Blogging About Unemployment

I’ve had some recent posts relating to money, although I haven’t done the best job following through and finishing various series.  Some of that is simply because I’ve been very busy.  But perhaps the bigger reason is that I’ve felt a bit restrained from expressing some of the things I most wanted to say.

The truth is, one of my life’s most formative experiences was the two years of unemployment I experienced between 2011 and 2013.  It significantly impacted the way I think about money, our society, the church, and a host of other issues.  Sadly, it is also something I felt obligated to remain silent about on our blog, because there is such a bias against the unemployed by hiring managers.  I occasionally shared things on Facebook, but I felt weird whenever I did—I imagined others saw me as a loser and/or a whiner, and yet I was only posting a tiny portion of the many complicated things I was feeling at the time.

Thankfully, I now I have a job that I’m really enjoying, and yesterday I finally became a permanent employee after a 4-ish month probationary period.  I know it probably still isn’t particularly “wise” to tell the world I was unemployed for two years, as some future potential employer will inevitably read this.  But you know what?  This is a part of who I am now, and it’s something I want to talk about—for me, but also because I think I’ve learned some valuable things along the way, things that I want to share with others.

So coming soon will be more posts reflecting on the many things I’ve experienced over the last couple years!

Following Your “Calling”

One of the things I’ve been thinking about recently is calling.  First, I think I questioned people’s perception of their calling.  There are so many people who think they are called to ministry whom I like to think God is not super-excited about having there (e.g., Mark Driscoll).  But I think the more interesting and relevant thing that I have been considering is the idea that calling doesn’t matter.

I’m not saying it doesn’t matter at all.  It certainly matters in terms of one’s mental health, life satisfaction, etc.  But I don’t think it matters in terms of opening doors to ministry.  This is extremely relevant in terms of how we discuss ministry callings, especially with young people.  I think in settings where missionaries raise their own support or all you need is the SBC stamp of approval for funding, there is a large extent to which one’s passion and commitment determine one’s ability to enter vocational ministry.  Additionally, anyone who wants to plant their own church can do so.  But if none of these positions is a good fit for you, you may very well find yourself with a discrepancy between your perceived calling and actual career opportunities.  And this is important for us to be honest about as we encourage young people in leadership roles, as we develop seminary programs, etc.

I know people who are “too educated/academic,” “too liberal,” or simple too female to find a ministry job.  Additionally, there are a lack of church-based positions that are both full-time and looking to hire seminary graduates (and pay enough to support families with student loan debt).  On top of this, you often have to move for a job, which simply isn’t an option for everyone.

I have been thrilled that some of my friends have found ministry jobs, either right away or after long searches.  But many other people I know from seminary are doing something completely unrelated to their degree.  Some are happy with that.  Others, I imagine, are not.  Ironically, few of my friends without seminary degrees have seemed to have trouble going into ministry if they wanted.

The point of all this is that it’s not as simple as listening to God and doing what you think God wants.  And sadly, a lot of it comes down to theological wars, finances, etc.  It’s unfortunate, but I think it would be better for everyone if we didn’t pretend God calls, you answer, and that is the end of the story.  Sometimes maybe God has genuinely called, but there is no place to go.  It seems to me that factors other than one’s suitability for ministry seem key to whether or not one is able to pursue vocational ministry—at least within Protestantism, and evangelicalism, in particular.

The Greater Condemnation

In the hearing of all the people he said to the disciples, ‘Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love to be greeted with respect in the market-places, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honour at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.’

For the past several months—perhaps past few years—I’ve been struggling greatly with cynicism towards Christian leaders.  Not all Christian leaders, of course, but toward the ones who make themselves visible—not simply because they are visible, although their intentional visibility sometimes is a contributing factor.

I think growing up this passage from Luke 20 was often read as an a critique of Judaism, as if it were monolithic, as if Jesus were not Jewish, as if the earliest Christians weren’t also Jewish, etc.  This is clearly a dangerous misinterpretation in and of itself.  However, I find it perhaps most troubling of all than so few Christian leaders seem to think these words might also apply to them.

Here’s the honest truth: despite knowing people in ministry I respect, my own time in ministry was also the time when I was the most concerned about others’ approval, the most political (in the sense of compromising here to get something else there), and the most ambitious.  Perhaps some of this is unavoidable and not necessarily wrong.  I mean, I did need a job after school, so why not try to network?  There is nothing evil about that.  And I had good intentions, and I think I did a lot of good work.

