Southern Seminary program supports wives' studies, too

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--For six nights a week, Carolyn Corder enjoys the wonderful world of motherhood -- complete with little hands pulling on skirts, little feet tiptoeing over the tile and little hearts learning the love of Christ.

Thursday evening is different. For Corder and more than 200 other women at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., it's "Seminary Wives Institute" night -- complete with camaraderie, fun, freedom, but most of all learning.

"Thursday nights refresh me," said Corder, a mother of three, with a fourth on the way. "... It is so refreshing to enter a world of intellectual challenge and companionship."

Now in its fifth year of existence, SWI is a seminary program which offers to student wives classes taught by seminary faculty members and faculty wives. The low-cost courses are designed to educate, equip and encourage God-called ministers' wives for the unique role they will fill.

"Minister's wives are as much 'in the ministry' as their husbands are," said five-year SWI veteran Marcie Davis. "To me, that's what SWI is all about -- learning the things I need to know to minister effectively alongside my husband. I've learned practical things like how to be a good hostess, how to deal with difficult people in the church and how to be a better public speaker.

"On the other hand, I've been challenged academically, studying Scripture and my beliefs and history as a Southern Baptist. I believe this well-rounded educational approach will benefit me in my current and future ministries."

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."

In fact, the success of SWI was recently acknowledged by the Tijeras Foundation -- a foundation that recognizes a Christian organization/program each month for providing light to a dark world.

But for the ladies of SWI, such recognition was not needed in order to convince them of its value.

"As soon as I heard about the program, I knew that I would be crazy to pass it up," said Davis, whose husband Scott serves as director of admissions. "I had watched my husband learn and grow through his seminary classes, and the chance to learn from some of those same professors and their wives seemed like an unbelievable opportunity."

For student Theresa Moore, it is this interaction with and instruction from faculty and faculty wives that makes the experience special and unique.

"They're excited about what they're teaching," Moore said. "And they're excited that the wives want to benefit from it. They voluntarily give their time."

Fellowship and mutual encouragement is also an important part of SWI -- though it's not the chief goal. Through SWI Care Groups -- groups of SWI students who gather monthly for prayer and fellowship -- and through the weekly classes and occasional socials, wives gain needed companionship and accountability.

"It is amazing the friendships that can be built in only two hours a week," student Karen Allen said. "At times it can seem like we are all back in high school with the leaders trying to get us quiet so that we can begin. On the other hand, it is such an uplifting and encouraging time when we can share our prayer requests with one another."

An additional advantage of SWI is the cost. Classes are designed to fit into a seminary family's budget. Each six-week course costs $10. Textbooks are inexpensive, and childcare is $1 per child per week. In five years, the fees have never increased, Mohler said.

So far, more than 40 wives have graduated with SWI's Certificate of Ministry, and 27 students are scheduled to walk the stage in May. The certificate requires the completion of 13 classes -- including Baptist beliefs, Old and New Testament survey and the Southern Baptist Convention. An advanced certificate is also offered, which requires 17 classes.

Electives include courses on public speaking, marriage, hospitality, fitness and inductive Bible study. Courses are offered during four six-week terms on the seminary campus during the regular semesters. The majority of classes are held on Thursday nights, but a Wednesday morning class is also offered. In addition, due to the increasing interest from extension student wives, a January term class -- the "Essentials" class -- has now been added.

"Women really need to take advantage of this program while they're here," Mohler said. "It's easy to say, 'Well, we're just married and I've got a new job' or 'We've just had our first baby.' There's never going to be a perfect time. But while you are on this campus, you really need to prayerfully consider being in this program."

(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at Photo title: SWI.

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