“Brothers!” I vividly remember hearing that word over and over again on our class trips to the seminary during my college years. Everywhere we went on campus, the seminarians would call us “brothers.” At first it seemed kind of strange. I wondered whether or not this fraternal affection was genuine. However, after spending a bit of time at the seminary, I quickly became convinced that “brothers” is the perfect way to describe the people who go through seminary with you. They love you; they genuinely care for you; they’re always there for you.
Classmates at the seminary are like brothers in that they go through a lot together. They work hard to complete a rigorous academic program. They preach their first sermons to one another. They get to share with each other the joys and challenges of their first tastes of ministry. Seminary students also find some time for fun together—playing games, talking, and joking late into the evening on occasion. By the end of their time together at seminary, these classmates have grown into respectable, godly men who are ready to step into congregations and serve as pastors. All these shared experiences create a camaraderie among classmates that carries on for a long time after graduation has passed.
Once Call Day arrives, classmates are sent out all over the country, even around the world. My class—the class of 2014—maintains a Google Map that plots out the location where each classmate currently serves. As I look at that map, I feel a connection to each of those ministries, even though I’ve never visited most of them. I pray that they will be blessed through my brothers’ service. When my classmates deliberate calls, I get excited as I think about the ways that God can and will use them in whichever ministry they decide to serve. No matter where my classmates are now, I genuinely care about them and pray for them, and I know they do the same for me.
When I’m having a rough day in ministry, I know that I can always call one of my classmates to talk to someone who will understand what I’m going through. Most of my class got together after three years of ministry for a retreat in San Antonio, Texas. We began by sharing some blessings and challenges that we had experienced in ministry. It was neat to hear all the great things that God had accomplished through these men. It was also helpful to hear that many of them were dealing with challenges that weren’t all that different from mine. It reminded me that I’m not in this alone. God has been so good to me that he’s given me a group of men who will always be there for me to support and encourage me when things get tough.
I went to the seminary because I wanted to serve as a pastor to proclaim God’s Word to a world that needs to hear it. I’m grateful that the seminary prepared me to do that. If that were all I had gotten out of seminary, I couldn’t complain. But the seminary gave me so much more. It helped develop some of my best and most supportive friend- ships—relationships I will continue to enjoy for years to come. I thank God that the seminary brought these blessings into my life
Pastor Tyler Shinnick serves at Martin Luther, Neenah, Wisconsin.