But there were also times when I loved having the approval of others—particularly other leaders—a little too much.  I made my own voice quiet so that I wouldn’t make waves.  I didn’t always stand up for what I believed or even for myself.  I was wanted to keep my position and so I made sacrifices—sacrifices I sometimes have regretted over the years.  While I know this is not specifically what this passage is about, I feel they are all part of the same package.  Maybe I didn’t devour any widows’ houses per se, but I was more concerned with my position than with competing loyalties.

These days I’ve lost most of that approval and most of those connections I so desperately craved when I was younger.  It is embarrassing how much I miss it, along with the more laudable desire to be included and involved in ministry.  And I think having lost that standing makes me more aware of what others go through to keep it.  There are great healthy churches and ministry organizations, and I know great people leading them.  But with these honorable exceptions aside, I have come to see Christian leadership as a disgusting game:

You say the right things and do the right things and even try to convince yourself that you believe all the right things, and if you not only play by the rules but also intentionally seek out opportunities to “grow your ministry” (i.e. promote your brand as a leader), you will increasingly be surrounded with people who think all the same things, pat each other’s backs, cover up each other’s sins, and generally think of themselves in a class above all of the unenlightened people they are leading.  And you’ll know people who know people, and that is really all it takes to be a Christian leader in many circles.  A lot of self-delusion and the right people by your side, especially more senior leaders who will vouch for you.

Like I said, rather cynical right now.  Perhaps next time I can share a bit about my thoughts towards Christians in academia specifically or towards popular Christian approaches to mentoring!  Both, I think, tie in with this post at least a bit.

The Luxury of Involvement

At risk of sounding really pathetic, we have all been sick for a month.  Literally a month with at least two of us sick at a time.  It has been really awful.  During this same time period, we have done a lot of painting, both started working here in Waco (me at a normal job, Jeremiah at school, of course), moved, lived without a washer for 10 days, and many other exciting and delightful things.  Did I mention we moved?  And we’ve been sick?  It has been a little crazy.

But now all of the craziness of coalescing into a blog post, perhaps.  Not a very well-thought-out one but one born of late night conversations with Jeremiah, commiserating about our lives.  So here goes:

I think we need to cut “nominal” Christians some slack.  Probably a lot of slack.  Growing up, I think there wasn’t an insult much worse than being a “nominal” Christian.  It meant that either you didn’t get it or you didn’t care, because if you did both get it and care, you would do more.  Being a nominal Christian, as you might assume from the word “nominal” ends up being equated with action more than anything.  If you say some of the right stuff but don’t do all the right things, you might wind up with the label.  And you might imagine that this would be applied to those who do “bad” things, but in my experience that’s not true.  Those people are the “backsliders.”  The “nominal” are those who aren’t really that bad but aren’t actively good enough.

They aren’t excited enough.  Not enthusiastic enough.  Not pushy enough when sharing their faith with others.  And they’re not involved enough.  They are the ones “without enough buy-in to the community,” who don’t show up for much, who are friendly when they do, but a little shy on the sidelines, who maybe go to a Sunday service or an InterVarsity large group but don’t do much beyond that to show their commitment to growing spiritually.  Or maybe they’re a part of a small group but don’t go to church Sunday mornings.  In any case, they show some marginal interest in God, but it’s clear that they aren’t too “serious.”

I can remember, in particular, some of the people I used to write off—not always as nominal Christians, per se, but as Christians who weren’t “active” enough.  Many of them were people who couldn’t maintain the same schedule I did because of other commitments.  Some of these were voluntary (although dearly beloved) like band.  But some were involuntary things like work.  And still, if they didn’t show enough sorrow about it or try hard enough to change their schedule, there was at least a sliver of judgment on my part.

I’m starting to think that all of that was a bunch of bull.  In particular, I’m starting to see the time to be as “involved” as desired by most evangelical churches and organizations as a wonderful ideal with little practical value, particularly for those over 25.  I’m not saying we should all just stop doing anything or offering any opportunities for people to get to know each other or grow spiritually together.  But I do think we need to stop being so judgmental about it and having unrealistic expectations.

I think real-life people are very pressed for time.  If you have kids you have no time.  If you lack money, you also lack time.  I am starting to see time as something belonging to college students, empty nesters, and rich people.  And I think lack of time is behind a lot of the behaviors associated with “nominalism.”  What is seen as half-heartedness, inconsistency, or self-absorption is often simply a lack of time, which is not that person’s fault.  It says more about their social position than their commitment to God.

