Wayland to take certificate program to Rio Grande valley

November 18, 2010

SAN ANTONIO – Wayland Baptist University is expanding its reach into the Rio Grande Valley of Texas with its Certificate of Christian Ministry program.

The program, overseen by Dr. Lewis Lee at Wayland’s San Antonio campus, will be offered in Harlingen, McAllen and Brownsville as well as Del Rio beginning with the February term. The new offerings are in response to an invitation by one Harlingen organization and a Del Rio church, according to Lee.

“Our expansion was at the invitation of Othel Brand and the board of Valley Baptist Mission Education Center,” Lee said. “It’s very encouraging to see the leadership of Wayland become very supportive of this, and they have taken the position that we can do this, we know how to do it and we believe this is a God thing. God has opened this door and we need to walk through it.”

The valley offerings will mark the first time the CCM program has been offered in Spanish as well as English, a response to the need for Hispanic pastors and lay persons to have full access to the program regardless of their language.

“The need along the border is so great. There are about 150 congregations in the valley and about 90 percent of them are Spanish-speaking,” Lee noted. “There is no formal training for those folks from the Baptist perspective, so we want to offer that.”

Brand, who is a layman from McAllen, echoed Lee’s sentiment and said with the unique needs of the valley that Wayland seemed the perfect fit.

“During our visits, it was very clear that Wayland had the experience we were looking for to create a successful program, particularly in south Texas where we have a majority of Hispanic churches,” said Brand. “We liked the simplistic approach that we felt fit our niche in the valley, with classes offered in English and in Spanish, that could be taken for credit or not. We feel like it is a win-win for anyone looking for the Christian education that Wayland offers.”

Lee said the program has three primary goals for participants. One is to offer study for local church leaders that may not have access to seminary or even undergraduate theology and Bible training. This may include pastors – bivocational or otherwise – or lay leaders within the church who seek traditional study to enhance their preaching, leadership and Bible skills. The CCM program also seeks to provide the same study opportunities for church members and Bible teachers who want to enhance their abilities, teaching skills and knowledge.

The last goal, while indirect, is one of a bigger picture effect that Lee said often occurs when leaders grow more confident in their knowledge and skills.

“We want to create an atmosphere of study and sensitivity so that lay people feel sufficiently prepared so that they might be called of God to start new churches,” Lee said. “One of my philosophies is that we can’t start enough churches if every congregation has to have a pastor with a $50,000 a year salary. This way they can be led by people who are as competent as possible.”

The CCM program is not offered on Wayland’s 13 campuses but at churches and associations where it is needed so that the education is most accessible to those who desire it. For those who desire a deeper commitment, the coursework from the certificate program can be translated into credit toward the Bachelor of Christian Ministry degree (offered by Wayland through any campus or fully online) by passing a single test. Lee said several who are working through the CCM in San Antonio have already decided to continue to the next level. He said he’s also seen several pastors benefit from the classes and recommend their church members to the program.

The certificate program differs from traditional undergraduate education in that participants do the reading before weekly class sessions and come prepared for a facilitated discussion, not a lecture. Classes are limited to 16 participants in order for meaningful discussion to take place involving all students.

“We use a guided study approach for the classes,” Lee said. “The focus is on student learning, not instructor teaching. We lead students to find answers instead of just lecturing them. We also want them to begin to apply the information they learn in the situations where they are.”

The classes are taught by trained facilitators who must be Baptist, possess a master’s degree in the field and attend Lee’s training sessions beforehand. Courses are not tied to a specific textbook but to manuals written by Wayland professors and others with expertise in the specific course topic.

The complete program includes 18 classes, with 15 of those in core coursework covering the Bible, Christian doctrine, preaching and teaching, church history, leadership and administration and personal discipleship. Students choose three courses from a specialization area – with options including pastoral ministry, education ministry, youth ministry or children’s ministry – to complete the program. Tuition is $100 per course, which includes all needed study materials.

Currently Wayland is seeking an area coordinator for the valley as a contact person. Until that time, persons seeking additional information may contact Lee at (210) 826-7595, ext. 241, or Robert Rodriguez with the VBMEC at (956) 423-0632.