A calling requires preparation. Our Christian Studies program focuses on preparing pastors and Bible workers for excellence in ministry through Biblical understanding, personal application, church leadership and administration, and evangelism. Classroom work is balanced by application in mission trips and our student-conducted School of Evangelism, which results in baptisms every year.
The Religion Department provides a Christ-centered and Bible-based religious education that is in line with the global mission and message of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Emphasis is placed in such areas as biblical understanding, personal application, and service to the church. Classes in this major are typically small, which provides ample time for interaction between professor and student. The program also offers the opportunity to add other areas (minors) that best fit the academic and professional goals of the student.
Our students often double-major in a related field and they can pursue graduate work and employment in various field of studies. Many of our graduates are accepted into the Seminary or enter other graduate programs like chaplaincy, counseling, or teaching. Some are hired as Bible teachers in various Adventist educational institutions or dorm deans in Adventist academies. They also become qualified to work as missionaries, colporteur directors, or religion editors in publishing companies.
The department welcomes persons who sense a call to full-time ministry, and who are moved to offer their lives in this avenue to God and humanity. The faculty assists applicants who wish to evaluate and deepen their experience as well as to explore the expanding opportunities for service. The department will not recommend to the ministry any student who has not completed the course of study as outlined or who has a GPA that is less than 2.5, which is the minimum requirement for entrance to the SDA Theological Seminary. It is the student's personal responsibility to plan a course of study that includes all requirements for degree sought.
Completion of the major in Theology meets the guidelines stipulated by the Adventist Church and the minimal requirements for admission to the Seminary and entrance into the ministry.
This program is designed to prepare pastors who are able to integrate theological knowledge with pastoral training for excellence in ministry. Emphasis is placed on such areas as biblical understanding and personal application, church leadership and administration, evangelism, and pastoral service to the church.
The program in pastoral ministry is focused on facilitating the development of the student as a:
Pastor-Teacher and Equipper
This program follows a special two-stage composite sequence, each stage approximately two years in length. During the first stage (freshman and sophomore years), attention is concentrated on fulfilling the requirements of the core curriculum of the University, together with introductory Religion classes. In this first stage, freshman and sophomore students will be invited to participate in a church service, starting in the spring of their freshman year. A ministry in a local church will be assigned to the student. The expected participation is of 02-03 Sabbaths per month in a respective ministry, depending on their agreement with the local pastor.
During the sophomore year, students begin the study of New Testament Greek, and apply for acceptance into the Pastoral Ministry Certification Program. Benefits of membership in the program include eligibility for higher departmental scholarships, an official departmental certificate and participation in the pastoral internship program, and increased likelihood of future employment by a conference. It also grants preferred opportunities for summer ministry opportunities.
The second stage (junior and senior years) provides for completion of requirements for the bachelor of arts degree, including specific professional studies. It is also the period when the student becomes more involved in practical aspects of ministerial training.
One goal of the Religion Department is to prepare students to commence service as pastors. Conference presidents seek graduates from Southwestern Adventist University who will be able to function as pastor-evangelists immediately upon graduation. For this reason, it is required that theology students complete Field Evangelism (RELP 425), preferably during the summer prior to taking Pastoral Ministry (RELP 423, 424). The Field Evangelism course (RELP425) includes participation in a major evangelistic crusade under the mentorship of a seasoned evangelist. This is to be followed by a personal evangelistic effort in a church within the conference where the major crusade was held. Those who have completed both of these programs before graduation are likely to be considered for conference employment ahead of others. The course Field Evangelism (RELP 425) is an integral part of the theology degree. Theology graduates will subsequently seek employment as Pastors in local conferences, pursue careers in chaplaincy, or proceed to the Seminary for in-depth training after field experience (e.g., Associate Pastor with a conference).
Theology students are encouraged to become involved in witnessing and in other spiritual activities throughout their time in college. However, the last two years are particularly focused on ministry as they are required to participate in the Pastoral Internship Program. Those who are accepted in the Pastoral Ministry Certification Program will be assigned to churches mainly within the Dallas-Fort Worth area to gain practical pastoral experience. During this time, students will need to make transportation arrangements to ensure complete participation. This program is coordinated by the Southwestern Adventist University Religion Department in conjunction with the Texas Conference and the Southwest Region Conference.
