This article is by Royce Money, Chancellor of Abilene Christian University. I have not personally had the privilege of meeting Dr. Money but as I was asking around to find out who was the right person to get an update on how God is on the move at ACU the name I heard over and over again was Royce Money. Listen in on the exciting things God is doing at ACU. One of the reasons we want to highlight the ministries we have been highlighting is because you may know someone or a church or an eldership who might benefit from some of these resources and our prayer at Wineskins is that this might be what God uses to get people connected. – Matt Dabbs
Christian colleges offer a unique opportunity for ministry on a large scale that is significantly different from all other non-profit ministries. The most obvious difference is the sheer amount of students that are available resources to staff a wide variety of ministries. In fact, most of the students have chosen a Christian campus, such as Abilene Christian University or one of the other fine Christ-centered institutions, because they are interested in some form of ministry or outreach and expect such opportunities.
Another distinctive resource at Christian universities is a dedicated Christian faculty who have a broad grasp on what it means for believers to be salt and light in a world of darkness. They combine a personal commitment to Christ with specialized training in their academic disciplines. Many see their work at a Christian university as a significant part of their ministry. And they have connections—former students, professionals of various sorts, and at times information about funding for ministries. As an example, ACU’s College of Business Administration has a track for students interested in managing non-profit ministries.
I want to emphasize three particular programs at ACU that exemplify the great amount of good that can be done for the Kingdom from a Christian university campus. The first is the Halbert Institute for Missions. HIM, as we call it, is not really located in the Missions Department; it is designed to give opportunities for all the ACU students to be involved in some sort of missions. It is under the able direction of Dr. Chris Flanders, assisted by Larry Henderson and Dr. Gary Green. One of their purposes is to recruit and train global mission teams, averaging about four teams a year. They are also a great resource for missions to local congregations and to missionaries serving throughout the world.
They are best known on campus for their WorldWide Witness program (WWW). Each year the HIM team recruits 70-80 students to go throughout the world during the summer and serve as interns with experienced missionaries. I am impressed first of all that each student raises his or her own funds to cover expenses during the summer. While we have a Christian foundation that assists those who come up a little short, I am still impressed with the motivation of these students to invest time and energy into their own missions experience. I am also impressed that they come from a wide variety of departments within the university.
Our World Wide Witness program is unique in that students are required to participate in a 3-credit hour, semester-long course that provides the highest level of mission training available. In fact, the WWW program was recently recognized by Standards of Excellence at the MissioNexus OPEN Conference as a certified short-term missions program—the only one of its kind in the fellowship of Churches of Christ. Upon the students’ return, they are thoroughly debriefed, using Dr. Gary Green’s recent book on short-term missions strategy entitled Now What?: Spiritual Discernment for Cultural Encounters.
Recently 72 interns returned from 24 locations throughout the world. In its existence since 2002, 779 student interns have served in the program. Our research shows that 18% of them choose to do mission work full-time when they graduate. The rest of them are forever changed in their global perspective about the Kingdom. Of course, our most widely recognized former WWW interns are Dr. Kent Brantly and his wife, Amber. Both served as interns in the program in 2003.
The second ministry at ACU I will highlight is the Siburt Institute for Church Ministry. Up until 2010, Dr. Charles Siburt served as ACU’s Vice President for Church Relations and practically everyone’s “church doctor,” as we called him. Charlie mentored hundreds of young ministers and was a constant friend to congregational leaders throughout the country. His untimely death two years ago left a large hole in offering assistance to ministers and elders. Dr. Phil Schubert asked me to establish what soon came to be known as the Siburt Institute for Church Ministry.
ElderLink, the long-running and successful weekend workshops for congregational elders, has now been incorporated into the Siburt Institute. Also under the same canopy are a wide array of ministry services: Ministry Transitions with several of our faculty assisting churches and ministers as vacancies occur; an active website, containing a variety of video and written resources for church leaders; Ministers Support Network, a weekend sabbatical retreat for ministry couples needing renewal; eConnections, a series of short, non-credit courses that are practical helps in various aspects of ministry; support and sponsorship of racial unity efforts within Churches of Christ; and hosting special workshops in a variety of locations with experts and noted authors in the ministry field. On and on the list goes.
In September 2014, Dr. Carson Reed assumed the leadership of the Siburt Institute, along with his faculty responsibilities as director of the Doctor of Ministry program at ACU. The Siburt Institute is also ably staffed by Curtis King and Karissa Herchenroeder. Also, Randy Harris, one of our faculty members in ACU’s College of Biblical Studies and the epitome of servant leadership, will play an increasing role in the months and years ahead with the Siburt Institute, focusing particularly on spiritual mentoring of young ministers in Churches of Christ.
Finally, I briefly mention ACU’s variety of undergraduate experiences and graduate programs that are now at CitySquare Ministries, located in the heart of downtown Dallas. Urban experiences abound, with plenty of opportunities for hands-on learning—still the most effective way of “getting it.” Check out ACU@CitySquare at either of these two links. The graduate programs are primarily hybrid ones, with a majority of the work done through distance learning.
In years past, I often reminded the ACU community that we are involved in a Kingdom work. We still are, and we will be for a long time to come.