The reasons for the value of a class can vary widely. Some factors can be:
- High-value books as part of assigned reading
- High-value lectures – good information
- High-value assignments which help you learn critical skills
- High-value professors whose teaching, life and/or personal example are impactful
If the 80/20 principle holds true, then the highest value of my 92 hour M. Div would be found in just 18 hours of classes.
For me, those courses were:
Philosophy of Religion 4 hrs
Biblical backgrounds 2 hrs
Church History 6 hrs
Preaching 4 hrs
Preaching lab 2 hrs
Total 18 hrs
For my classes:
Philosophy of Religion – This is the course where I learned how to think. My professor was the reason. I learned from him how to make, analyze and counter arguments. This value came directly from him, in his lectures. The readings and final paper were by comparison not as helpful. Attending class to observe and interact with the professor was all the value of this course.
Biblical Backgrounds – Here the value was not my professor, though he was very capable. The value was in the information he gave, both in lectures and in our assigned readings. Understanding the Bible’s geographical and historical background was of immense value to understanding the message of the Bible.
Church History – The value here was a combination of the professors, who were excellent and energized, and the information they shared. The perspective on the historical development of Christianity helped me sort out my own doctrinal convictions and which ones were most important. This may seem like a strange value of a church history course, and I agree. You’d think doctrinal clarity would come from studying systematic theology; for me, it didn’t. In fact, my systematic theology classes were unfortunately among the weakest I took in my seminary career.
Preaching – Another example of hidden value was my preaching class. The value of this class was in our assignments. In preparing our sermons, we had to write interpretive sentences capturing the main idea of the passage. Writing those sentences (declarative, 18 words or less) was without question the hardest and most valuable skill I learned in my entire seminary career.
Again, this seems strange: you’d think that Biblical Hermeneutics would have been the class for that. For me, it wasn’t. For hermeneutics, I took the same professor I’d had for Philosophy of Religion. Bad idea. He was a terrible hermeneutics professor. I didn’t realize at the time that professors aren’t always good at everything they teach. Value in an instructor depends many times upon the subject.
Preaching Lab – This was another class where the assignments were the key value. We had to preach, but had a 12 minute time limit. Keeping a complete sermon to 12 minutes taught me the skill of deciding what not to say. Let’s be honest: most preachers are criticized for the excessive length of their sermons. In that class, I heard the most lean, focused and powerful sermons, even though we were students. The value was the time limit, which forced us to eliminate all but the most essential material, and focus our preaching like a laser.
So how about you? Of the classes you’ve taken (so far) in seminary, which one or two have had the most value and why?
Next: My Crummiest classes