And I think the response to this that past-me and many people I have known throughout the years would have to this statement would be to say, “But look at Bob!  Bob has nothing!  But look at all the great things BOB does!”  Yes, maybe Bob does these things.  But seriously, is it really fair to make those demands?  Perhaps I have just become a total slacker myself, but I think we have CRAZY ideas about what we can tell other people God wants from them.  What do I think God wants?  I think a lot of the time, God really just wants people to get to spend time with their families and to have a brief rest each day before going back to work in a job that barely keeps their family going.  And I think that in our country there are a startling number of people—from younger people who are less financially established to older people on a fixed income ,and from women and ethnic minorities who have been paid less than they deserve for decades to  all the people who have been laid off in recent years and had to go months without pay—who are in that boat.

I believe that everyone can serve God where they are and everyone should be encouraged to be a meaningful part of a Christian community, but I think in prescribing one-size-fits-all plans for overzealous involvement in order to be recognized as a “strong Christian” or a “leader” or a “godly woman” or a “good guy,” we, ultimately, are siding with those with plenty rather than those in need.  The ability to be involved is a luxury many would like to have.  Let us not make the mistake of implying God is on any side but theirs.

God of Geld

Published on August 4, 2013, by in Humor.

Enjoy this delightful comic (author):


A Confusion of Terms ($$$, Pt. 4)

Often when we talk about wealth, poverty, justice, and generosity in the church, we don’t define our terms.  Who is “rich”?  Who is “poor”?  My Robert Webber quote from Pt. 3 showed people assuming someone was “rich” (albeit in the 1970s) because he was making $100K in a year, but as a former resident of Los Angeles County, I can tell you $100K doesn’t always get you very far.  On the other hand, if one made $100K living in Waco, he or she would probably be set!

But not necessarily.  Maybe a woman in Waco has five children and an elderly parent to support.  One of the children has special needs, making it impossible for both spouses to work.  The child’s care is pricey and requires travel to Dallas two or three times a month.  On top of that, they have some medical debt and are starting to pay for their oldest two children to go to college.  $100,000 can only take you so far.

Clearly, expenses vs. income is something to consider.  But let’s say we have two families of four making $100,000, and, magically, their expenses are equal.  Are they both equally “rich”?  I would argue that while “rich” is fine to toss around in casual conversation, for the purposes of serious discussion, we should abandon the term entirely.  It is simply too easy to think of “rich” as relating to income, or even to income vs. expenses, or income minus expenses plus possessions.  But are people rich just because they make a lot of money?  Or because they have many nice things?  A more beneficial term, I think would be wealth.

Wealth is a broader term which requires us to look at assets and debts.  These two families making $100,000 might be paying the same on their mortgages, but one has 80% equity, while another has only 20%.  Neither may be paying student loans right now, but one doesn’t have any educational debt, while the other is simply in a grace period while working on another degree.  One family may be leasing cars while the other is paying the same amount per month to purchase a car.  One may have a lot of credit card debt with low “minimum” payments, but what they owe is continuing to snowball.  And of course, the bottom line in their bank accounts may be radically different.  Perhaps one has money saved up or received a large inheritance and has $500,000 in the bank.  The other family might have only $10,000.  Not everyone with a high income is wealthy.

And while “rich” is a bit of a dirty word in justice-minded Christian circles, I don’t think wealth should be.  I am reminded of a fair amount of discussion of racial disparities in wealth in Christian Smith and Michael Emerson’s book Divided By Faith.  In college, I highly recommended friends to read the book in part because these statistics were so startling (though not surprising once you’re familiar with these sorts of issues).  All of us, of course, felt that this disparity was unfair.  But what did we ultimately want?  We didn’t want everyone’s wealth to decreased to a some terribly low number!  Instead, we wished that the black household wealth stats would change for the better.  We wanted to everyone to be given an opportunity to build the sort of wealth that would give them and their children financial security.

I think wealth in a good thing.  Wealth brings increased options and decreased anxiety.  That’s why we hope that those who are currently poor can increase their wealth.  But that is only something they will be able to do if we don’t tell them—while they are still building wealth—that their rising income makes them evil.  It’s also only something they will be able to do if they spend wisely and avoid materialism.  In this way, we simultaneously must warn about some dangers of money while avoid demonizing people for having any money at all.

Some people might ask, though, why accumulating wealth in moral to begin with.  When so many people struggle to build wealth, why should anyone be allowed to?  If they are Christian, should they give all their money away before they can accumulate it?  I will attempt to address this in the next post in this series!

