MILL VALLEY, Calif. (BP)–Courses for seminary students’ wives will begin at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary this fall to better equip them for the multiple demands of serving as a “partner in ministry.”
While the Partners in Ministry Training Certificate program is open to all women, including students, students’ wives, alumnae and local pastors’ wives nearby the Mill Valley, Calif., campus, Shera Melick, the seminary women’s ministry coordinator, said the program is specifically designed with students’ wives in mind.
“The need for this is that a lot of them come to seminary with their husbands, and she works or stays at home with the children while he goes to class and gains confidence in his skills as he earns a degree,” Melick said. “However, she has not had the growth experience.”
Speaking for herself as the wife of former pastor Richard Melick, now Golden Gate’s provost, she said churches often give many responsibilities to pastors’ wives.
“It’s frightening and disconcerting for them,” she said. “So this program hits the areas they will be faced with, like mentoring, public speaking, leading women’s groups and children’s choirs, and giving hospitality. All of these skills you need to have, and no one may tell you how to do them.”
The program consists of 14 courses: Partners in Ministry I and II, basic theology, Old and New Testament, evangelism, marriage and family, lay counseling, relationships, ministry in the church, Baptist life, public speaking, computer basics and deepening your relationship with God. Taught by seminary professors, accomplished practitioners and guest speakers, the courses are offered over a three-year period — the period it usually takes a full-time student to complete a master of divinity degree.
Classes will take place Tuesday nights for eight weeks each, and the seminary’s Child Development Center is providing free child care.
“We want to be very user-friendly,” Melick said. “This is designed for people with busy lives, so there is not a lot of outside work.”
The main goals of the program are not just to equip women in Christian leadership and give them knowledge, but also to promote fellowship.
“We need fellowship to encourage and help one another and support each other,” Melick said. “This will prove very important when they get out to the churches.”
Melick taught Partners in Ministry while she and her husband lived in Dallas, where he was president of Criswell College. But at Golden Gate, while not just modifying the program to church culture in the West, she is hoping to assist the seminary in developing a women’s ministry track in the master of divinity program in the future.
“We will be trying to produce a women’s track for people going into various fields of church and mission work,” she said. “This is for the female students who think this will be part of their future ministries.”
The California Women’s Missionary Union and Women’s Ministries department has helped the new program with start-up funding, while Golden Gate Seminary’s Women’s Ministry Council raised other funds through a special event.
“We need people who are willing to underwrite this on an ongoing basis,” she said. “A lot of people have been waiting for this.”
Cherie Townsend is one of them. Her husband, Brian, pastor of Parkway Baptist Church, Dublin, Calif., graduated just last month, but she plans to come back and take classes as her husband starts working full time.
“Right now, I feel pretty unconfident about being a pastor’s wife,” she said. “I want to know best how to support my husband without just being a bystander. I really want to know how to minister to him more as well as the church, and I’m excited about what is available. I want to take a proactive role in being a pastor’s wife.”
Anne Teagarden, whose husband, Grant, is a second-year master of divinity student, said Partners in Ministry is a good name for the program.
“That’s what we are,” she said. “I think that wives are very much involved in the husbands’ ministries in general. I’m excited about being better equipped to be in ministry with mine.”