Career Air Force man completes degree on road to ministry 

August 24, 2010

CLOVIS, N.M. – It’s not uncommon for career military personnel to pursue their higher education degrees in order to prepare for life as a civilian down the road. But it’s not common that those future career plans include a role in full-time ministry.

Master Sergeant Rodney Barner is an exception. As a flight superintendent in the U.S. Air Force stationed at Cannon Air Force Base in Clovis, N.M., Barner has enjoyed his career in the military and plans to continue until retirement. The Orlando, Fla., native has already logged 20 years with the Air Force and has spent the past eight years at Cannon.

But he’s got a higher calling. And with his education from Wayland Baptist University, Barner will be prepared to follow it. 

Joining the military right out of high school, Barner forewent his education after a short stint that proved to him he really wasn’t ready for college. After he’d been at Cannon for a few years, he met several fellow servicemen who had earned degrees at Wayland. Recalling their rewarding experience, they encouraged Barner to visit James Floyd at Wayland’s Cannon office. He found both the visit and the next few years of encouragement and support refreshing.

“(College was) something I always wanted to do. I found another person who had gone and earned their degree in minimal time, so I decided enough was enough of the procrastination and I wanted to make it happen,” he said, noting that he also wanted to be a good example to the younger generation. “How can I tell children to go to school if I don’t have my stuff together? I felt like it was a contradiction.”

Barner also found that getting back into the classroom wasn’t as tough as he once feared.

“After so long being off a bicycle, you’re intimidated to get back on again. I felt some anxiety that I wouldn’t succeed or had been out too long to be able to solve problems, but I went on with it anyway,” he said. “It was the best thing I could have done. I wasn’t so afraid of how cold the water was, I just jumped in and dealt with it.”

Looking back now, Barner realizes the water was just right for him. He studied business management, a degree that will help him advance with the military and get promotions. It’s also benefitted him personally with leadership skills and problem-solving abilities.

While wrapping up his bachelor’s degree in the spring might seem like an end to Barner’s story, it’s actually just the first chapter. Spurred by his success and enjoyment of learning, Barner has decided to continue his education, this time to follow another personal passion he plans to pursue full-time after he retires from the military: ministry.

A licensed and ordained minister, Barner is an active member in the First Church of God in Christ in Clovis, where he is involved in ministry there as a volunteer with members from the elderly to youth. He’s active in denominational leadership as well and sees the ministry as his next logical career step.

The master’s degree in divinity and theology is also a next logical step for Barner, and he plans to pursue that through Wayland while he’s still in Clovis.

“I was very satisfied with Wayland and the structure they have so I’m content in staying with them,” he said, noting that he’s enjoyed working with Clovis campus Executive Director and Dean Dr. Gary Mitchell, an associate professor of religion.

Barner was recently married to Aundrea, who is working on a master’s degree in order to become an accountant. He will graduate on Friday, August 27 in commencement exercises to be held at Central Baptist Church in Clovis.