Wayland to recognize support of area churches

Much like a building's support rests on its foundation, the health and well-being of a university rests on those who laid the first stones - whether literally or figuratively.

In the case of Wayland Baptist University, that foundation came from West Texas churches who saw the need for Christian higher education and made the commitment to support a college with a vision to touch the world through learning and faith.

In those early years, churches provided the initial support both financially and otherwise for the now-thriving university to flourish. Now, those churches and others are recognized formally with an annual banquet to show appreciation for their gifts.

More than 80 Cornerstone Churches, as they are called, will be recognized Monday with a banquet on the Wayland campus. According to Micheal Summers, director of church services at WBU, the banquet will feature Wayland's president, Dr. Paul Armes, as keynote speaker, with entertainment and testimony by Miss Wayland 2001 Emily Hogue. As part of an effort to spotlight different campus divisions, the Division of Mathematics and Sciences will be highlighted and visitors will tour the Moody Science Building.

"We started this about four years ago as a way to let churches get to know the campus better, and for us to get to tell the Wayland story again and say 'thank you' formally," Summers said. "Over the years, the number of churches supporting has grown and the ties between Wayland and the churches have been strengthening."

Summers said the designation of Cornerstone Church is given to any congregation who gives funds to the university, whether by designated gifts through the Baptist General Convention of Texas, the Baptist Convention of New Mexico or other entities or by direct gifts to the school. Many give monthly or quarterly and allot a percentage or a set amount to WBU.

Currently, the list of Cornerstone Churches includes several Baptist associations from throughout the region and many churches. Support comes from Wayland's community churches - in Plainview, Hale Center, Floydada, Tulia, Halfway, Lockney and the like - as well as others in the region. There are even some churches from New Mexico, Dallas and Oklahoma.

Summers said the objective of the Cornerstone program is to honor those churches that support Wayland, to increase communication between the university and churches, to facilitate ministry opportunities for students and employees to minister to churches and to inform churches of resources available at WBU. Churches involved receive a regular newsletter detailing Wayland's progress in meeting its various missions, receive a certificate of appreciation, and are invited to attend the annual banquet. Also, full-time students who are members of those churches are eligible to receive a $250 grant toward their first term at Wayland.

The benefits to the school are numerous. Besides the obvious financial support that helps the university in operations and with scholarships to students - more than $100,000 annually is received from Cornerstone Churches - the relationships are more valuable.

"Wayland was created by churches, founded by churches, and they continue to be our No. 1 base not only for encouragement but also for student recommendations, donor referrals and financial giving," Summers said. "It is vital for us to continue to support churches in their commitment to missions beyond the church walls and the mission field of Christian higher education."

He added that though individual churches may not give extravagantly, the increased number of churches supporting Wayland has opened the doors to foundations that recognize the value of a strong support base.

"There are Baptists and non-Baptists on the list, which reflects our student population. We're not just a school for Baptists but a Christian school for all people," Summers added. "We try to help all churches regardless of their denomination."

Wayland currently also has 24 Cultivating Churches that donate money in the form of scholarships to specific students.