Getting out and being part of the church

Studying theology is all about learning more about the divine. When you study religion, you spend countless hours reading about faith, listening to lectures about faith, writing about faith, talking about faith, and thinking about faith.

After graduation, the goal is almost always to start a career in the field of theology. Some of us hope to be professors, teaching and speaking on religion while publishing the occasional book or article on our chosen field. Others want to go into some kind of pastoral role, where we attempt to embody God’s commandments on earth, specifically as ministers.

This makes it all the more ironic that theology students don’t always go to church as much as you might expect—at least while in school. Of course, many theology students do attend religious services and are actively involved in a faith community. However, quite a few do not go regularly when given the option.

From personal, anecdotal experience, I think there are a few reasons for this. For theology students, going to church can feel like work. When the rest of the week is devoted to studying and dwelling on scripture, a day to step away can seem like a much-needed break.

For quite a few theology students, scheduling is also a challenge. Papers and exams can rarely wait, while going to church can be skipped from time to time. Besides, as I’ve heard on more than one occasion, “We’ve got the rest of our lives to go.”

I get it. I have not always been a model for consistent church attendance, and I can come up with plenty of more reasons (or really, excuses) why. It is true that some weeks, you just need to step back and spend some time away. Life interferes with your plans some Sundays.

That being said, attending worship when you can is a wonderful thing. It is true that we’ll have the rest of our lives to go to church—most of us will have to as pastors. But the days when we’ll be able to go and sit in a pew and just participate are numbered. It’s a different experience from leading the congregation and preaching, one that quite a few of us won’t regularly have in the coming years.

Going to church means saying that you want to be part of a faith community, one that isn’t part of your schooling. If you’re taking classes online, a face-to-face community can be even more beneficial. Being an active member of a congregation means that you can break out of your daily setting of being a seminarian or div student and use that time to interact with God and with faithful people.

It’s a fact that laypeople have a lot to teach future clergy or professors. When you go to church, you can build relationship with laypeople and learn from them in a way that you may not be able to as a minister someday. As a seminarian, you can see the world through their eyes with one foot in the world of a layperson and the other foot in the world of an official church leader.

Lastly, a huge benefit of going to worship services while in seminary or divinity school is that it’s hands-on experience that can apply to your studies now and your work in the future. Graduate students can have an opportunity to get out of the library and see everyday faith in action. Clergy in training can get new ideas to use someday in their careers.

Worship is a great time to listen, learn and be part of your faith’s traditions. Attending regularly adds a faithful vitality to life that cannot be experienced anywhere else.