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Southwestern church growth institute ministers to thousands in first five years

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–More than 1,000 students, hundreds of ministries and tens of thousands of Christians and non-Christians have benefited from the first five years of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Scarborough Institute for Church Growth, according to Daniel Sanchez, the institute’s director.
“Let’s continue to think creatively … to see how we can as a church growth institute help our seminary be on the cutting edge,” said Sanchez to the Southwestern faculty and staff members who gathered for a Nov. 4 luncheon to celebrate the institute’s fifth anniversary.
The purpose of staying on the cutting edge, Sanchez added, is to better prepare students for ministry, not just develop new programs or duplicate what other schools are doing.
Sanchez shared highlights from the institute’s first five years, updated information on current programs and announced several new ones.
The latest program for the institute is the Nehemiah Project, which is being implemented in conjunction with the North American Mission Board. By providing a church planting professor on campus, the program will further bolster the seminary’s efforts to prepare students in church planting.
“The NAMB has wisely recognized that seminary students are some of the best candidates for church planting,” Sanchez said. The program is expected to begin in summer or fall 1999, he added.
Sanchez said the Scarborough Institute is an excellent example of cooperation among the seminary’s three schools, Southern Baptist agencies like the NAMB, the International Mission Board and LifeWay Christian Resources, state conventions, associations and local churches. He said the Scarborough Institute has provided a way for the seminary and the denomination to begin programs more easily.
“When the question of having a master of divinity in church planting came up, we already had an organization within the institute to do this. The same is true for the mentorship program and many of the other things that we have done,” he said.
The master of divinity in church planting allows students to complete their degree while on the field starting a church. Other degrees initiated by the institute include a doctor of ministry church growth track, a Ph.D. in church growth and a master of divinity in urban studies.
In the next two years, the Scarborough Institute is planning a major conference on worship and a consultation on church growth in the 21st century. Sanchez said the consultation will bring together experts on church growth from the seminary and around the country to discuss how churches need to prepare for ministry in the next century. He said a book will result from the proceedings, making the information available to a larger audience.
The institute will continue to hold smaller, target-group conferences for specific groups of people like those involved in ethnic ministries. Scarborough also has begun church growth studies programs for different ethnic groups, including African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Korean Americans.
As a result of the Korean-American Church Growth Studies Program, Sanchez said, courses in Korean have been taught each year in Korea and more than 50 Korean students have participated in practicums in Russia and China.
“I think we are enriched to have the cultural diversity that we have at the seminary and to see these groups of people serving and reaching many, and targeting specific groups of people in the population of this country and in other parts of the world,” Sanchez said.
He said the programs have just begun and are still in need of financial support.
About 250 trained mentors in six states have participated in the mentorship program, which now involves about 70 students and 50 to 55 churches and other ministries per semester, reported John Allen, director of the three-year-old program.
Sanchez called the mentorship program “the finest” among the six Southern Baptist seminaries.
The Spring Evangelism Practicum, which sends students to small churches to conduct evangelistic services, has resulted in 1,051 professions of faith in the past five years, according to records provided by Spring Practicum coordinator Dan Crawford.
In the past three years, the Summer Praxis has used 50 students to help support or start 26 ministries, according to Ebbie Smith, associate director of the Scarborough Institute.
The Inmate Discipler Fellowship has provided Christian education for more than 40,000 inmates in Texas correctional facilities over the past five years. This year, IDF is partnering with Bill Glass Prison Ministries to provide discipleship training for inmates who respond to Glass’ evangelistic efforts.
One goal is to get more seminary students involved in ministering to inmates, IDF director Mark Hollis said.
Hollis said the ministry assists prison chaplains, pastors and laypeople in ministering to inmates, their families, those who work in law enforcement and the prison system, and victims of crimes. According to Hollis, those being ministered to account for 25 percent of the population of Texas.
In addition to preparing students for ministry, the Scarborough Institute assists churches and associations directly by providing demographic studies for specific communities in the United States. The institute hopes to obtain the software to provide similar information for areas around the world, which should prove especially beneficial to missionaries and others working overseas, Sanchez said.
Smith said that the institute has provided the Baptist General Convention of Texas with research on the growth of Hispanic churches as well as conducted studies for Texas churches and associations.

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  • Matt Sanders