For years I had thought about attending seminary. I craved a deeper and more rigorous look at God’s word and being challenged in a fresh way. I wanted to become a better teacher in the local church, and I also wanted to get to know others in my community who were just as passionate.
The problem was trying to find a seminary that fit my busy schedule as a wife, mom, businesswoman, and as a church and community leader. I experimented with online classes and distance learning programs at several well-respected seminaries, but I struggled with balancing the reading and writing assignments while still serving my family, church, and community. I also had a strong boundary around not sacrificing the discipline of sabbath rest that I had developed in this season of life.
None of the online programs I tried offered me the potential to get to know the professors or other students. For me, it seemed like an impossible puzzle, and I began to believe that maybe seminary education would not be an option for me.
This puzzle was solved for me, though, when I found out that Emmaus Seminary was offering the opportunity to audit classes. I began attending in the fall of 2019, and it has been one of the most rewarding endeavors of my life. As an audit student I attend the class lectures without the obligation to complete any of the assignments or tests, though I have the option to do either if I ever desire to do so.
I have found incredible freedom in knowing that I can still participate in classes and engage with my classmates in a robust and meaningful way while not sacrificing my rest and other obligations. In some seasons of life, I have even had the time to keep up with all the reading assignments in the syllabus, and in others I’ve only been able to attend the lectures. In both scenarios, though, I have benefitted from being in a classroom with other students from my local community and being taught by experienced and passionate professors.
I did have one hurdle when it came to being an audit student: pride. I’m embarrassed to say that as a recovering overachiever, the thought of not striving to get good grades and not receiving a formal seminary degree did give me pause. The Lord, however, has been kind and gracious in his humbling of my heart. He has shown me that a formal degree is not needed for how I want to share with my family, contribute to the local church, and lead in the business community. I am beyond encouraged and on fire for the sake of the Gospel as I put into practice what I am learning at Emmaus. The more I learn about God, the more I want to be in relationship with him and those around me.
From teaching hermeneutic skills to explaining theological concepts, to encouraging the knowledge and love of church history – I love sharing what I am learning with other women in the church. As a senior leader in a corporate workplace, there is no shortage of ethical and cultural issues to wrestle with, and my ethics courses at Emmaus have given me a framework to have a more solid understanding of what the Scriptures say. This has helped me to wrestle extensively with what I believe, and stand firmly and graciously in those beliefs. Above all else, though, my time at Emmaus has led me into a deeper relationship with our Father and a stronger than ever commitment to love and serve like Jesus.
Jen Kocan is a local church leader who is passionate about discipleship and leadership development within the church and in the corporate workplace. She is happiest when serving both her Gateway Church family and her team at PNC Bank where she is an Investment Director. In her spare time, you’ll almost always find her with a book in her hand or cooking for her family. She and her husband live in North Ridgeville and have two grown sons and a daughter-in-law.
Photo by Siora Photography