) by Derek Cooper, PhD, Lutheran Theological Seminary, is exactly that book. I can recall wishing I had a manual to use when wading through the rushing waters that is the process of entering a seminary community. Dr. Cooper provides that manual.
TAS is divided into four parts. The first part, consisting of three chapters, deals with the familiarization of the reader to the seminary community. This part is a basic overview that challenges preconceived notions of what seminary is and what it is not.
For those looking to attend seminary, the second part, five chapters, is most beneficial. In this part, Dr. Cooper discusses in detail what you must consider before attending seminary. For example, how are you going to pay for your seminary and what are the various types of seminaries are considered. Chapter eight, in particular, is extremely helpful with the process of applying to the proper seminary.
Personally, I found part three, dealing with what to consider during seminary to be most helpful. This part is the largest of any of the other four parts in both number of pages and chapters. Dr. Cooper does not sugar-coat what is to come. Chapter nine challenges you to be a good steward of your time in school and with your family as well as maintaining your faith. Chapters eleven through fourteen deal with the different courses and degree programs offered in seminaries. These chapters are greatly beneficial to the student just beginning his studies because they will give him an idea as to what he can do with a particular degree.
The fourth part, in two chapters, helps the student to look toward the future. It is basically a “now what?” section where the student can see what careers are available in the various denominations of Christianity and what is required of those careers.
Finally, there are three appendices that are extremely helpful to understanding the book. The first appendix deals with seminaries past and present. In other words, your grandpa’s seminary is not what it used to be! The second appendix is a list of checklists to be used from the time you begin thinking about seminary to the discovery of a profession upon the completion of your seminary training. The third appendix is a glossary of terms that is useful, especially if you are not familiar with terms from other denominations.
From tips about trusting the faculty at a particular institution to maintaining your own faith while studying, TAS is full of information that will be useful the entire time you are in seminary. Dr. Cooper offers insight over and over again that will help the student to make the most of his or her time in seminary.
If there is one negative; however, it would be his intentional generalizations regarding denominations. On one hand, the very concept of the book demands he remain neutral and general. On the other hand, it sometimes becomes distracting. For example, in the section on finding the right denomination, he offers four steps to choosing a denomination. Because of his need to remain general, he never mentions doctrinal statements. When choosing a denomination, one must know its doctrine in order to make a better judgment of the suitability of that denomination. Not doing so may lead to devastation in seminary, ministry, and life.
As I said above, this is one of those books that I wish I had two years ago (not that I wish I were attending another seminary!) when I was going through the process of choosing and applying to a seminary. This book will not be a book that will sit on the shelf and collect dust as so many books in a seminarian’s library do! This will become a much used resource. If you know someone who is thinking about attending seminary, So You’re Thinking About Going to Seminary is a must own book. You will certainly not regret purchasing this book for yourself or someone looking to attend seminary.