Balancing Seminary & Ministry: A Survivors Guide for the Season of Advent


By Nathalie N. Nelson
The season of Advent ushers in a spirit of expectation that prepares us for the “coming of Christ.” Advent also escorts a host of other responsibilities and concerns. The expansive list might include: family obligations for the holiday season, attending events, travelling, preparing sermons, planning worship, studying, providing pastoral care, budgeting, fundraising, and of course for the seminarian-final exams and completing papers.
This list is not necessarily exhaustive or numbered in order of importance, but rather reflects a constant and consistent balancing act. For example, imagine a person walking a tight rope, continually shifting position to incorporate rhythmic movement back and forth. This image of a tight ropewalker illustrates a level of flexibility and discipline. The commitment to remain balanced prompts one to stay the course despite the pressures that are evident. What follows are helpful spiritual tips to survive the many obligations of the Advent season.
Prayer and Reflection: The most refreshing time of my day is spent in prayer and reflection. It is a time to commune with God, pray for others, and is essential to our holistic being. Moments of prayer and even silence feed our creativity, provide clarity, and replenish areas of fatigue.
Discipline:  Being disciplined is important to maintaining success. In the midst of academic rigor and the demands of ministry it is necessary to remain dedicated. Whether it includes spending time researching, writing, organizing community service projects or preaching we should endeavor to embody discipline. Strive to be disciplined enough to do our very best and execute the task with a spirit of excellence.
I have also learned that my pursuit of perfection has also made me my hardest critic. Therefore, be kind to one’s self. We cannot save the world in one day, attend every event, or make every person happy. There will be times when we fall vulnerable to our own disappointments. Whether that is not meeting an expectation, or not accomplishing a vision as quickly as anticipated, no matter what the situation may be, it is in those times we must trust that God’s grace is sufficient.
Accountability Partners:  We live life, not in isolation, but in community. This is not limited to our immediate family but everyone we may come in contact. I am grateful to have a community that encompasses the Gammon Theological Seminary at the Interdenominational Theological Center. Although, I am far from home, a new sense of accountability has been offered by the administrators, friends, study groups, prayer partners, and mentors who have rallied with and behind me. There is safety in knowing that someone has our back, not just to catch us when we fall, but also to nudge us when we fall behind.
Self Care: I take the time to do the things that edify me. Cooking and having friends and loved ones together, going to the nail salon or getting my hair done, dedicating an hour in the gym or taking a walk are essential to taking care of our physical being. Although, time may not permit us to do such things as often as we would like, it is important to do what is personally enjoyable.
Spiritual Home and Fellowship: Two Sundays of the month ministry includes traveling (at times) outside of the state of Georgia and even to rural areas to minister. I find joy in knowing I am using my time and talents to serve and share the word of God with others. However, I am most revived when I fellowship and worship with my church family. Pastor Tariq and Lady Tamika Cummings and the entire family at the Allgood Road Church provide a refuge and safety that can only be captured as home.  The fellowship and worship experience are essential to spiritual formation and keeps us grounded in faith. Take time to truly engage in fulfilling fellowship.
If we are not intentional, it is easy to get consumed with responsibility and lose sight of how meaningful the season of Advent is in our lives and in the life of our Church. These practices help to navigate chaos, balance time, and help maintain personal and spiritual wellbeing.
Nathalie N. Nelson is Student Fellowship President at Gammon Theological Seminary at ITC and serves at Allgood Road United Methodist Church as Young Adult Ministry Director. You may contact her at