The Value of Office Hours

By Ben Shin May. 3, 2013 1:11 p.m. Biblical Exposition, Christian Education, Church Life, Culture, Ministry and Leadership, Spiritual Formation

THE VALUE OF OFFICE HOURS

            I love my office. There are many reasons that I love my office. One is that I can store the many books that I own in there. Second, it is a place for study or reading in a quiet setting. But what I love most is that my office is a place for ministry and discipleship to occur. In other words, it is a safe place to meet students who are not only facing the challenges of academia but also the hardships of life. For this reason, the value of my office hours is priceless!

            I understand why going to a professor’s office hours may seem unusual and even unnecessary at times. That large in part was my sentiment in college as well. I figured that the professor first of all was too busy to see me and talk to me. I thought that he would be too busy with his research, study, and even grading. Why would a professor care for one student among the many that he teaches in class? Another reason for not visiting the professor was that I was simply intimated to go and talk with the professor. He typically seemed extremely knowledgeable and too advanced to speak with a lowly college student. So these were my “excuses” for not ever going to see my professor during his office hours.

            However, I’m happy to say that the culture and climate at Talbot is much different from what I’ve seen at most schools. For the most part, the professors all welcome the students to come and visit during their office hours. I’ve seen this over the last 24 years that I’ve been a part of the school both as a student and now as a professor. Let me highlight some of the valuable aspects of going to office hours:

  1. It is a great opportunity for mentorship for students. One of the greatest joys that I have is to be able to mentor students who are in the ministry and serving in their churches. This is a high and noble calling but does not come without its challenges. The value comes in that many of the professors have served in different capacities as pastors, elders, missionaries, deacons, and more and can share from many years of experience. The office setting is a safe place to come and receive counsel and encouragement as well as to just ask questions to the professors. This is an awesome privilege for me as a professor to be able to speak into the lives of these precious students. I always look forward to my office hours!
  2. It is wonderful place for spiritual nurturing and encouragement. Sometimes, students just need someone to talk with or to listen to their problems. This certainly was true for me when I was a student at Talbot long ago. I could go to any given professor and know that I would be blessed and encouraged by their wise words and their sincere prayers. This aspect of office hours can certainly be a major ministry of professors with their students. Maybe you need some encouragement today. Go see your professors in office hours.
  3. There can be great intellectual sharpening and refining for the student’s mind. Another great opportunity can come in aiding students who have questions about class or some important question that they may be entertaining. While the classroom is the more common place to discuss these questions, the office can be a more focused time to help the individual work through specific questions and struggles that he may have. Many future and blossoming scholars have been discovered during these brief moments within an office hour. For this reason alone, the office hour can lead to promising futures for many.
  4. It can foster relationship building. One thing that can set a seminary apart from a typical school is the long-term friendships and relationships can be built during an office hour. This was true for me as I visited Dr. Walt Russell many times in his office that would later lead to him to officiate my wedding and continues now as a trusted friend and colleague for over 24 years. All of this started by simply taking 15 minutes a week by stopping by his office.

            I would like to give a personal challenge to our students for now and in the future. Please make appointments to go and visit your professors.  All of us really care for you on many levels: spiritually, academically, emotionally, relationally, and physically. Just take a minute and sign up to stop by especially if any of the valuable outcomes from above would be helpful for you. And even if you may be bashful to go individually, please try going with a friend to get to know your professor. My hope is that the “office hours” would never become a place of fear or mundane obligation. 

Comments

  • Prof in need May. 6, 2013 at 9:35 AM

    Excellent post! I'm actually a professor at a Christian university and would like to be involved in mentoring students in the ways you suggest above. However, I almost never have that opportunity because students rarely come to my office and when they do, it's "all business."

    Do you have any suggestions for what I, as a professor, could do to encourage these sorts of office encounters?

  • Ben Shin May. 6, 2013 at 11:42 AM

    Dear Prof in need,

    I think the thing which helps me to get students to my office hours is to repeatedly announce that I am available and willing to spend time with them counseling, advising, encouraging, praying, and ministering to them during that time. Soon, a student will bite and later on more will come. I think again the key is to announce this on a regular basis. Happy Office hours!

  • Joe Hellerman May. 8, 2013 at 5:06 PM

    Ben, you are a master at this. I ALWAYS see you hanging out with students in your office.

  • Grace Sangalang May. 9, 2013 at 1:05 PM

    Hi Dr. Ben,

    Thanks so much for all of your encouragement to me during your office hours! I have been so blessed to be a recipient of all of the above benefits of your office hours :)

  • Prof in need May. 12, 2013 at 12:19 PM

    Thank you for suggesting that. Now that I think about it, I haven't always been consistent in announcing my availability throughout the semester. I'll definitely give that a try this next year.

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