DTS Magazine

Ask Dr. Swindoll: Do You Have Any Advice for the Older, Nontraditional Student?

Several times a year, Dr. Swindoll preaches in chapel at DTS and engages in a question-and-answer time with prospective students. Here are some of the questions he answered recently.

Do you have any advice for the older, nontraditional student who, with the call to DTS, may also be facing a major career change? 

Age is not the factor that we make it out to be, especially nowadays. You may think you’re an oddity starting seminary at your age, but you’re not. It’s amazing how many current students are in the same position. Some are in their late forties to early sixties.  

My advice to you is that you pursue seminary with your eyes open. It takes a little while to get rid of the idealism that surrounds something like going to a theological seminary, but once you’re here, you’ll lose it fairly quickly.

One of the best pieces of advice I received when I came to DTS was to remember that the old nature that everybody has comes with them when they arrive on campus—no matter what age. And that helped me keep from getting disillusioned when I had to deal with disappointments in my life. 

Some people wouldn’t think about switching careers because there’s a lifestyle they’re used to, or they think they can’t handle the change. Others are job-locked into their salary, and they refuse to let it go. They choose not to pay the price that it would require to make those changes. I commend you, because it is not easy.

Christ’s command to multiply our faith in the lives of others doesn’t change as we get older. If anything, some of us have lived long enough to be able to pass along wisdom distilled by our experiences of success and failure and that alone is a gift from God. 

Pursue the career change cautiously. Remember your decision to come at this time of your life and make this career change is not a mistake . . . nor an oversight . . . nor an afterthought.

If you could go back in time and give your younger self a piece of advice for seminary or ministry, what would it be?

This question is almost impossible to answer because I can’t go back in time. It’s taking what I know now of life and assuming I would have it back then. 

Most likely I would wrestle less with my grades. They would not mean as much to me as they did. It’s easy to say that now because I’m not in the classroom. However, when I think back over the years, no one has ever asked me about my grade point average.

Instead, I would say the goal in life is to do our best forever. Grades then take care of themselves. If I studied believing that and ended up not doing well, then there’s a reason for it, and I would have discovered how to change and improve. I would have learned from my mistakes much sooner than later.

Charles R. Swindoll
Charles R. Swindoll has devoted his life to the accurate, practical teaching and application of God’s Word and His grace. A pastor at heart, Chuck has served as the founder and senior pastor-teacher of Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas. His leadership as president and now chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary has helped prepare and equip a new generation for ministry. Chuck and his wife Cynthia, have four grown children, ten grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
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