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Tips for RTS Students: Managing Your Course Syllabi

Charlie Wingard

Charlie Wingard

Associate Professor of Practical Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary Jackson and Senior Pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Yazoo City, Mississippi

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Course syllabi in a moment. But first a word about calendars.

Calendars do more than remind you about upcoming events. They are an essential part of planning and the effective use of time.

At RTS, I want you to learn how to make your calendar an ally in completing your studies.

A good place to begin is your course syllabi. When you access a syllabus for the first time, review it carefully. Then go to your calendar.

  • Add each class session to your calendar. For example, my Communications 1 class meets on these dates:  8/29, 9/5, 9/12, 9/19, 9/26, 10/10, 10/30-11/1, 11/28
  • Add all work due on the date it’s due.
  • Think carefully about the amount of reading required. In addition to selections from other books, you will read in Comm 1 these books in their entirety:
    Chappell, Bryan. Christ-Centered Preaching: Redeeming the expository sermon.
    Grimké, Francis J. Meditations on Preaching.
    Johnson, Dennis E. Him We Proclaim: Preaching Christ from All the Scriptures.
    Still, William. The Work of the Pastor
    Witmer, Timothy Z. The Shepherd Leader: Achieving Effective Shepherding in Your Church.
  • If you find the amount of required reading challenging, do this: Build into your calendar a daily reading schedule. Break down your readings into manageable portions. Do this for all your readings in every course. Each day have a reading goal and meet it. I follow this practice.Each year I like to read one or two lengthy works in theology. This year, I’m rereading Calvin’s Institutues. Last year it was few of John Owen’s works. For twenty minutes, I read a small number of pages five days a week and easily meet my reading goals.
  • If you already have your syllabus, start reading now! Read as much as you can before the semester begins.
  • Use fall break as a reading and writing week. A seminary semester is fifteen weeks of intensive work. Keep the Sabbath. Build in times of rest and refreshment. But a nine-day break from your studies in the middle of the semester may not be the optimal use of your time.
  • Don’t wait until classes start to work on assignments. Think about term papers and book reviews. In this course, students submit a 10-page term paper on Him We Proclaim. Each semester, I will have several students who turn their term papers and book reviews before classes start. I grade and return promptly.

Get off to a good start this semester. Well before your first class, coordinate your syllabi and calendar.

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