OBU offers faster pathways for MDiv

By Kedrick Nettleton, Faith Editor

For students of the Hobbs College of Theology and Ministry, there’s a new reason to celebrate.

The department, which is headed by Dean Heath Thomas, has instituted partnerships with several seminaries across the country to provide a shorter pathway to a Master of Divinity. The idea allows students to skip past material in their master’s program that they’ve already received on Bison Hill, potentially bypassing 25 percent of their master’s education and saving them about six or seven thousand dollars, depending on the institution they plan on attending. This can turn a 3 to 5 year education into something more manageable for students.

The program at OBU comes at a time in America when the cost of higher education is a hot-topic issue, with many in the country crying out for reform. While much of the discontent revolves around undergraduate education, those pursuing graduate degrees face similar tuition costs. Don Davis, president of The Urban Ministry Institute, as quoted in a 2013 article by the Christian Post, says that the average cost of seminary education amounts to at least 35 thousand for many stu-dents.

“[It’s] out of control,” he said.

And while allowing students to save money is certainly on Dean Thomas’ mind, the main impetus for the idea came from his time working with students as Southeastern Seminary, as director of the seminaries Ph.D. program. Thomas remembers hearing many students complain of redundancy in their education.

“I saw students, even OBU students, coming into Southeastern, saying ‘Gosh, we’ve had a lot of this stuff, and now we have to take it again. We feel like we’re wasting time and money, and there’s no need to do that,’” Thomas said.

What allows a program like this to succeed, in Thomas’ mind, is the extremely high quality of an undergraduate degree from OBU.

“Oklahoma Baptist University has a very good reputation academically,” he said. “What I wanted to do in this program is take the best of the education that we have at OBU and recognize the… level of work done, and provide some very intentional partnerships, where we do a course by course evaluation and formalize it that so that students who come from OBU can essentially step into year two [at a seminary].”

The idea of partnerships between undergraduate universities and seminaries is a fairly new one, but it’s something that’s been in Thomas’ head for years.

“I thought about it a long time ago, when I was working at Southeastern,” he said. “But when I got here, it was a priority.”

That priority has been taking shape for about a year, and the program is currently in effect with two seminaries, with more agreements and partnerships forthcoming.

Thomas says that finding partnerships with willing seminaries hasn’t been difficult, as many are willing to partner with undergraduate entities.

“The biggest hurdle in all of these things is working through your accreditation agencies,” he said.

On a practical level, students looking to get the most out of the seminary partnerships will need to work closely with their advisors and mentors within Hobbs College.

“One of the ways this is going to flow is through our advisement culture,” Thomas said. “We can help shepherd our advisees through and help them think very critically and intentionally about the shape of ministry… What this does, it incentivizes students coming into our school… [They] have a pathway for a diverse educational experience at two different institutions… and it does it in a way that [they’re] not wasting time.”

More partnerships are forthcoming from the program, and Thomas is keen to expand this idea to its furthest potential.

“I want to provide as many outlets… as possible,” he said. “We’re working to try and give the best education and pathways for our students, where they can go where they want to go and do what they want to do, but they’re not breaking the bank or wasting their time. And that’s really important.”

Full information on the program can be found at http://www.okbu.edu/theology

Pace headed for Southeastern next fall

Jonathan Soder, Faith Co-Editor  (Photo by Jonathan Soder/The Bison)

Come fall 2018, associate professor of applied ministry Dr. Scott Pace won’t be found in the northwest corner office of Montgomery Hall anymore. Instead, he will be found teaching at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina.

“I’ll be the associate professor of preaching and pastoral ministry. I’ll be the director of the Hunt Scholars program, and then I’ll be the associate director of the Center for Preaching and Pastoral Ministry,” Pace said. “So three hats if you will.”

Before coming to OBU in December 2009, Pace was a pastor in Florida. Not intending to prepare himself for a professorial position, he obtained his Ph.D. in applied ministry “to be the best-equipped pastor [he] could be.”

However, when OBU contacted Pace about a professorship, he viewed it as a chance to demonstrate good “stewardship” of his ministry.

“I left local church ministry to come here to multiply into local churches on a broader level,” Pace said.

In his time here, he has helped make “great strides” in the development and reformation of OBU’s ministry and missions degrees. Pace has also contributed several volumes to the Hobbs College Library – a collection of short theological digests. But, he said his favorite contribution to OBU has been guiding his students.

“Being able to be here long enough to see students be placed into various roles or ministries and see how God’s using them since they’ve left or graduated, and knowing that I had a piece or a part in that, is the most gratifying and rewarding thing,” Pace said.

One such former student is OBU’s very own director of student ministry, Clay Phillips. As an undergraduate, Phillips spent lots of time with Pace both in and out of class.

“He’s, to me, a perfect example of pastor-theologian,” Phillips said. “As a professor, he pushed me in the classroom but also outside the classroom. It was clear that teaching wasn’t a job, it was a calling, and he viewed it as discipleship.”

Phillips feels that Pace’s mentorship “shaped [him] greatly.” In particular, Phillips said he learned the importance of balancing family and ministry, which Pace continues to demonstrate as he prepares his family to move to North Carolina this summer.

Pace’s two youngest children were born in Oklahoma, and the older two remember little from their time in Florida.

“OBU has been home to our children,” Pace said.

During their time in Oklahoma, Pace and his family have put down roots through sports, school, and the local school board. Moving to Southeastern, for Pace, is an opportunity to show his two older children especially what it looks like to make difficult choices as they follow God and grow in their faith.

Pace said he feels that ultimately, despite the life his family has built in Shawnee, moving to Southeastern is once again an opportunity “for greater kingdom impact.”

He also said, “We’ve got a real sense of God’s leading through a variety of factors – the timing in the life of our family, with the age of our kids, [also] all of our extended family is in South Carolina.”

Pace anticipates that one of the largest differences between OBU and Southeastern will be his relationship with the students. While he will be teaching similar classes, many master’s students are beyond the “formative season of life” which undergraduates at OBU often find themselves experiencing.

“In large part, the students at Southeastern will already be further along in that journey,” Pace said. “They’ve already got established ministries or families. [But] the relationships I’ve been able to build with students – to mentor them, pour into them – has been extremely rewarding and gratifying. That’s what we’ll miss most for sure.”

After finishing up this May, Pace hopes to remain in contact with OBU by teaching master’s classes.“You know, as the saying says, ‘The sun never sets on Bison Hill,’” Pace said. “I’m going to hopefully be part of that. I’ll just be a member of the OBU family serving somewhere else.”