I’ve recently come to know Ryan Burns (through Twitter of course). Ryan is a great guy, and really hooked me up with Logos which is whom he works for. As I’ve gotten to know him a little more online, I’ve come to realize just how gifted he is, and how many things he has his hands in. I’ve also come to appreciate the things he has to say on boundaries, priorities, family time, and his advice to “kill your feed reader.” If you don’t know Ryan through his evangelism of Logos, you might know him through the site he founded, Going to Seminary.
So check out this interview with him, and if you have questions about Logos (it’s an awesome software, which I will be blogging more about as I get more proficient at it), then he is your man. Or if you need some wordpress customization, check out Design Simple.
Before leaving for seminary you had spent 8 years as a college campus pastor, and I’m wondering what the best part about working with college students was? What do you miss about college ministry?
Pizza. I miss pizza.
When I worked on the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University there was a pizza joint near campus called Piccolas. I’ve probably had several hundred slices of pizza there, talking with students about life, faith, the gospel, the future… that is the thing I loved the most about campus ministry, student on the cusp of the rest of their lives. They are at college searching for a degree, a spouse, and a future. In the midst of that I had the opportunity to point them to the gospel as the thing that defines, drives, and makes sense of all the questions, concerns, and struggles they faced.
The best part of working with college students has to be their zeal. There is simply nothing like seeing a college student who really gets the gospel. There is a driving passion in their eyes and nothing is impossible. They pray fervently, they believe deeply, and they fearlessly seek to engage their campus with truth of Jesus Christ.
I could probably go on for a long time about how great campus ministry is, but I’ll simply say what I’ve always believed about campus ministry, “change the campus, change the world.”
I love that the impetus for starting the Going to Seminary website is because you didn’t find the necessary resources needed when you Googled about families going to seminary. Do you find that a lot of your ideas for projects and ventures come out of looking for something, finding it’s not that, then coming in to fill that need?
I wish all my ventures were so noble. Most of the time I’m just trying to find ways to pay the bills. When I started GTS it really was because there was nothing out there about families going to seminary. We were in a place of transition and I thought God was leading us to go to seminary, but I really just wanted to hear what it was like from someone like me… a wife, two kids, and in his 30’s… How hard was it? What was I getting my family into? But I couldn’t find anything.
Over time GTS has grown and changed. I was blessed to have a great group of folks who started out as regular readers and commenters who ended up contributing to the blog and offering a variety of experiences and points of view. Now that I’m not in seminary I don’t have the time to devote to the site, but is encouraging to see that it is still very well trafficked and I still get thank you notes from people who have found answers to the tough questions about life in seminary.
As for other projects and ventures that come up… I don’t know… I’m just always looking around at stuff. I think I have an entrepreneurial spirit and like to start things.
As Going to Seminary has grown I wonder if you can tell me how it has changed the most, and what your primary focus is for the website now?
Sometimes I laugh at where I stated. I used to write under the pseudonym of “Just a Guy.” My logic was that I wanted the site to be unbiased. I didn’t want someone who was thinking about going to seminary and was looking for advice to come to my site and think, “oh, he’s going to Reformed Theological Seminary, I can’t listen to his advice, I’m armenian.” So, I tried to hide my identity and approach everything from a neutral position.
Over time I revealed my identity (I can’t remember what brought it about) and ultimately added so more writers. I think that was the best thing I ever did at GTS. When we added new writers it gave readers the chance to hear from people at different schools and different stages of life.
As for the focus now… to be honest, survival. I had to cut my seminary career short and now have a 9-5 plus my family. So, besides the fact that I don’t have much content to contribute, I also don’t have time to manage it. Depending on the day you ask me I have a different answer for what the future holds for GTS. I’ve thought about selling it, giving it away, re-inventing it, or letting it drift slowly into sunset. Whatever happens I want to make sure the content still remains available. Gone are the days of googling “Family going to seminary” and not finding what you need.
Now in the midst of leaving campus ministry, going off to seminary and starting this website, I’m wondering how Logos came into play? What is your current role with them?
