Classroom learning leads students to practical application

December 14, 2011

PLAINVIEW – Religion students at Wayland Baptist University are putting their education to the test. Students in Dr. Clinton Lowin’s Introduction to Baptist Ministry class were challenged to look at Wayland as their church and conduct a needs assessment to determine what, if any, new ministry opportunities might be available. The result was an interest and call to action that has transcended the classroom and is spreading throughout the university community.

Intro to Baptist Ministry is offered to all ministry students and specifically to those who receive the Baptist General Convention of Texas scholarship. Dr. Lowin, who is serving in his first semester as a faculty member in the School of Religion and Philosophy, said the course is designed to introduce students to Baptist history and distinctive of Baptist doctrine. He said the class also discusses the call to ministry and how each student can understand their call. They also look at their specific personality traits and how those traits can assist them in future ministry.

Lowin said part of his educational strategy is to give students practical experience to coincide with theory and knowledge.

“Learning doesn’t happen in a vacuum,” he said. “If we are talking about Kingdom objectives and functioning in the world, it doesn’t have to stop in the classroom.”

To that end, Lowin challenged his class to perform an environmental survey to determine what type of ministry might be needed on the Wayland campus and in the surrounding community. Little did he know the idea would take on a life of its own.

Students focused on the homeless and hungry and quickly determined that a large percentage of the Plainview population fits the criteria. They also discovered that there are Wayland students who can’t afford meals once their meal tickets run out or are not accepted due to a lack of funds.

The group began to formulate a plan for meeting these needs, with the oversight and supervision of Lowin. He quickly pointed out to the students that this project, should they continue with it, will not earn a grade or be used for course credit. This didn’t dissuade the students. In fact, Lowin thinks it increased their motivation.

“Just doing these things doesn’t shut if off at the end of the semester … you’re given a grade and you’re done,” Lowin said. “This surpasses a grade. This is about the Kingdom. Once they got that, it was amazing. It just took off.”

As the semester came to an end, the group still was in high gear. Having formed a guiding coalition, and tapped into a community member who shares their concern for meeting the needs of students, the group hopes to hold another planning meeting at the beginning of the spring semester. From there, they will extend an invitation to the campus community to determine the amount of interest in their ministry proposal. The group will continue to gather resources and determine the best avenue through which to feed hungry students, as well as hungry members of the community.

Lowin said the group is also tackling the question of offering mercy or social justice; just giving people something to eat, or helping them to break their cycle of need. Either way, Lowin said the group plans to move forward when school resumes in January.

“They are making things happen,” Lowin said. “It is for me to just get out of the way and allow them to do the things they love to do and want to do, which is to change the world.”