STUDENT: Carl Gobelman
EMPLOYMENT: Senior programming analyst
FAMILY: Wife- Linda; Children- Matt (21), Lauren (18), Jeremy (16)
(Left) Carl at work; (Center) The Gobelman Family; (Right) Carl in the classroom
Most people would consider an hour each way on four days enough of a weekly commute, but Carl Gobelman adds an hour and a half drive once or twice each week to attend seminary. Add to that commuting time his more than 40 hours of work and 8-12 hours on the seminary campus and it’s difficult to see how he finds time for study and family.
Gobelman works full-time as a senior programming analyst for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois in downtown Chicago, where he has been employed for 14 years. He and his wife, Linda, have three children: one in college and two in high school. He is also a part-time student at Mid-America Reformed Seminary.
Carl, how do you juggle the conflicting commitments of family, work, and study?
As soon as I successfully juggle family, work, and study, I'll let you know. (Just kidding.) It’s not easy to say the least. Obviously while I'm at work, that is my first priority. Thanks to a recent program allowing flexible scheduling to promote work/life balance, I work four days per week (still managing to get in 40+ hours of work per week). I utilize my hour train commute each way to work by reading for class. My schedule varies each semester. I work longer days on Mondays and Tuesdays. Wednesday is my off day and Thursdays and Fridays tend to be shorter days, depending on classes.
I am usually on Mid-America’s campus all day on Wednesday, which is my major study day. In the fall, I was on campus Thursday and Friday mornings for class, and this spring I was here half the day on Thursdays for class. When I'm not in class, I'm usually in the library catching up on reading or research.
Saturday morning is another heavy study day for me. Weekday evenings and Sundays I try to leave open for church and family. I obviously couldn't do this without the support of my wife, Linda. She's been phenomenal in helping me in this endeavor.
With what church are you affiliated?
For the past ten years, my family and I have been members of Long Grove Community Church in Long Grove, IL., a non-denominational, evangelical church. Westminster Reformed Presbyterian Church in Prairie View, IL, which is a member of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America (RPCNA) is helping me meet my Ministerial Apprenticeship Program (MAP) requirements. Reverend Stephen Rhoda, whom I met about a year ago during a White Horse Inn discussion group, and the people at Westminster have helped and encouraged me in my studies at Mid-America.
What led you to consider attending seminary and the possibility of pastoral ministry?
Since becoming a Christian nearly ten years ago, I've been keenly interested in learning as much as I possibly can about the Bible and Christian theology. Not being content with just knowing "the basics," I studied the Bible voraciously since coming to Christ and have read as much as I could on the topics of theology, apologetics, and practical Christianity.
My interest in the Bible and theology, coupled with my rapid growth and development in these topics, led me to be considered for various leadership and teaching roles at Long Grove Church and I served as a small group leader and adult Sunday school teacher. I taught courses on basic theology, apologetics and led Bible studies. Many people expressed appreciation for my teaching style and ability to engage and answer difficult questions.
All of this led me to consider seminary as a means to perhaps make a career change and do what I love doing full time. Seminary seemed like the next logical step for me; I had pretty much tapped my ability for self-study and felt that a formal seminary education would help guide and direct me in the paths I needed to go.
Why did you choose Mid-America Reformed Seminary?
When I was considering seminary, two main considerations were in my mind: 1) The seminary needed to be Reformed; 2) the seminary needed to be close OR offer distance education. Over the previous two years, I had been embracing the Reformed faith, so if I was going to seek to be trained in seminary, I wanted a school that also embraced the Reformed faith. I didn't want to be "somewhat Reformed" in a non-Reformed school, so a Reformed seminary was a must.
With my wife and I both working and all three kids still in school, relocation was pretty much out of the question; so seminary would have to be close or offer distance learning. Coincidently (or providentially), I discovered Mid-America while doing a Google search for Reformed seminaries near Chicago. I had never heard of Mid-America, so I checked out the website, liked what I saw and arranged for a visit. Mid-America truly is the best of all possible options—a solidly Reformed seminary, relatively close to home that allows me to attend part-time while still working.
God's hand of providence was all over this situation! I was especially attracted by Mid-America's size; the small size allows me to better develop relationships with the faculty and my fellow students. The location allows me to attend classes on campus while still maintaining my employment, and the reasonableness of the tuition helps me keep costs at a minimum. I couldn't ask God for more!
What are your hopes or goals for the future?
While I understand that Mid-America's primary goal is training men for pastoral ministry, I've always felt my strengths lie in the area of teaching rather than preaching and my desire has been to work in an academic setting. Before becoming a Christian, I wanted to become a philosophy professor. Life interrupted that goal; now that goal can still be fulfilled, but instead of teaching philosophy I can teach theology. I won't rule out pastoral ministry. Bottom line is I want to serve wherever the Lord needs me to serve.
Assuming I continue my studies part-time, I am looking to graduate in 2015 at the ripe "young" age of 50! At that point, I hope to have a better grasp of what my future plans will be—whether I begin seeking ordination or further graduate study (ThM and/or PhD). At this point in time, I am taking it one semester at a time!