Tag Archives: Derek Cooper

Interview with Derek Cooper

Yesterday I posted a quick blurb about Derek’s “So You’re Thinking About Going to Seminary” (Brazos, 2008). Derek kindly agreed to answer a few questions that I had. FYI, Derek has his PhD from Lutheran Seminary and is Visiting Professor at our very own Biblical Seminary.

Phil: Derek, it sounds like the impetus for this book came from your own varied experiences at several seminaries. Now that you are a teacher, what key recommendations do you have for incoming students to help them succeed in their academic work?

Derek:I recommend that incoming students think about managing their time. Many seminarians these days work part- or full-time, have spouses and/or children, are involved in church, and have other similar responsibilities. It’s important that they establish good study habits early in their studies that balances all of their work and family commitments.

Phil: Amen to that. Most could benefit from a study skills or reading skills class! Well, what is the most common mistake prospective seminary students make in the application process? 

Derek: I think students tend toward one of two extremes: either applying to too many schools (I’d recommend applying to no more than five, but preferably fewer) or underestimating how detailed and time-consuming the application process can be.

Phil:You know what one of my favorite mistakes is? Having an email address like, Gsusismyhomeboy@…. It tells a lot more than you know! On to my next question: If you were starting over, what would you do differently in your seminary education?

Derek: I would have chosen more carefully which seminary best suited me (in terms of theology, career prospects, contacts, location, and academic specialty). Phil: Good point. Now, I also notice that a number of students fail to think about life post graduation as they are overwhelmed with current classes. Or, if they do start to think about career, its in the final semester. What would you do to encourage students to start earlier?  

Derek: I believe students should begin thinking about career prospects during their first semester of school. I encourage students to isolate classes of special interest, speak with professors and staff members, network with students, talk with real-life pastors, academics, and ministry leaders, and attend local conferences of interest to learn about their compatibility with certain careers.

Phil: Me too. I tell my counseling students that they need to find people in the workforce doing things they want to do, introduce themselves and take them to lunch to ask they how they got to this point in their life and for advice. Who doesn’t like free lunch and being asked for sage advice. Plus, you can get an internship or a mentor out of it many times.

Final question Derek: What is one thing you wish Seminaries did differently to enhance the education of students?

Derek: I believe that seminaries need to do a better job of providing and connecting students to real-life practitioners so that they are better equipped and adequately exposed to what types of vocations they are most suited for.

Phil: Derek, thanks for stopping by and for your work in our counseling program. Happy Thanksgiving.

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Filed under book reviews, Doctrine/Theology

How to pick a seminary?

Of course the right answer is: “Biblical Seminary is the ONLY seminary where you’ll get the best masters in counseling education.”

But in case you’d like a little more depth and breadth in answer the question about whether seminary is right for you, Derek Cooper has a new book: So You’re Thinking About Going to Seminary (2008, Brazos). Derek came by this wisdom by attending several seminaries and so if you want a good feel for what seminary is like and how you can decide if it is for you, you ought to buy the book.

In it he orients readers to what seminary is and isn’t, the kind that is attached to universities and the free-standing kind. That would probably have helped my wife back when she showed up for summer Greek, about a year after becoming a Christian. When she first heard about seminary, she assumed it was a place only for priests.

Cooper also helps the reader to consider the value and benefits of non-denominational versus denominational seminaries, the kinds of degrees available as well as potential jobs with each degree. Even better, he helps the newbie think through the kinds of courses likely to be taken in  some of these degree courses. What I like is that he gives numerous school examples so that by the end of the book, the reader has truly been exposed to the best of theological education in the United States and Canada.

The middle section of the book helps the seminarian find ways to finance, survive, even flourish during grad studies. Yes, you don’t have to lose your faith or your marriage if you go to seminary. But don’t assume your studies alone will promote spiritual growth.

He has one chapter that covers matters of ordination and licensure. If you are considering becoming a licensed counselor AND you are thinking (rightly) that seminary is a great place to do that, be sure to read his admonition to check with your licensing body (State or Province) to see what THEY require and do not assume that the school automatically covers every required course.

My only negative is that he didn’t say on every page that BIBLICAL SEMINARY (www.biblical.edu) is by far the BEST school in the world. But then, if he did, that would make us look bad since he would be lying. But, if you do want to hear Derek in the flesh, join our counseling program and take his “Counseling and the Biblical Text” course since he adjuncts for us.

I’ve asked Derek a few questions and so tomorrow, I’ll post his answers. Really, this is a good book if you are considering a ministry career and wonder if Seminary is necessary and what it is all about. And if you are the “cut to the chase” kind of reader, he has really good summaries and charts to help you make your decision.

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Filed under Biblical Seminary, book reviews, counseling, Doctrine/Theology, writing