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Southwestern helping prepare husband-wife ministry teams

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–With the intent of sending out husband-wife ministry teams, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is providing opportunities for the wives of seminary students to prepare to fulfill their roles as a partner in ministry.
“We are constantly trying to emphasize the fact that the husband and wife are one,” said Bill Marshall, associate director for development at Southwestern’s San Antonio campus. “When a pastor goes into the ministry, it is extremely important that the other half is aware how vital she is — ministry is a team effort. I’ve felt for years that precious pastors are well recognized, but their wives often play a secondary role. Yet they are as important as our pastors and make great contributions.”
“We are concerned for the wife because Southwestern is graduating ministry teams,” added Bill Vinson, director of lay theological studies at the seminary’s Fort Worth campus. “It is important for the wife to have the equipping to be able to stand beside her husband as partner.”
Southwestern puts feet to its concern for the wife’s role in ministry by offering Seminary Studies for Student Wives, a program that provides personal development and academic courses in the fall and spring semesters.
“We believe in ministry teams so much that we have reduced tuition for academic courses to next to nothing — $20 per semester hour,” Vinson said. “Plus, the professors who teach wives in SSSW are the same ones who teach their husbands.”
Wives may earn the Certificate of Education and Ministry, which is awarded upon the completion of six courses, and credits can be applied to the next level of lay studies certificates. Continuing Education Units are awarded per seminar for those not pursuing a certificate. Wives also can enroll in regular seminary classes alongside their husbands for $80 per semester hour or seminary extension classes for $40 per hour.
Eighty-five wives at the Fort Worth campus currently are receiving academic credit through SSSW, and just as many are taking courses for personal equipping, Vinson said.
Southwestern also offers Metochai, a fellowship for student wives that provides fellowship and networking through retreats, conferences and monthly meetings. In January 1998, a Women’s Enrichment Day at the Fort Worth campus drew 400 women from the seminary, Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas met for instruction through large group sessions and workshops. Plans are being discussed to expand SSSW and Metochai ministries to the seminary’s seven off-campus sites.
One off-campus site has already felt the impact of Southwestern’s concern for student wives. The first-ever conference for student/ministers’ wives of the San Antonio campus was held this fall at the Alto Frio Baptist Encampment.
“This time of bonding between women who had not ever been together gave the San Antonio ladies their own identity as a group,” said KayLyn McGowan, Southwestern’s missionary-in-residence from Lebanon, who gave her testimony during the retreat. “Paula Hemphill spoke as a pastor’s wife who has been there. The help she gave wasn’t theory but fleshed out. Her ordinary-ness broke down walls immediately.”
Hemphill, wife of Southwestern President Kenneth S. Hemphill, spoke of tracing God’s hand even through crises, saying, “Sometimes the problems are overwhelming but God provides regardless of your need.” She noted how the challenges of standing alongside a husband who has been pastor, denominational servant leader, teacher and preacher, prepared her for service at Southwestern.
“All the pieces were put together, but at every juncture I had to learn to say ‘Yes,'” she said.
“There are times, especially on the mission field, when you have to keep going back to your original call,” McGowan told the women at the conference. “All the challenges and needs are too great, and all seem worthy. Yet the Lord uses past experiences of early learning to prepare you for whatever ministry he has in store.”
Hemphill credited women who served as her prayer mentors. She also emphasized the importance of the willingness to be open. “Whatever change comes, it demands a choice,” she said. “You’re created for good works. Know where your gifts lie.”
Hemphill said that ministry is supernatural. “My life verses are Hebrews 12:1-3 — Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith,” she said.
Reminding the women of Ephesians 2:10, Hemphill addressed the training needed to be a minister’s wife. “The basic foundation is to know who you are in Christ,” she said. “Just like a work of art, you are original, timely and timeless, creative, skilled and maybe even abstract — your meaning is sometimes not overtly obvious. We are God’s work of art created in Christ Jesus to devote ourselves to the good deeds for which God has designed us. He recreates and reshapes us at his discretion. He always has the best and the beauty of the masterpiece in mind.”
Hemphill also talked about affair-proofing marriages. “I’m convinced this is one of the most helpful issues we can address. As new ministers’ wives you must beware. Prevention is the key,” she said.
Meeting spouse’s needs, including sexual fulfillment, recreational companionship, attractive appearance, admiration and domestic support, is essential to protecting marriages, she said.
“Be intentional with what you need to do to affair-proof your marriage and find time to do it,” she said.
Ending the retreat with a look at worship, Hemphill said the crown of worship has two jewels — praise and thanksgiving. “Praise is loving God for who he is, and it’s an act of obedience. In the Old Testament it involved physical activity — singing, dancing, playing instruments. Thanksgiving is simply offering gratitude.”
She said Satan hates praise because it gives God pleasure, draws people to the gospel, activates holiness and imparts God’s perspective on life circumstances. Through worship, she added, Jesus is immediately available, and no one satisfies like him — not a husband, not a friend.
“This retreat provided a lot of groundwork, rules and affirmation that I wish I’d had a few years ago,” said Karen Collie, whose husband has been in ministry for several years and is now attending seminary. “It helps to know how to be a seminary wife in a glass house. Now I have an outline of what needs to be told to other wives.
“It was good to be with other seminary wives. There is a common bond that you can’t share with your congregation. You don’t often have the luxury as a minister’s wife to share your fears and needs. We formed a bond and now it’s funny being separated,” Collie said.
“I haven’t been to a retreat of any kind where such openness and camaraderie developed immediately,” added Faith McKay, secretary for Southwestern’s San Antonio campus. “Attenders were understanding of the trials and tribulations of being a minister’s wife.”
The conference was free of charge to San Antonio campus student wives. In addition to testimony and instruction the women enjoyed a time of exercise, making crafts and small-group sharing. Camille Simmons, coordinator for ministry missions at the San Antonio Baptist Association, provided special music, including a Saturday afternoon concert.
The next student/minister’s wives conference for the San Antonio campus is scheduled Oct. 8-10, 1999, at the Alto Frio.

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  • Cindy Kerr