Quit, sell, give! ($$$, Pt. 3)

Today I was inspired to continue my long abandoned series relating to wealth, poverty, and social justice, and my motivation came from an unexpected source:  Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail: Why Evangelicals Are Attracted to the Liturgical Church by the late Wheaton professor Robert Webber.  As a part of a chapter about his gradual development of a more holistic spirituality, he mentions a conference he attended in the 70s which was organized by Jim Wallis and other justice-minded Christian leaders (p. 81-82):

All of us at the conference were organized into various groups for discussion.  I was assigned to the economic responsibility group.  I remember how appalled I was at the discussion.  The issue at stake was the meaning of Jesus’ words, “Take up your cross and follow after me.”  The specific question under debate was, “Could one be rich and be a Christian?”  The word “rich” was never really defined then so it is difficult for me now to state categorically what was meant by the term.  But one of the members of the group was a man very interested in social issues.  He also happened to be a successful businessman.  He shared with us that his salary was over $100,000 a year, that he drove a Mercedes-Benz, and that he owned a small yacht.  Could he qualify as a Christian?  His question was sincere.  Finally we went around in the circle and each person responded to the gentleman’s question.  The consensus was that if he really wanted to follow after Jesus, he would need to give up his job, sell his belongings, and give the proceeds to the poor.  Then he would be in a position to follow after Christ.

I firmly believe in ethical spirituality, but in this case I felt it was carried too far.  Like the other kinds of spirituality I had encountered in my pilgrimage, ethical spirituality was being turned into something legalistic and wooden.  It was coming from the outside asking for a legal conformity to a set of man-made room.

I do not judge Jim Wallis, John Alexander, or Ron Sider.  Although they have taken personal vows to live on a poverty level, I don’t feel that they negatively judge others who have not chosen to follow an ethical spirituality to this degree.  What I am concerned about is the legalistic interpretation that others have made from this lifestyle choice.

Confession: Jim Wallis may not judge Mercedes Guy, but I totally do.  I can’t help it.  I roll my eyes at people who own luxury cars and yachts.  On a marginally related note, we are temporarily in an apartment in Waco while we wait to close on a house, and we get free basic cable, something I haven’t had since the free basic cable they had in UNC’s dorms.  Because of the excitement of being less than a month from homeownership, we have been watching an embarrassing amount of HGTV.  The unfortunate thing about this is that I am constantly face-to-face with how judgmental I actually am.  Eighty-seven percent of the people on House Hunters are downright evil in my mind.  Today we saw someone looking for a $600,000 vacation home complaining about their budget.  Another day some uppity single woman with a more modest $250,000 budget insisted on buying a large four-bedroom house and complained about all the luxury features the homes didn’t have.  The worst are often the international house hunters.  They always want everything to be exactly like it was for them in the United States, but they also want to live right on the water and within walking distance of their job.  On top of that, last week we encountered a family that moved to Latin America to literally do nothing for two years, now whining about how their money was running out and they needed to get back to work.

It is a little disturbing how much I love to hate these people and their ridiculous sense of entitlement. That said, Webber seems to so perfectly articulate some of the things I’ve been trying to wrestle with in this series.  First, I think he is right that many leaders aren’t explicitly encouraging Christians to judge one another but that it is still something that happens all too often.  (See the above example.)  Even though I often count myself among the judgers, I also know what it feels like to be judged.  Sometimes I have been judged by others, but most often, I think I experience judgment at my own hand.  Which brings me to my second agreement with Webber: What he reports as the “answer” given to Mercedes Guy by the other group members is definitely the same “answer” I have often heard from other justice-minded Christians, as well as in my own head.  A totally reasonable answer might be, “You might not need to keep spending money on luxury items.”  But living more simply—to avoid debt, to allow more giving, or simply to avoid ridiculous excess—is rarely where the instructions stop.  Mercedes Guy was told to quit his job and sell his stuff and give it to the poor.  At one point I might have agreed, but now I’m not so sure.

I mentioned before that there is a tendency to assume everyone is coming from the same place and needs the same message about money.  While Mercedes Guy was better off than most people, I do think many people in very different stations sometimes receive the same message, whether explicit or implicit.  I also question whether this is the right message for Mercedes Guy to begin with.  It might be, but it might not.  For that reason, I think he should have been given a more nuanced message from the beginning. With this quote from Webber as a springboard, I hope to finally move forward in the coming days/weeks and explain these two problematic tendencies in greater detail, suggesting some alternatives.

