One-third of the students attending classes at Southwestern’s Little Rock extension center received scholarships from the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC) for the spring semester. The extension center’s coordinator Tim Deahl says that financial aid, which totaled $4,800, benefits both the students and the state.
“It’s a mutual benefit,” said Deahl, who is also a full-time pastor in addition to his work with the ABSC. “We get people who are trained and who are seeking additional training to serve in our churches. So, our people don’t necessarily have to leave the state to get the training they want and need. The seminary ends up getting students it wouldn’t have otherwise. The state convention gets training and trained personnel that it might not get otherwise. It’s very much a mutually beneficial project for us.”
Dean of the Southwestern Center for Extension Education Deron Biles says a large number of the students attending classes at the Little Rock extension center already serve in church staff positions around Arkansas and in neighboring states. The extension center allows them to expand their bank of biblical knowledge, which they can then immediately translate to their work in the local church.
“We’re trying to connect the academic training that they’re receiving from the seminary with the applied aspect of the local church ministry,” Biles said.
Deahl says the ABSC, which provides the building for the extension center classes as well as rooms for library resources and testing, seeks ways to help and encourage its Arkansan students, both at the extension center and the main campus.
“I tell the students, ‘If you are in danger of not being able to complete a semester strictly based on finances, let me know immediately,’” Deahl says. “We want to know about the needs of our Arkansas students.”
The convention helps meet the students’ needs by providing scholarships, fellowship meals on Mondays at the extension center, and assistance with resources such as books and Bible software, when it can.
Aside from the funding the convention receives from the Cooperative Program, which Deahl noted as having “inestimable value in making seminary training possible,” anonymous donors from Arkansas churches help support the ministry the convention provides to its seminary students.
“Through their generous offerings,” Deahl said, “the people sitting in the pews of our local churches demonstrate their commitment to those whom God is calling to prepare for Christian service and leadership.”
Biles agreed, saying the convention actively searches for ways to provide support and encouragement to students who not only will serve in Arkansas Baptist churches but already do serve there.
“The state convention in Arkansas is aggressively looking for opportunities to support their students and intentionally looking for ways to work with them,” Biles said.
Deahl said he hopes that commitment, both from the seminary and the convention, only continues to grow and glorify the Lord.
“My prayer is that the partnership between the Arkansas Baptist State Convention and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary will continue to contribute immeasurably to Christ's glory, both in the lives of those who give, as well as in the lives of those who receive,” Deahl said.