I’ve started reading a blog by Paul Levy in which he simply narrates the day-to-day life of an ordinary pastor (in England). It’s like pulling back the curtain and showing what goes on in a normal pastorate. Very honest and very helpful both for seminary students and church members. While reading it, I thought, “Hey it would be good to do something similar for the life of an ordinary Seminary prof.” I think there’s quite a bit of mystery and misunderstanding surrounding what we do, so from time to time (not every day), I’ll post “A day in the life of a seminary professor.” 

I arrive at the Seminary at about 7:15am, after dropping my daughter off at school. Started the day by spending about three hours preparing for two classes in the afternoon. This involved familiarizing myself with the lecture material and highlighting the parts I wanted to emphasize, gathering further reading links, and some audio resources to supplement my counseling lecture. I re-wrote part of a lecture I want the students to read before Friday’s class. I also marked an assignment that my Christian Ministry students completed on an ideal week in ministry. The assignment was:

Prepare a color-coded spreadsheet of your “ideal” ministry week showing how much time you will devote to study, prayer, visiting, meetings, family, etc.

My assistant also downloaded the files they submitted so that I could project them onto the screen in the classroom and we could learn from the strengths and weakness of each one.

Got my “Check Out” links together from my Feedly reader and sent them to my assistant for preparing a draft blog post. Started writing a blog post reflecting on the recent depression research I’ve been summarizing. Don’t want to fall into the traps of either being too naively welcoming or being too cynical and critical. On the whole, I think this research is good news and, although not a touchdown, it’s definitely moved the chains.

Answered a few emails, ate lunch, and then headed to my Foundations of Counseling class at midday. We studied the strengths and weaknesses of various secular counseling systems such as psychoanalysis, behaviorism, and cognitive behavior therapy. We looked at each system under five headings: their philosophy, their view of personality, their understanding of the problem, their plan or aim, and their prescription to get there.

We spent longer on CBT as it is probably one of the systems that looks most like some aspects of biblical counseling. We worked our way through some of the material in Mind Over Mood: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think (not a Christian book) noting some helpful worksheets, questions, etc. But I always recommend the Christian book I’m Not Supposed to Feel Like This as a great example of Christian CBT. I’ve given away dozens of copies of this book.

I don’t particularly enjoy teaching this part of the counseling course because there’s so much that is false in most secular systems, but it’s important for students to at least know what’s out there as many of the people they will be counseling will have had some previous counseling in these systems. Also, there are some helpful insights as well as lessons to learn from some of their methods. Pointed the students to some further book, blog, and audio resources on this subject.

The Counseling class runs from 12 noon to 1:15pm and the Christian Ministry Class from 1:30pm to 2:45pm, each with a short half-time break. We spent the Ministry class going over the students’ “ideal week of ministry” assignments. We had one student in the class who has been a pastor for 20 plus years, so we asked him to give a “real week of ministry.” It was quite different to the ideals! Here’s the kind of table the students produce:


I was encouraged by the place the students planned to give to prayer, with a few of them having not only prayer times first and last thing in the day, but even one or two designated times throughout the day. I felt quite convicted by that. Some of them failed to allocate any evening time to visits or church meetings. One or two probably had too many evenings out in a row.

I challenged a couple of them about starting their days with email and admin as I find that distracts from the mental work of sermon prep. But everyone is different, with one student saying that it clears his mind knowing that he’s dealt with important emails, calls, etc.

Another thing I encouraged them to do was to make each day as regular and routine as possible. Our bodies and minds love rhythm and regularity. I noticed that some of them had only allocated a couple of hours a day to sermon prep, or two hours in the morning and two in the afternoon. I’m only beginning to get moving after two hours of study and my best work is done in hours 3-5. Most of them had allocated enough time in the week but it was just too scattered in small blocks through the week in some cases.

Most of them had planned exercise a few times a week and also a full day off. A few had a little work planned for their day off. Again, I asked them to consider the huge mental benefit of one day in which you really had NOTHING ministerial to do. “Six days you shall labour and do ALL your work!”

After class, I wrote more of my depression research blog post, phoned in for my arthritis meds, wrote this blog, picked up my daughter from school, and headed home. I was going to use the hour before evening meal to finalize prep for my chapel address tomorrow, but ran out of time. Phoned a member who has been through surgery, then spent the evening with my kids. Shona was out at the Seminary Wives Fellowship speaking on the subject of “Encouragement.”

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  • John Koopman

    Not too sure how realistic it is to think that only 2 evenings are taken up with ministry work. Who teaches the catecism classes, confession classes and does pastoral visits with the families that can only accomodate the pastor in the evening due to work schedules? Sue K.