LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Valerie Hancock cannot imagine Southern Baptist Theological Seminary without a Seminary Wives Institute.
Just three years ago this spring, Hancock and her husband, Scott, were visiting the Louisville, Ky., campus when she learned about the Seminary Wives Institute. It was only in the planning stages then, but was set to begin that fall — the same time her husband was scheduled to begin classes.
“It was like God was telling me that he had something for me to do,” she said.
Three years later, Hancock is part of the first SWI graduating class. Twenty students will receive a Certificate of Ministry May 19 during separate graduation ceremonies for the seminary’s Boyce College. Another eight SWI students have qualified for the Certificate of Ministry but instead have chosen to take more classes to receive the Advanced Certificate. A total of 175 students are in the program.
“It’s been wonderful,” said Hancock, whose husband is working toward a master of divinity degree. “I can’t imagine not having it. I would highly recommend any wife to take it. It gets the wives connected to the seminary.”
The Certificate of Ministry requires the completion of 13 classes — the Advanced Certificate requires 17 – including Baptist beliefs, Old and New Testament survey and the Southern Baptist Convention. Electives include classes on public speaking, marriage, hospitality and women of influence. The majority of classes are held on Thursday nights, and childcare is provided. Professors and their wives serve as teachers.
SWI was the idea of Mary Mohler, wife of seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. She and another faculty wife, Virginia Walker, drew up plans for the program in the spring of 1997 and launched it a mere six months later.
“The success of Seminary Wives Institute has been simply overwhelming,” said Mary Mohler, SWI’s director. “We knew there was a need for a program like this, but had no idea how strong the response would be. SWI has become a recruiting draw for the seminary, as prospective wives visit our classes and learn about our program.”
Hancock said the program has played a key role in her enjoyment of seminary life.
“It wasn’t until [Mohler] introduced Seminary Wives that I felt God had a place here for me,” Hancock said. “Mrs. Mohler bends over backwards to make sure that every wife has the opportunity to participate in it.”
Karen Cheong, whose husband, Robert, is preparing for doctoral studies, said the courses helped her gain a much-needed biblical foundation.
“I didn’t grow up in the Baptist denomination, so when I heard of the required classes — Baptist beliefs, Old and New Testament and SBC I and II — I was really excited, because that would give me a foundation,” she said. “As a minister’s wife, you need to know what you believe and why you believe it. I feel more equipped.”
One husband, Scott Hancock, said he liked the fact that he and his wife learned under some of the same teachers.
“I always came home talking about Dr. [Daniel] Block, and said that he gets up there and lectures with passion,” he said. “She would just shake her head and say, ‘That’s neat.’ Then she had Dr. Block [for a class], and she came home and said, ‘You know what? You’re right.’ There’s a difference there.”
One student, Cindy Augustine, said SWI provided an opportunity she would otherwise not have.
“I think it was been a good opportunity to learn under the professors and the professors’ wives,” she said. “I have a class with Dr. Mohler, I had a class with Dr. [Gregory] Wills. “Those are opportunities that I would not have been able to take advantage of had SWI not been in existence. I can’t take regular seminary classes, because I have a baby at home. Being able to learn under them was very helpful.”
The students and their families will cap the school year with a “Spring Celebration” May 4 — a time when graduates as well as those going into missions will be recognized. It is the only time of the year the entire SWI student body will come together.
“I’m so proud of our 20 graduates,” Mary Mohler said. “They have been with us since the program began three years ago. They’ve worked so hard and learned so much. They have been an inspiration to our faculty as we have gotten to know and love them.
“These ladies are excited about their roles in ministry. They will be such incredible partners in ministry. We hate to seem them go, but will be excited to see how the Lord will use them.”