Southwestern Seminary launches Women’s Leadership Institute


Contact: James A. Smith Sr. (<>)

By Katie Coleman

FORT WORTH—Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has launched a new Women’s Leadership Institute (WLI), which offers a variety of certificate programs for women serving in any ministry, leadership, or life context—and Illinois Baptists are already partnering with the program.

These certificate programs will equip women in the work to which they are each individually called, according to Terri Stovall, dean of women and professor of women’s ministries. She says the programs are designed with a focus to equip any woman in any context to be “biblically grounded, theologically strengthened, and practically equipped.”

“All believers, including women, should be lifelong learners and lifelong teachers,” Stovall says. “For women, especially, we must be intentional about seeking out those opportunities that work within the various life seasons we find ourselves.”

Due to the availability of flexible programs such as those found within the WLI, Stovall says, “there is really no excuse for a woman not to continue to learn and grow, which benefits the woman, her family, her church, and her community.”

For the student wife or minister’s wife, three certificate programs are available, including one that will meet spouse requirements for service with the International Mission Board. These courses are offered to students in a six-week format and are available in both a residential and asynchronous online setting. Courses are offered at a reduced rate but are not eligible for transfer into a degree program.

Certificate options include the Seminary Study for Student Wives Certificate (12 hours), the Seminary Studies for Student Wives in Missions (16 hours), and the Advanced Seminary Studies for Student Wives Certificate (8 additional hours).

“My hope is that the wives of our students who are studying at Southwestern understand and embrace their own calling to ministry as an individual, but also as an effective partner in ministry alongside their husbands,” Stovall says. “The influence and impact of a minister’s wife cannot be overstated, and I want our ministry wives to be encouraged, confident, and equipped to steward that influence well.”

For the woman serving and leading in her church or other ministry contexts, two certificate programs are available: the Certificate of Ministry Studies (12 hours) and the Advanced Certificate of Ministry Studies (20 hours). Like the programs for student wives, courses are available in a six-week format and are offered in both a residential and an asynchronous online setting.

“Many women have found themselves naturally growing into places of leadership and then, somewhat unexpectedly, feeling the weight of that responsibility,” Stovall says. “My hope for the lay/ministry leader programs is to provide opportunities for women serving the church who are not in a season to enroll in a full degree at Southwestern Seminary but will benefit from a focused course of study that fits within their schedules.”

“Southwestern’s mission,” Stovall explains, “is to biblically educate God-called men and women for ministry, and this is one more avenue that women have to access quality theological education taught by Southwestern’s faculty.”

The Certificate of Ministry Studies, specifically, “is targeted to the lay leader or the ministry staff member who wants to sharpen her iron,” Stovall says. “Through the years, I have talked to state convention women’s leaders, women’s ministers, and others who are looking for theological training in their leadership teams, and this certificate will help meet that need.”

The WLI is also offering two certificate programs for women who may later decide to pursue further education. Courses are offered in both residential and online formats, at a standard course fee, and are fully transferable to other degree programs.

The Leadership Certificate in Women’s Ministry (12 hours) will equip women as leaders in the local church by creating a foundation of biblical training as well as networking opportunities. The Certificate in Women’s Studies (12 hours) is designed for the woman who wants to establish a foundation for biblical theology of women and gender roles, as well as an understanding of contemporary issues.

“At its fundamental level, leadership can be defined as influence,” Stovall says. “From the days of Priscilla, Dorcas, Phoebe, and even Euodia and Syntyche, women have had great influence in the New Testament church. Today is no exception. Women are leading well as Bible teachers, mentors, counselors, ministry leaders, and voices of wisdom.”

The WLI has already partnered with the Illinois Baptist State Association (IBSA) and their online leadership program, Edge, to provide Illinois women the leadership resources, affordable theological education, and networking opportunities found through these certificate programs.

Carmen Halsey, director of leadership development for the IBSA, says she and her team were in search of ways to provide quality and sustainable theological training for women who are leading across the state of Illinois. After connecting with Southwestern Seminary through Terri Stovall, both believed the partnership to be a good fit.

“We realize women are hungry to learn, but seminary is not the fit for all of them,” Halsey says. “Many have degrees already but want the knowledge that can immediately be applied. We also realize that it could be an on-ramp to seminary for others.”

As many Illinois women start taking the online courses this fall 2020 semester, Halsey says the program will provide the necessary tools to strengthen the theological understanding of women and equip them to be more effective leaders.

“Our goal is to enhance the theological training of women leaders in the church to ultimately strengthen the church,” Halsey says. “Immediate application of knowledge empowers them to continue to learn and grow but also intentionally pour into others. This contributes to building a leadership culture within our state.”

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