Thursday, February 14, 2008

an open letter to my fellow seminary students...

as i sat down to read today in the small commons area on campus, i struggled to find a place to sit my coffee and newspaper on the table in front of me.
because the person across from me had his feet propped up on the table meant to be shared by the four chairs surrounding it.
another person joined the two of us with arms full of books, laptop, etc., and after several seconds of awkwardly waiting for the 1st person to move his feet, sat down bewildered. he eventually left still looking bewildered..

unfortunately, this is not uncommon behavior at a school that "equips pastors" and other ministers. i have been in seminary for four years, and these are a few of what i thought were "common sense" courtesy issues that are embarrassingly ignored on a regular basis.

  • men, anytime you are going through a doorway, always look behind you to see if their is a lady or older person that you may hold the door for.
  • anyone, if someone holds the door for you, "thank you" is the appropriate response.
  • if you are strolling down the hallway or sidewalk with friends, it is impolite to not give way to someone walking the opposite direction and force them into the wall or mud because of your "offensive line" (see what i did there??)
  • in the hallways and at the top and bottom of stairwells, particularly between classes, recognize that with so many students and so little space, that you may need to move your conversation from standing in the middle of the hallway to against the wall or somewhere else out of the way of the hundreds of people trying to get around you.
  • in the classroom, once the professor steps up to the lectern, please stop talking.
  • during the lecture... stop talking at a normal volume to your neighbor when you agree/disagree/have another thought about the topic. students are paying a lot of money and spending a lot of time expecting to be able to hear a professor without being distracted or unable to hear the lecture.
  • before you ask a question in class, ask yourself "am i wanting to ask this question so everyone will see how much i know. or because i truly need clarification?"
  • along those same lines, if you do have a legitimate question, but it is beginning to take up a large amount of classroom time, be considerate of the professor who has a syllabus to get through and the students who are paying to learn the information prepared for them by the professor and ask if the conversation can be continued after class sometime.
    (obviously, class discussion is part of the learning experience and the professor can discern if it is beneficial to continue the discussion during class or not)
  • propping your feet up on the chair in front of you or on the partition is disrespectful to the professor/lecturer and to the custodial staff who has to clean up after you.
  • guys, it is in the campus handbook... no hats in the classroom. if you didn't know that, now you do. if you did know that and you still do it, then you are not saying much for your integrity.
  • ladies - take a look at this link and give your wardrobe a run down. i have seen many ladies on campus whose dress is a model of dignity and class. but unfortunately i have seen many who, intentionally or not, seem oblivious to the fact that their low cut and/or tight fitting tops and their tight and/or low cut pants/skirts that show or outline their undergarments are at best distasteful and at worse a stumbling block.
i started seminary in january of 2004. i am a lot different now than i was when i got here.
needless to say, we all go through changes. we mature. time moves on and for the most part... so do we. one thing anyone learns from living in an environment that includes so many different people from so many different backgrounds and cultures is that people are different. and different is not always bad! people are raised with different values and norms. i am not saying that we lose our personality and give up our freedoms to a bunch of "rules" or even preferences.

but if we are in seminary to be trained as ministers and servants, we might as well practice some door holding and ettiquitte while we are here. who knows... we may just have to use some of that in ministry.


Terry Delaney said...

Brother, I thank you for these. I can't count the number of times I have seen many of the things (especially your last point) in the halls and classrooms. Thank you for having the courage to speak this. I pray that what you have said here takes root in the hearts of all on campus.

Mike Gross said...

Stephen, I could not have said it better myself. It should not be too much to expect basic courtesy, especially from people training to 'serve' others. Hopefully your post will help us all begin thinking of others more highly than ourselves (Philippians 2:3).

Will Jackson said...

Thanks for the post. I heard David Nasser speak at the Give Me an Answer Conference on entitlement. He talked about we always expect that we are entitled to do what we want and how this is opposed to the grace and mercy of the Lord. How even those called to preach His grace can be forgetful of what He did for us. I have been guilty of some of these before and am thankful for the reminder.

Will J

Worship Leader Ron said...

Could I add one?

When you are walking across campus and a jolly smiling person speaks to you as you pass and says, "Hello," it is also common and expected that you respond with a "hello" yourself, rather than looking at him as though he's nuts for expecting christians to greet one another with a smile.

That is my suggestion. I was deeply stung by the admonishment to not wearing a hat. I do that all the time. I need to submit to those who have authority over me as to Christ.

Thanks for the post. It's a good word to hear.

stephen lee cavness said...

thanks for the encouragement, ya'll.

your prayers and well wishes echo my own in hopes that the few who do read these will take them to heart and maybe even pass them along lovingly.

ron, i would also add another one..though it isnt directly related to visible behavior on campus...

even though the issue of alcohol being a sin or not is debated by some, regardless of one's convictions, if you sign the student pledge saying you wont drink while a student, then if you do you are saying you rword doesnt matter if it keeps you from something you really want to do.

thanks again..

stephen lee cavness said...

to put it in a better way

***issue of drinking alcohol being a sin or otherwise "not allowed" for a christian....

Russell D. Moore said...

Stephen, I can't high-five over the Internet, but, if I could I'd take off my hat and do it. Good post. RDM