Southeastern graduates answer the call to GO through education ministry

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Often the call of the Great Commission brings to mind a pastor preaching and teaching, a missionary taking the gospel to the unreached or maybe a church planter seeking new places where churches are few. How often, though, do people connect the Great Commission with education? 

This spring, several graduates from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary received their Doctorate of Education (Ed.D.), an advanced Southeastern program that shapes and prepares leaders in educational ministry.

The Ed.D. focuses on both the theory and practice of education within churches, schools and university settings, offering concentrations in higher education, K-12 education, denominational leadership and Christian ministry. 

For Southeastern graduate Jennifer Barnett, the Ed.D. program allowed her to build a stronger knowledge of education and theology while continuing to serve her Native American community in Shawnee, Oklahoma.

“[Jennifer] has special skills in mentoring college students, Native American students like herself and students from around the world,” said Ken Coley, director of Ed.D. Studies and professor of Christian education. “She plans to continue to serve in the educational ministry of Native American Baptist churches in Oklahoma.”

Barnett is the minister of education at Indian Nations Baptist Church in Seminole, Oklahoma, where she uses her degrees in theology and education to provide young adults with the opportunities to develop leadership skills and gain ministry experience. She is also the chairman of the board of the Indian Falls Creek Baptist Assembly, which provides family camps with programs for all ages. 

“I wanted to study something that would be useful for my people and the churches I serve in ministry,” said Barnett. “My call to ministry is to serve native peoples and help native believers grow, mature, serve effectively and know how to share the gospel effectively.”

David Tokpah receives his doctorate of educationDavid Tokpah, senior pastor of New Covenant Methodist Church, Hamilton, New Jersey, and chaplain mentor for Vitas Hospice of New Jersey, chose the Ed.D. program because of his desire to contribute to Christian education in his native Liberia. “I plan to help Christian- and church-related higher education institutions in Liberia to analyze their financial sustainability strategies in order to continue providing quality education from a Christian perspective without disruption,” Tokpah said. 

Tokpah’s aim is to work with church leaders and policy makers in Liberia to ensure that Christian institutions can avoid shut down in times of political instability, donor fatigue and delayed tuition payments.

The ultimate goal, Tokpah says is “for these higher education institutions to have complete freedom to design their curricula based on their core values and to have the ability to train men and women who will recognize Jesus Christ as Lord.”

“David Tokpah has sacrificed a great deal to complete his Doctor of Education, traveling from New Jersey to Wake Forest each time he had classes. In addition, he spent eight weeks in his native Liberia to conduct original research—interviews with presidents and other administrators in several of that nation’s Christian universities,” said Coley. “Upon his graduation he and his family will return to Monrovia, Liberia, for a ministry in educational leadership. We are so proud to have participated in David’s preparation for God’s calling.” 

Barnett and Tokpah were both drawn to Southeastern’s Ed.D. program because of the quality of education and connection to ministry. They also had the opportunities to remain in their current ministries as they completed their degrees.

“I received a lot of support and felt very encouraged by the faculty in the Ed.D. program,” Barnett said. “You appreciate the personal care and thought they have for you. Even though I’m not on campus, they did everything they could to help me succeed and graduate.” 

“I … not only want[ed] to attend a school with quality professors, academic rigor and lots of opportunities,” said Tokpah. “I wanted to attend a school with a strict Christian worldview integrated with core courses to help me grow and make disciples for Christ and for the transformation of the world.”

For more information about Southeastern’s Ed.D. program, call 919.761.2490 or email [email protected]

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