Another goal of the department is to prepare students to be efficient church administrators and strong supporters/promoters of Adventist Christian Education in their respective congregations. For this reason, they are strongly encouraged to consider taking some of the courses listed as Recommended Cognates in order to be better equipped to minister in these two areas of church life.
Ministry Profile and Progression:
A call to pastoral ministry or any related form of ministry is very personal. The faculty of the Religion Department recognizes that students who come to the department will either have a sense of divine calling or will be currently wrestling with this issue. The choice of ministry implies a high level of spiritual commitment and an exemplary life style.
Continuation in the theology program is at all times contingent on the student maintaining satisfactory academic progress, exemplary social and cultural development, and dedication to the principles of the Christian faith and practice as taught by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Graduates will demonstrate proficiency in the areas of biblical studies, theological studies, historical studies, and practical studies prior to graduation via a Senior Theology Major Exit Exam (administered by the department chair at the end of a student's final semester).
In fulfillment of the requirements for the classes RELP 423 & 424 Pastoral Ministry I, II, senior theology students prepare a paper describing their personal call and philosophy of ministry. Each paper is reviewed by the members of the Religion faculty and followed by a personal exit interview with the Religion faculty. The composite results of this paper and interview constitute the basis for departmental recommendation for both ministerial work and the Theological Seminary. Subsequently, arrangements are made for senior theology majors to be interviewed by conference presidents.
A Biblical Languages Minor is required to complete the Theology Program and for Seminary entrance.
Certificate in Church Ministry
Our Certificate in Church Ministry to prepare better lay leaders for the Seventh-day Adventist Church. It is a unique church ministry program which combines basic theological education with church history and applied ministerial methods and practices. The curriculum of the certificate consists of courses totaling 15 semester hours of college credit. These credits may be transferred to any other accredited college or university and may be applied toward a degree at Southwestern Adventist University. The curriculum is also designed to help church lay leaders increase their knowledge and skills and be better equipped to work in various positions of lay leadership.
The Certificate in Church Ministry does not prepare candidates for full-time employment in pastoral ministry nor does it constitute an alternative theology degree. Anyone choosing full-time ministry as a goal for life must enroll in a four-year BA Theology program. Although the program will be entirely offered on-line, a number of courses can also be taken as traditional classes on the campus of Southwestern Adventist University in the current semester format. The courses in the certificate program are offered in either English or Spanish. The Spanish version, however, is only available on-line.
The Certificate in Church Ministry is open to persons age 25 or older who have served in positions of lay leadership and are officially endorsed by their local congregations or conferences. Applicants must have a high school diploma or its equivalent. Previous college work is not required, but recommended. Applicants must:
Complete an application for admission into the certificate program
Send a non-refundable $25 application fee
Submit three letters of recommendation from a local church pastor, a local church elder, and a third local church leader which officially endorse the applicant
Write a letter of intent stating why the applicant would like to take the college-level certificate in church ministry
Send a current professional resume
Candidates for this certificate must complete all requirements within a five-year period.
Certificates will be awarded to students who complete all course requirements and maintain a minimum 2.0 grade point average. Candidates must submit a Certificate Completion contract to the Records Office. A $25 certificate fee is required at the time the certificate is completed.
Cost of the Certificate
Each course will cost $400 per course. The Certificate in Church Ministry is an accredited program. Local churches and conferences may provide students with scholarships for this certificate. There are no scholarships available from the University. All charges must be covered at the time of registration.
Academic Support Services:
Students taking the certificate program will have access to important academic support services including library and learning resources, information on distance education technology, and the writing center.
Student Support Services:
The Distance Education office will provide certificate students with a full range of student services appropriate to support the program, including admissions, academic advising, registration, course materials, certificate audits, and graduation assistance.
Minor in Biblical Languages
A Biblical Languages Minor is required to complete the Theology Program and for Seminary entrance.
Minor in Religion
The department welcomes persons who sense a call to full-time ministry, and who are moved to offer their lives in this avenue to God and humanity.