WAXAHACHIE, Texas — The number of Bible and church ministry majors has remained at 45% for the past 30 years at Southwestern Assemblies of God University. Throughout that span, SAGU has been a leading institution in producing AG credentialed ministers and appointed world missionaries.
“We are intentional about going after God in worship, welcoming the operation of spiritual gifts, and prioritizing altar ministry in response to the preaching of the Word,” says SAGU President Kermit S. Bridges.
Bridges says thrice-weekly chapel services, as well as weekly dormitory devotions, play a central role in cultivating a spiritual atmosphere on campus. Full-time residential hall directors in the five campus dormitories are referred to as dorm pastors in view of their role as spiritual leaders. Bridges also notes that classes begin with purposeful prayer for nations.
Regardless of what discipline they are studying, all SAGU students are required to take six three-hour Bible/practical theology courses: church in ministry and mission; Bible study; authentic Christianity; introduction to biblical literature; introduction to theology and apologetics; and Pentecostal doctrine and history.
“An underlying core value is that every believer is a minister,” Bridges says.
Along with that, every student is expected to be a worshipper. Chapels are held on campus Wednesday (missions), Thursday (student-led), and Friday (president-led) mornings. Tuesday night devotionals are conducted in dorms from 9 to 10, sometimes longer. The three dozen resident assistants guide students in learning from the same specific Bible verses.
Meredith Jones heads up SAGU’s worship department and her husband, Nathan P. Jones, also is on staff. Soon after marrying in 2004, the couple spent seven years as AGWM “musicianaries” in England. Using music as a way to build bridges to mostly non-Christian audiences, they performed at fairs, concerts, outdoor festivals, and even pubs. Nathan also managed a coffee shop during that time.
Nathan and Meredith met in a worship class when they attended SAGU. Nathan’s parents, Doyle and Cherie Jones, served as AG World Missions church planters in Central America. Doyle Glynn Jones earlier directed the missions department at SAGU. Meredith’s mom, Donna Townsend, led SAGU’s English department.
Meredith, 41, revamped and broadened the worship arts degree program, which now is specialized for worship leader, media and sound, and creative arts director. Just under 50 students currently are enrolled in worship-related degrees.
The Joneses have assembled five worship teams for chapel services, each with three leaders. Meredith and Nathan hold weekly mentoring meetings with the 15 students, as well as one-on-one feedback consultations.
“Our passion is to help students fall in love with Jesus,” says the laid-back Nathan, 42. “We want to equip a new generation of leaders in worship who aren’t just great musicians.”
Haley Cwiakala graduated from SAGU in 2021 with a music degree. She now is the full-time worship administrator at Oaks Church in Red Oak, Texas. Cwiakala also oversees NextGen worship at the church. She attributes much of her ministry path direction to the Joneses.
“Nathan and Meredith are incredible about investing in students, specifically worship leaders,” says Cwiakala, 22. “I got brought into leadership because they saw something in me.”
Cwiakala says she stepped out of her comfort zone because of thought-provoking individual sessions with Meredith about the nature of worship. Cwiakala says she had opportunities to grow as a worship leader at chapel services on campus but especially on school-sponsored trips to Kansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, and elsewhere in Texas.
Of course not just worship arts majors experience God on campus. For the past couple of years, twice a month, as many as 200 SAGU attendees gather for student-led prayer and worship gatherings known as The Well.
“It’s a space where people come together and pursue God,” Meredith says.
Sometimes students sit in silence for long periods of time in an attempt to hear from God; or they might speak into the lives of others at the event. Healings and freedom from addictions have been hallmarks of the gatherings.
Bridges says the Joneses are uniquely qualified to lead SAGU’s worship arts program, which has earned a reputation for producing Spirit-led worship leaders. Worship team students have opportunities for practical hands-on ministry at district councils, youth retreats, church conferences, and national events. During the summer, teams travel to camps in locales such as Croatia, South Africa, and Mexico.
Meanwhile, SAGU remains committed to teaching future ministers and missionaries. District scholarships are available to church ministry majors to receive at least half off of tuition.
Church leadership major Joaquin Munyan is currently an RA at the university. Although he has helped his parents in ministry in the inner-city of Newark, New Jersey, Munyan says he senses a calling to pastor in a rural area. This summer he will be an intern at Garden City First Assembly in Kansas, with church health and revitalization classes under his belt.
“The majority of Assemblies of God churches are rural, but they can still produce ministers and missionary leaders,” says Munyan, who is a junior despite being only 18. Munyan’s parents, Earl and Tanya Munyan, pastor Central Assembly of God in Newark.
In 2020, SAGU began offering a Master of Theological Studies degree program. In 2014, SAGU started offering a Doctor of Ministry degree. The university also has online School of Ministry partnerships with 33 sites for associate degrees and 11 locations for bachelor’s degrees.
LOWER PHOTO: Meredith Jones leads worship service at SAGU.
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