Wayland professor receives peer recognition award for ministry guidance 

September 22, 2011

PLAINVIEW – Dr. Gary Manning has been involved in ministry as a profession for more than 40 years. In that time he has held full-time positions as minister of music and youth, minister of education and youth, minister of education, pastor, and all of those were before becoming a full-time professor of religion at Wayland Baptist University, a position he has held since 1982.

Manning holds a bachelor’s degree from Howard Payne University as well as a master’s in religious education and a Ph.D. in counseling from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has taught Sunday school, led retreats and is currently serving as the interim music minister at First Baptist Church in Plainview.

Manning is a man whose psychological profiles show that his rate of change is off the charts. But one thing, at least for the last 30 years, has remained the same: his work and teaching in the field of ministry guidance.

“For years I have taught all these different courses, but this one has remained the same,” he said.

In recognition of his dedication to the field, the Association of Ministry Guidance Professionals honored Dr. Manning this summer with the prestigious Lewis W. Newman Award. The Newman Award is given to an individual in recognition of his or her “outstanding contributions in the field of supervised ministry.”

Manning began working with ministry guidance when he came to Wayland. It was only then that he truly realized one of God’s calls on his life. In the years previous, Manning had served in nearly every ministry capacity and he loved them all. But he was looking for a single area that would interest him more than others.

“I honestly prayed that God would show me one area of ministry to focus on. One thing that I could really go deep with; and that I would become proficient in this one thing,” Manning said.

With his vast experience and a newly acquired Ph.D. in counseling, Manning found his way to Wayland where he was given the charge as Director of In-Service Guidance, an area of study he was unfamiliar with at the time.

“’What is that,’ I said,” Manning explained. “They told me I would be helping students in a practical way who are going into youth ministry, the pastorate, education, music and counseling. Then it hit me. That is why I liked it all and that is why God didn’t call me to do one thing. He called me to use everything that I have for His glory.”

Manning said ministry guidance developed in the 1950s when Lewis Newman met with other representatives from Baptist universities and decided that ministerial students should have practical application and experience to go along with their education.

“I tell my classes you are not going to be fired because you can’t spell Melchizedek,” Manning said. “You are not going to be fired because you spilled the Lord’s Supper juice on the carpet. You are going to be fired if you can’t relate to people.”

Ministry guidance is designed to place ministerial students with mentors in order to gain experience in their chosen field prior to graduation.

“Every class has a lot of cognitive stuff,” Manning said. “But even in the classes where you talk about what you do, you are not doing it for the most part. In this class, you go out and follow someone and do what they do.”

The Newman Award has been given out since the mid 1990s, but it is not an annual award. Only when the group feels someone truly deserve the recognition is the award granted. Recipients are those who have made significant contributions to the field. Manning was recognized not only for his work in the field, but also for his revisions of A Search for Authentic Christianity, originally written by Dr. Nat Tracy, one of Manning’s influential college professors.

While Manning’s rate-of-change level may be high, he says that manifests itself in his approach to his classes, but not when it comes to ministry guidance. This class has remained the same, and he has enjoyed every minute of it.

“When I got here, I said, ‘Oh God, You’re so smart!’” Manning said. “It has been a real joy.”