Ten Best Things About Waco (So Far)

Published on June 26, 2013, by in Life.

As many of you know, we recently moved to Waco, TX, where we have been super-busy with things like visits to (and from) grandparents, househunting, stomach bugs… not to mention unpacking!  We are still settling in and getting to know the area, but since we haven’t had a real blog post in so long, I thought I’d go ahead and share some of the things I like best about Waco so far:

10) Nothing is more than 20 min. away.

9) There are two HEB Pluses (soon to be a third!).  Furthermore, HEB’s Central Market brand offers Indian food that rivals Trader Joe’s.

8) It’s close to lots of other Texas cities—great for day trips, weekend getaways, visiting family, etc.

7) 1 lake + 2 rivers = lots of pretty water

6) Speaking of water, there are several splash pads at local parks (great free kid activity!).

5) There is also a small zoo!  (I have a feeling Ambrose will be visiting it frequently over the next five years.)

4) There are several CBF churches from which to choose.

3) The town is small enough that if you want to get involved in the community, you probably can (unlike in a big city where you just can’t even begin to keep track of what all is going on, much less participate meaningfully in more than just a tiny corner).

2) Lots of ethnic/cultural diversity!

1) Taquitos and kolaches!  (Ok, maybe this isn’t really #1… but I’ve really been enjoying this aspect of Texas life.)

Out of Touch with Reality ($$$, Pt. 2)

I apologize that the series on money has been so slow-going.  I promise to write more after the move is over, but for now, without further ado…

I think it’s fair to say that most Americans are out of touch with reality.  They have little to no concept of how others around the world live their lives and what extreme poverty looks like.  The mere glimpses I’ve seen while overseas don’t make me exempt from this criticism: I’m sure I really, really don’t get it, and that’s important for me to remember anytime I’m thinking about wealth and poverty.

But I think many people talking about social justice as a Christian mandate are also out of touch with reality.  I say this because of how their message does or does not discuss certain key issues relevant to their audience.

Or perhaps I should say “it did or didn’t” because it remains to be evaluated in the future what Christian leaders are teaching today.  We know what our own pastor teaches or what books are popular among our friends, but we can’t always assess the bigger picture for at least a few years.  So at risk of being completely irrelevant and outdated, I am going to do what is easy and discuss the things I remember hearing and reading in college.  This also carries the risk of being less about what anyone actually said and more about how it stuck with me.  Perhaps later I can deal with some specific authors or speakers in greater detail, but for now, I can only offer a “reader response criticism”-style analysis of the issues.  And in some ways, that’s extremely useful, I think, because what everyday Christians take home from a sermon or get out of a book is almost as important as what was actually said.  If a message is consistently misinterpreted, that’s a big problem.

There are two similar and related primary problems I see in the way topics related to economic justice have been handled by evangelicals of late:
(1) There is a tendency to speak to one’s entire audience with a message more applicable to only a portion of one’s actual audience.  Mostly, I mean that there is a tendency to speak to the more privileged without helping the less privileged (whether somewhat-less-privileged or much-less-privileged) understand their role as relates to the pursuit of justice.
(2) There is a tendency to overlook key issues relevant to even that smaller segment of “privileged” people or relevant to a basic concern with justice, in and of itself.

While I have a lot of thoughts on this, they’re still a bit of a jumble in my head, so please bear with me as I attempt to articulate them in the midst of this crazy season!

Seminary Re-Do

Based on a number of factors, we have decided to live in an apartment for our first few months in Waco, hopefully becoming homeowners just before Jeremiah starts class at Baylor in August  This means temporarily downsizing from 1500 sq. ft. and a garage to about 900 sq. ft. and a POD. True packing has only barely begun, but as a preliminary step today, I decided to try to pick out which books I want to keep with me over the summer. It’s a nearly impossible task.  How on earth do we take over ten IKEA Billies’ worth of books and select only two Billies’ worth?  Plus, some of that space will be taken up by our German board games and Ambrose’s books!  I tried to do my part tonight by paring down my to-read-soon selections to fit on only two of the twelve 30″ shelves we’ll have.  And looking at all of those books I’m hoping to read this summer got me thinking again about something I’ve considered a lot over the three years since I’ve graduated with my MA in Theology from Fuller: Sometimes I really wish I could do seminary over.

