“I do not think anyone involved in ministry can underestimate the value of seminary education,” said Amy Johnson, director of the BJU Seminary Wives Institute. “However, in a practical sense, the daily help, encouragement and companionship of a godly wife is a significant source of support in her husband’s ministry.”
Through the Seminary Wives Institute, BJU Seminary is revitalizing its endeavor to prepare students’ wives for their roles in ministry. Monthly Monday evening sessions provide these women with one to two hours of teaching and time to develop mentoring relationships.
The Institute just had its first meeting of the semester on Feb. 8. Two more will be on March 8 and April 5.
Right now, in-person sessions are designed for wives, and sometimes fiancées, of current residential students. Institute leadership is considering how distant-student wives could participate in future sessions remotely, Johnson said.
Past Care for Seminary Wives
Before the Institute was founded, these women could attend monthly meetings at a seminary wives’ fellowship. Additionally, for many years Beneth Jones taught a women’s ministry class that seminary wives could participate in. She and her husband Bob Jones III also held free day conferences across the country for pastors and their wives who had graduated from BJU.
Johnson, who attended some of those conferences, said, “I remember thinking, Wow, that they cared for their graduates that went out into ministry. And then she would come and speak to all the pastors’ wives as if she really cared about you and wanted to make sure you were encouraged.”
Over the past few years, BJU Seminary administrators have discussed the need to offer these women more formal training through the Seminary Wives Institute. Toward the end of the summer of 2020, the Seminary’s new dean Dr. Neal Cushman decided to launch the program that fall.
The Purpose and Practicality of Mentorship
In order to prepare wives for their role, the Institute emphasizes mentoring relationships taught in Titus 2:3–5. “It’s very clear,” Johnson said. “Older women are to teach younger women, and it gives really specific topics.”
Having been a pastor’s wife before her husband became the director of Student Care and Discipleship at BJU, Johnson has personally benefited from mentoring. One time in a lesson, she received practical advice from a fellow pastor’s wife on helping her husband fulfill his qualifications listed in 1 Timothy 3. She learned how to support her husband’s hospitality, contentment, reputation and household management.
She also participated in a women’s ministry at her local church that emphasized Bible teaching, application and fellowship. Led by another pastor’s wife and later Johnson herself, the women would study books of the Bible together. “She never wanted to do women’s devotional books or anything like that — it was pure Bible,” Johnson said.
As they read, they would apply the principles and commands of the passages to their own lives. For example, after they read James 2:14–17, which instructs believers to care for each other’s needs, Johnson said they would think about how they could meet someone’s need that week.
But the ministry had a deeper purpose. Older and younger women were intentionally grouped together to encourage mentoring relationships. “It wasn’t just a Bible study,” Johnson said.
The pastor’s wife who led the women’s ministry also mentored Johnson personally. “Though she was super wise and godly, I always appreciated her because she was always very practical and approachable,” Johnson said. When Johnson was a young mother, she expressed her concerns about child rearing. Her mentor reassured her with Bible-based tips and encouraged her not to feel pressured by current fads.
Teaching and Mentorship in Seminary Wives Institute
The Seminary Wives Institute sessions mirror the values of the women’s ministry that influenced Johnson.
Women experienced and gifted in ministry begin each session with 45 minutes of Bible-saturated instruction. Topics include marriage, parenting, womanhood, spiritual disciplines and Spirit-gifted service in local church ministry. “In a seminary class that I am currently taking, I have been reading Warren Wiersbe’s On Becoming a Servant of God,” Johnson said. “I was reminded that methods come and go but biblical principles of ministry never change.”
After the teaching, seminary faculty wives will lead groups in discussion, questions and prayer. In this setting, they can share what they have learned from their years of ministry, marriage and parenting. “I am looking at developing life-on-life relationships with them,” Johnson said. “I am grateful for many of our professors’ wives who, while all busy, have expressed a desire to be involved in Seminary Wives Institute and invest in the lives of our student wives.”
In addition to attending Institute sessions, some seminary wives of full-time students may be eligible to earn a free graduate certificate in Bible Teaching or Biblical Counseling. Said Johnson: “This opportunity might not be the right fit for every wife, but we strongly encourage those who are able to consider this generous offer of formal training.”
To learn more about the history of BJU Seminary, read Origins: BJU Seminary on BJUtoday.