There is a skill set new pastors need to be effective in ministry that is hard to teach from a textbook alone. It comes with practical experience. The University of Mobile is giving students the benefit of that experience through the Center for Christian Calling, formerly the School of Christian Studies.
The new name is part of a new initiative to expand the university’s solid foundation of biblical, theological and historical studies with an increased focus on practical, hands-on skills. Experienced, leading pastors in Alabama Baptist churches and across the Southern Baptist Convention, including many University of Mobile graduates, will serve as visiting professors or adjunct instructors for university courses and conferences.
UM President Lonnie Burnett said the university will build on its close ties to local Alabama Baptist churches where UM graduates currently serve as interns or on staff, such as Cottage Hill Baptist, 3Circle Church and Redemption Church. As the university president travels the state to speak at Baptist churches, the initiative will provide the structure to further strengthen relationships by providing interns to meet various ministry needs while giving students more options for mentoring and internships.
Dr. Blake Newsom, senior pastor of Dauphin Way Baptist Church in Mobile, is excited about the added emphasis on practical skills and the part he and other experienced ministry leaders will play in preparing a new generation to lead the church.
“With the shifting of cultural fault lines away from the biblical worldview, we are moving forward as the Church into uncharted waters. Now is the time for strong prepared leaders who are solidly theological as well as boldly missional. I’m excited to be part of this new initiative by the University of Mobile to prepare ministerial leaders,” said Newsom, who will serve as director of the Center’s Christian Ministry program while continuing as senior pastor of Dauphin Way Baptist.
The University of Mobile’s mission as a Christ- centered academic community is to prepare graduates to fulfill their professional calling with a Great Commission mindset. The Center for Christian Calling is key to accomplishing that
mission. “A call to ministry is a call to preparation. The Center for Christian Calling collaborates with other schools and colleges within the university to help prepare each student for his or her life calling as a Kingdom professional,” said Dr. Doug Wilson, dean and director of graduate studies.
It’s a university-wide approach that recognizes spreading the gospel is not the work of ministerial leaders alone. To that end, all undergraduate students are required to take two courses offered through the Center: Introduction to Christian Worldview, and Mission & Message of Jesus. The Center offers elective courses and minors that undergraduates in other majors may choose to supplement their training.
The name change includes a change in structure. Beginning in July 2021 when the changes go into effect, the Center for Christian Calling will be composed of four departments:
- Theology – For students called to a teaching ministry. Program director is Dr. Jay Robertson, assistant professor of Christian Studies and pastor of Crawford Baptist Church in Semmes, Alabama.
- Intercultural Studies – For students called to domestic and international cross-cultural ministry. Program director is Dr. Robert Olsen, assistant professor of Christian Studies.
- Christian Ministry – For students called to pastoral and staff-related church ministry. Program director is Newsom.
- Graduate Studies – For students pursuing master’s and advanced degrees and training in the areas of biblical studies, theological studies and worship leadership (in collaboration with UM’s Alabama School of the Arts). In addition to serving as dean, Wilson is program director for graduate studies.
Adjunct faculty who will take lead roles include:
- UM alumnus Dr. Endel Lee ’05, recently retired Rear Admiral in the United States Navy Chaplaincy Corps. Lee, who also serves on the faculty of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, joins UM as a visiting professor and will spearhead efforts to recruit and prepare reservists, active duty personnel, and veterans for volunteer and vocational ministry.
- Dr. Benjamin Stubblefield, visiting assistant professor and senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Jackson, Alabama. Stubblefield continues his role as New Testament and Greek specialist.
The growing list of adjunct instructors pulls from a variety of areas of Baptist life, including over a dozen pastors, missionaries, association directors and various ministry leaders. They will teach topics ranging from student ministry and church planting to women’s ministry and teaching English as a second language.
President Burnett said the increased focus on practical application will build and strengthen the university’s ties to Alabama Baptist churches.
“There is a need for pastors in Alabama Baptist churches. We want to recruit, train and graduate students to fill that need,” Burnett said. “We are focused on getting our students more prepared for practical ministry, with a hands-on degree that gives them experience in the pulpit and in the local church before they graduate.”
That means providing students more opportunities to preach, teach and minister under the mentorship of experienced ministry leaders, including the hundreds of UM alumni serving in Alabama Baptist churches.
Students will continue to serve on university ministry teams, participate in chapel, and grow personally and professionally through ministry mentorships in semester or summer internships. Additional partnerships are being developed that expand opportunities for students, such as a study abroad collaboration with Nazareth Evangelical College in Israel for semester abroad, internships and mission trips. A partnership with New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary offers the opportunity for advanced standing for seminary-bound students seeking a Master of Divinity. The program changes are both a reflection of the university’s efforts to continually evaluate and improve, and a response to the global pandemic, according to Dr. Todd Greer, vice president for academic affairs.
“If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it is that the church’s service to the world must adapt to the needs of our people. This change to the Center for Christian Calling allows us to better prepare our students to minister to the needs of today and tomorrow,” Greer said.
To learn more, visit umobile.edu or call the Center for Christian Calling at 251.442.2406.