Regional Plan Seeks to Support Theology and Education Majors

Southwestern Union Conference will partner with Southwestern Adventist University.

Coby Federowski, Southwestern Adventist University
Regional Plan Seeks to Support Theology and Education Majors
A group of 22 Southwestern Adventist University theology students pose with their professors, members of the university administration, and the Southwestern Union administration. [Photo: Southwestern Adventist University]

In a bold step toward fostering the next generation of church leaders, the Southwestern Union Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, under the leadership of president Carlos Craig, and in collaboration with Southwestern Adventist University (SWAU), has announced two groundbreaking initiatives to support students following a call to ministry through the study of theology and education. The strategies provide financial incentives, up to US$15,000 per student, in response to the increasing need to recruit and retain teachers and pastors who choose to serve the Adventist Church in the Southwestern Union.

The Southwestern Union established a steering committee led by John Page, Southwestern Union treasurer, that included Craig, Southwestern Union vice president for Church Ministries Tony Anobile, Southwestern Union vice president for Education Carol Campbell, Texas Conference president Elton DeMoraes, Southwest Region Conference president Carlton Byrd, SWAU president Ana Patterson, AdventHealth CFO (Florida Division) Todd Goodman, and First Seventh-day Adventist Church of Tulsa pastor Samson Sembeba.

Together, the group analyzed employment and retention trends for pastors and teachers and created a proposal to improve collaborative recruiting and financial incentives to better support students who major in theology or education at Southwestern Adventist University.

The plan will go into effect in the spring of 2024 and will support theology students through a scholarship program and education graduates through a three-year loan forgiveness incentive.

The Southwestern Union Theology Scholarship

The scholarship program will provide financial support to SWAU students who are majoring in theology and intend to pursue a career in pastoral ministry. Freshmen and sophomores will receive a $1,000 annual scholarship, while juniors and seniors will be awarded $6,500 per year, totaling $15,000. To qualify, students must maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA; demonstrate involvement and service in ministry to a local church, community organization, or the university campus; and submit regular reflection papers on their ministry journey. Scholarships will be awarded beginning spring semester 2024 to current and new students.

The Southwestern Union Teacher-Student Loan Forgiveness Program

After graduating from Southwestern Adventist University, teachers who are hired by the Southwestern Union Conference will receive a $5,000 bonus at the end of each of the first three years of teaching, totaling $15,000. This incentive will be applied directly toward the teacher’s student loan debt. If the teacher does not carry student loan debt, the $5,000 will be paid directly to the employee.

In addition to providing financial assistance, there are plans in place for visits to the Adventist academies in the Southwestern Union territory to inspire future pastors and teachers to listen to God’s call in their lives. In a proactive move, the Southwestern Union Ministerial Association will coordinate yearly campus visits between the presidents of the conferences in the Southwestern Union and the Department of Religion at SWAU to meet with students and foster relationships. Similar collaborations will take place between SWAU’s Department of Education and the Southwestern Union Education department.

SWAU president Ana Patterson said, “It was a privilege to be a part of the steering committee and witness the commitment of my colleagues to support future pastors and teachers in a tangible way. Our students are eager to pursue their education and live out their faith through a life of service. These initiatives are not only financial support but a vote of confidence from the union and conferences.”

Craig agreed. “Investing in our students at Southwestern Adventist University is investing in the future of the Seventh-day Adventist Church,” he said. “We’re honored and blessed to be able to provide financial support and incentives for students who are pursuing careers that will further the gospel in our territory. We value their commitment as they answer God’s call to serve His people and impact His kingdom. We are grateful for the work of the steering committee and for the gift from the Rex Callicott estate that, along with funds from the Southwestern Union, has allowed us to pursue these initiatives.”

These initiatives underscore the Southwestern Union’s commitment to nurturing the next generation of Adventist leaders. As they actively pursue connections with students, they express their excitement to share the blessings entrusted to them.

Southwestern Adventist University is committed to offering high-quality education in a vibrant, faith-based campus community in Keene, Texas. The Southwestern Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists is the administrative headquarters for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Southwest, covering a five-state region, including Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico.

The original version of this story was posted on the Southwestern Adventist University news site.

Coby Federowski, Southwestern Adventist University