Jones finds Southwestern online education helps her serve Louisiana Baptists

Erin Jones1

Traditional on-campus enrollment in seminary is what most people think of when they imagine theological graduate studies, but many students attend graduate school remotely through online access. For Erin Jones, a Pineville, Louisiana, Master of Arts in Christian Education student with a concentration in women’s ministry at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, online education is not only the best way for her to attend seminary, but it is the only way.

Originally from Winnsboro, Louisiana, Jones said she grew up in a “typical Christian home” and attended Temple Baptist Church in Winnsboro. Her parents were involved in the church as her father was a deacon and her mother was the church pianist. This upbringing led to her eventually receiving Jesus as her Lord and Savior.

“I came to know the Lord when I was 11 years old at a revival put on by our church,” Jones recalled. “When I was in fifth grade, I was at a mission jamboree at Temple Baptist Church in Ruston, Louisiana, and I remember being there and feeling the Lord call me to ministry and praying for the Lord to lead me wherever He wanted me to go.”

After graduating high school, Jones earned a general studies degree from the University of Louisiana at Monroe in Monroe, Louisiana. Following her graduation from college, Jones taught in the public schools for four and a half years before feeling another calling on her life.

“When I was in the first semester of my fifth-year teaching, I felt the Lord calling me into full-time ministry,” Jones said. “So, I left the classroom and became the children’s minister at First Baptist Church of Natchitoches, Louisiana. I stayed there for two-and-a-half years.”

Erin Jones, a Master of Arts in Christian education student with a concentration in women’s ministry at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, serves Louisiana Baptists as the children and youth missions education strategist.

Jones has also served as the preschool minister at First Baptist Church of West Monroe, Louisiana, where she met her husband, Derek. While serving there, a job opportunity arose that Jones felt the Lord calling her to accept.

“A position came up at the Louisiana Baptist Convention and my name was brought up there, so I turned in my resume,” Jones said. “This past January, I accepted that job and currently serve as the children and youth mission education strategist, and what is really cool is that I am over the camp that I felt called to ministry at and I get to direct the camp that the Lord reaffirmed my calling.”

With her position at the Louisiana Baptist Convention, Jones runs the M-Jam youth missions event, which was the specific event the Lord used to call her to ministry. In her role, she assists churches in Louisiana by providing children and youth with events that help show a biblical view of missions.

“My favorite way to serve the churches in Louisiana is to meet with leaders one-on-one and see how mission education can best be utilized in their church and in their particular setting,” Jones said. “It brings me great joy to see leaders get excited about teaching their children and youth about mission education because I know that excitement will overflow to those they are teaching.”

Jones transferred from another seminary to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary  because of the options that Southwestern offered for remote students, even before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I really liked the fact that Southwestern offered the option to watch recorded classes so that I could still feel like part of the class and not feel left out,” Jones said. “I’ve never been a full-time student or been able to join live classes, but I am still part of them.”

Through her ministry role with the Louisiana Baptist Convention, Southwestern Seminary student Erin Jones assists the churches across the Bayou State by helping children and youth gain a biblical perspective of missions. She uses the lessons she learns in the courses she takes at the Fort Worth institution in her Master of Arts in Christian Education degree program to make real-time application to serve the churches in Louisiana.

Jones said what she has learned through her classes at Southwestern has benefited her ministry “for the better.”

“There is not a day that goes by that I do not use something I learned from my evangelism and family discipleship class and apply it to my ministry,” Jones said. “When I am preparing to lead a training or speaking engagement, I use what I was taught in exegetical teaching and in my leadership class. I use the skills that I learned in biblical hermeneutics and systematic theology to accurately handle and present the Word of God.”

During Jones’s time at Southwestern, she has been impacted by many professors. Whether through their teaching or their willingness to meet on a Zoom call, Jones enjoys the fact that her professors who are hundreds of miles away are still willing to help her learn the subjects.

“Dr. Ashley Allen and Dr. Terri Stovall have helped me out so much by always being available,” Jones said. “Even though I’m an online student, Dr. Stovall makes sure that we have a face-to-face chat and Dr. Allen always reached out to me. They make sure that they care for me, even as an online student.”

Through her classes, Jones feels that she has learned how to be a better minister of the Gospel, but also how to be a better woman in ministry. She is able to use these concepts in her own ministry through the way the professors encourage her to live her calling.

“God has placed a calling on my life too, so I am to be obedient to the calling that He has for me,” Jones said. “My classes have really empowered me in that way.”

Jones added what she is learning in classes at Southwestern is giving her “courage and the boldness” to remain obedient to the calling God has placed on her heart. She said she wants to help girls going through the camps she leads who have similar callings to her own to have the confidence to follow the Lord’s will.

Jones felt her calling from the Lord in fifth grade and has used every opportunity to pursue that calling. While she is serving the Lord, she also continues to learn more about Him and His work through her time at Southwestern pursuing theological education online.