Friends and Family

Your spouse, fiancé, friend or relative has decided to study at the South African Theological Seminary and you may be wondering how this will affect your lives. This site explains how things might change and how you can help your SATS student to be successful.

At SATS we know exactly what we are doing. We design courses that are relevant to ministry calling, academic studies and personal growth. Our studies are structured to help students to stay motivated and achieve their aims.

Study, however, requires commitment; and commitment to success can be quite hard on the friends and family who are close to them.

This section will help you understand what changes you could expect and how you can be supportive of your student.

Unlike full time university students who have to be in class, SATS students largely work on their own and may easily be distracted by their daily commitments and the needs of their friends and loved ones. An understanding of what they are committed to will give you better insight into what they are going through and how you can support them, both in their daily routines and when they are stressed due to difficult assignments, exam preparation and the frustrations of having to work long hours on their own.

The student in your life may be fortunate enough to study full time at home. More often, however, they will have a full time job and have to fit their studies into their normal day-to-day lives. It may be difficult to study while the rest of the family is watching their favourite TV show or when their friends go out for an evening of fun or simply when their spouse or children need their company.

As a friend or family of your student you always need to keep in mind tht they have important reasons for studying:

  • They could believe they have been called to ministry
  • They may want to pursue an academic career
  • They could already be pastoring a church and realise they need to strengthen their foundation
  • They may wish to continue their personal development
  • They may want a better understanding of God and of Scripture

What your student does

If the student in your life has access to the internet they may have opted for e-learning; in which case they are able to communicate with other students and with their tutors. They will become part of a small online, perhaps international, learning community where they are involved in group projects as well as individual tasks.

If they do not have access to the internet, they will have to work on their own; making use of the coursework books and readers that SATS supplies to them. This requires greater commitment as they don’t have the extra motivation provided by interaction with other students.

Our course materials are of a high academic standard and are continually reviewed and updated. This means that although SATS students do not study at fixed times, or go to lectures, their courses are in no way inferior to fulltime lectures at a university and require just as much study and dedication.

Remember that, although SATS study is flexible, the assignments and assessments are not. Assignment have deadlines as do examinations.

Your support is essential to the success of your student!

It is imperative that SATS students develop good time-management skills in order to fit their studies into the rest of their lives. However, they may feel guilty about spending less of their time with you so you have to make them aware that you are ok with them giving priority to their studies.

“All work and no play…” Encourage them to spend time with you when they reach a natural break in their work. Arrange outings such as picnics, parties and other activities to fit in with their assignments. Encourage them to take a day off after an assignment has been completed or after writing exams.

If the student in your life is studying full time at home, they need to break from time to time to prevent burnout. Encourage them to have tea out on the patio or relax in the living room for an hour; they will return to their work refreshed and ready to go. Then ensure that they are not interrupted when they go back to their books.

There are sure to be times when the going gets tough and that’s the time when you need to be there for them. Let them talk out their frustrations without criticism and encourage them to go on.

Recent research on student dropout concluded that students who survived the life events [birth, death and everything in between] were those who enjoyed a good support network. This could be from families and friends – or from other students. Many students even find their employer a good source of support.


Read what friends and family have to say:

Jean from Randburg South Africa: “I really enjoyed my husband’s studies. When he took a break we would sit together, often out in the garden, and he would discuss his work with me over a cup of coffee. I felt that I was a part of his studies, and I learned so much more about God and the Bible.”

Wayne from the North West Province:“I am really proud of my dad and I tell everyone that he is a theologian now that he has his degree. I was still at home while he was studying and, while it was a bit frustrating not having him “around” all of the time, I understood that he had to be disciplined (I was doing Matric at the time!) but he always spent time with us during his scheduled breaks.”

Even the most anointed, faith-filled, students sometimes wonder why they ever started the course. Sometimes they just need a break

SATS students can seem to be quite independent and don’t really want to ask for help. Perhaps they feel that they will be judged if they admit to feeling demotivated and wanting to give it all up; after all “aren’t Christian students supposed to be super-spiritual and buoyed up by the Holy Spirit?” It may be difficult to admit to being “only human” after all. It’s at times like these that those closest to them need to come on board with love and understanding to help them regain their perspective.

A good strategy may be to suggest they write what they are experiencing down in a journal. Sometimes this helps to clarify their thinking and the remind them of the reason they originally decided to study.

Sometimes your student just needs to be reminded that their tutor or study adviser is available to help with their difficulties relating to assignments, course materials and study skills. This is part of a tutor’s role and they are always happy to help.

Talking to other students on the course can be very reassuring for students feeling generally overwhelmed; others often have good tips for dealing with specific problems too. Online forum discussions can help them see that many fellow students have very similar difficulties, so even if time is tight it is worthwhile taking part.

Anxieties about administrative matters such as fees, qualifications or arrangements for students with disabilities can also put pressure on study and motivation. If they are undergraduates they can phone Grace Sikhosana on the Help Desk. Grace has worked at SATS for many years and will assist them in a friendly and competent way. Postgraduate students can also phone Leschenne, our postgraduate registrar and long-time staff member. She will happily assist students in the postgraduate programme with all their queries. Each member of the SATS Team is committed to ensuring that our students succeed with their studies, so encourage your student to contact them.

Sometimes circumstances make it too difficult for a student to carry on with a particular course. SATS staff know how painful it is to come to this decision and will help your student with good advice and to sort out the necessary administration. Encourage them to get in touch with whoever they know best – usually their tutor.

Study will always mean changes to your household routines

Your SATS student will need a quiet space for study; perhaps a desk in their bedroom or the dining room table if you don’t have a room to set apart for study. And they will need to be undisturbed so that they can concentrate.

Computer time:

All of our students, even those not on e-learning, need computer time. They need to undertake research on the internet and they need the computer for writing assignments and communicating with SATS. If there is only one PC in the home, you may need to negotiate times for computer use.


Course materials:

Students need a safe place to store all of their course materials. They will have study guides, course notes, set work books, reference books, dictionaries, note pads and administrative paperwork. They will need a bookshelf, cabinet or even some boxes to keep it all safe and at hand.


Finding enough time to study may be difficult, especially for part-time students, but advance planning and sticking to a schedule makes it possible. It might take a while to work out the best balance between study, work, and leisure, but once a schedule has been arrived at, your student needs to stick to it – and you need to help him to do so.


Assignments are often demanding and stressful for students. They have to be submitted according to the assignment timetable. A student will be granted an extension for an assignment or an exam in exceptional circumstances only, therefore adhering to the course timetable is critical.
Assignment scores are usually a substantial part of the final course grade so doing well is important.
Finding enough time to study is difficult for many students, but planning ahead and following a schedule makes it possible. It may take a while to get the right balance between work, family time and study. There will be peaks and troughs in study time – some weeks will be busier than others.


They will need more study time before the exam and this needs to be agreed to in advance.
Give your student support if they feel nervous or insecure and bear with him if he seems impatient or distracted and distant. They may not want to discuss the exam, and that’s all right but let him talk his heart out if he needs to.
Celebrate or give them support when they get the results.



Bear in mind that study and learning are about growth. As they succeed and move forward with their studies they will grow in confidence.
They will probably want to share their new knowledge with their friends and family.

They might gain new perspectives on Scripture and find that their cherished ideas and beliefs are being challenged.

Your student had a purpose for study. Perhaps they felt called to the ministry, wanted to pursue an academic career or simply wished to grow in God. As they progress with their studies this might all change. It can be very stressful, especially to spouses, when their partner suddenly realises that their “self-development course” has opened their eyes to a calling to the ministry. Or they want to give up their sales job and become a lecturer at a seminary.