My wife and I joke that our friends and family must think we’re crazy… and they are probably right. The short version of the story is that I left campus ministry because there was no staff position for me at our church and I could no longer support my family on the money we were bringing in (well, technically I could, but it involved working two jobs which meant the ministry, my work, and my family were all getting the short end of the stick). After much prayer and council we decided to try and finish up my degree (I’d been working on it for several years). We had a plan on how we “thought” we could pull it off. About 6 months after moving from VA to FL we realized that our plan was not going to work. I began searching for jobs and one day got a call from a guy named Dan at Logos. It was the only open door we saw and, not to mention, it was a very nice door indeed.
At Logos I work in the marketing department and do everything from writing press releases to managing promotions to building micro-sites. It really is a great job and I am grateful to God for opening such an amazing door for me.
Okay, so there is Going to Seminary, Logos and you run the web development company Design Simple…Is there anything else that I’m missing that we should know about?
No, that about covers it. Design simple covers a broad range of crazy things I do. The main income from DS is through building out WordPress sites for people. Along with that I’m always trying to find ways to make some money through the web… so I have a number of small sites that I’ve put together trying to make some money. So, for example, I built a site called http://www.photographersinorlando.com/ which really didn’t work out like I planned… but it was worth a shot. I probably have about 10 sites out there that are attempts to make money… none have really worked all that well… except my squidoo pages… but that is another story.
As a father and husband, how do you manage to balance on the various jobs and projects? Do you have any tips for us?
Kill your feed reader! Seriously, that was the big turning point for me. It was just one more thing that sucked up time that I just didn’t have to spare. Once I killed my feedreader it became easier to kill other things things that weren’t really that important.
It is really all about priorities. I have a limited number of hours in the day. I get up at 7:30 and am in work around 8:30. From 8:30-5:30 I’m all Logos. When I get home from 6-7:30 I’m all family. I don’t get on the internet, don’t watch tv, don’t do anything but hang out in the livingroom with my kids. We eat dinner together every night and then I read stories until their bed time. After the kids go to bed I typically hop on the computer to do email and work on projects and around 9 I go downstairs to hang out with my wife until we go to bed around 10:30.
There are SO many other things I wish I could do. I wish I could do sports, hang out with friends, read blog, read books, play a video game… but my family and my jobs trump it all. That’s why I had to kill the feed reader.
What is your favorite aspect of the jobs you do? Writing? Design? Coding? Relationships? Etc.?
If you could put on your prophetic cap for a moment, I’m wondering if you can tell us what you think seminary is going to look like in the next 10 years? Is technology going to play a huge role in shaping the future of seminary?
Wow, that is a great question. Sheesh… If it were up to me I’d love to see the seminary be more local church based. A mix of classroom education with pastoral oversight that provides mentored ministry opportunities would be pretty sweet. I see a lot of the online seminaries talk about how great it is to be able to get your seminary education without leaving your current location, but there is nothing that can substitute the residential seminary experience. Likewise, the seminary can’t replace the local church… I think what John Piper is trying to do with The Bethlehem Institute. I think there might be a good model there. Time will tell.
If you could go out and have a coffee (or beer, depending on who is reading) with your favorite theologian and favorite web/tech/design/social media guru, who would they be?
From the dead theologian category I think I’d like to grab a beer with Calvin and Spurgeon, though I’m not sure if either of them were beer guys or not. Pretty much anything I read from those guys causes me to want to worship Jesus more.
From the living theologian category, I’d say Robert Greene, Raymond Goodlett, and Chris DeRocco. They are all planting a church in Richmond VA and are three of the greatest guys I know and have been instrumental in helping me be the man I am today. I haven’t seen them in over a year and I’d gladly pass up the chance to hang with Piper, Keller, or Driscoll in order to grab a pint with those guys.
From the web world… I’d like to meet John Dyer. His passion for Jesus and his ninja programming skills are crazy impressive. I’d also like to meet the folks who write for GTS. Funny as it sounds, I’ve only met 2 of them in person. So, they are some web folks I’d like to meet some day.