I started thinking this because of the books on my shelf.  A lot of my to-read books have been chosen to either build on what I learned in seminary or fill in some of the gaps left by the things I think I should have learned by didn’t.  Among the things that I wish I had gotten to spend more time on are world religions, philosophy (Nancey Murphy!), the Hebrew Bible (Pentateuch, Prophets, and Hebrew Exegesis Psalms didn’t even give me any survey of the rest of the Writings, much less additional in-depth work!), and church history.  Among the things I wish I had learned anything about at all are Greek exegesis (not enough space in my degree, although I did take Greek and Hebrew themselves), modern Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy of any era, non-Western Christianity, preaching, and liturgical studies.

It may be surprising where some of those gaps lie, depending on your own seminary experience or your impressions of what seminary entails.  I think I sometimes wish that my time in seminary were altogether different.  Not only in terms of the specific topics I got to cover in class but in terms of my degree structure or denominational affiliation (or, in Fuller’s case, lake thereof), or who my professors and classmates were or (goodness, please!) trading the quarter system for semesters.  Before picking Fuller, I also considered applying to Duke, North Park, and Palmer.  I picked Fuller because of its size, its multiethnicity, its larger number of female professors, and its location in a place that was totally new to me.  I thought it would be a place with lots of exciting opportunities, and it was.  While I was at Fuller, I griped a lot about the degree plan for the MA in Theology, inefficiencies on the business side of Fuller, etc.  After experiencing Duke Divinity through Jeremiah, I now know that many of Fuller’s flaws are far from unique, and since my time at Fuller was overwhelmingly positive, I look back with an intense nostalgia.  Fuller is now a magical place where people think of themselves as evangelical and yet I still fit in.  (Those are few and far between at this point!)

Between all these warm fuzzies and the obvious fact that I met my husband there, I would never, ever want to go back and change where I actually went to seminary.  And yet sometimes I wish I could do a seminary re-do of sorts, gaining everything I feel I missed without giving up any of the good things I’ve already enjoyed.  Here’s some of the things I think I might change the second time around:

1) I would go to a mainline seminary.  I’ve had my time in a postconservative institution.  The second time around, I’d love to get to know the postliberal side of things a bit better.

2) I would go to a denominationally affiliated school.  Fuller benefits in many ways from being interdenominational, but I don’t think it encouraged me to nail down my own denominational identity.  I don’t need to be whatever the school is, but I think there being one primary denominational affiliation can encourage others to become more active in the smaller denominational groups on campus.

3) I would do an MDiv.  Because, well, first of all, my MA in Theology is not the most helpful degree when it comes to getting jobs.  And secondly, because an MDiv at most schools would require a lot of those classes I wish I had had, like Greek exegesis, preaching, and liturgical studies.  I also think doing an MDiv would have forced me to answer certain questions about vocational ministry that I didn’t have to answer with an MA and which now are more complicated to work through.

4) I would speak up more in class.  I felt rather self-conscious in seminary and became much less active in class than I had been in high school or college.  I’m not sure if it was the very different gender ratios, the unfamiliar subject matter, or various other transitions I was going through at the time—whatever the cause, I was a very good student but simply tried to stay out of certain conversations.  It didn’t help that there were a ton of hipster theologian wannabes at Fuller who seemed to think it was a great idea show off during class.  (Most of them made fools of themselves anyway, so I was glad not to join them.)  At risk of sounding too critical of everyone else, as much as I hated them at the time, I wish I had tried to be even a little bit more like them.  I think if I had put myself out there, I could have been a student who TAed for professors (like my friend Christy) or who went on to take more advanced classes or who at least would be remembered as more than a number after graduation.  And, most importantly, I would have learned more and probably made some meaningful connections with other people interested in fascinating subjects.

5) I would specialize rather than being a generalist.  This is challenge with an MDiv, and even more so with an MA in Theology.  However, the new structure of the program since I graduated does greatly improve one’s options, even when doing an MA at Fuller.  I would probably take more courses on modern and American church history, which is one of the only areas (besides ministry and New Testament) that I had done a fair amount of reading in before seminary.  It connects well with my interest in sociology of religion, and it is very helpful and informative in thinking about the roots of and future possibilities for today’s church.

There is, however, one thing that I definitely would not change: I would absolutely still do my MA in Family Studies degree, as well.  While it also isn’t the most helpful degree for finding a job, I loved my short time in Fuller’s School of Psychology, and I think it helped inform and round out my theology degree in important ways.

© Jeremiah and Ashleigh Bailey 2012