There's new hope for church and school ministries in our region, thanks to an innovative investment in theology and education majors who choose to attend Walla Walla University. That's the message the North Pacific Union executive committee heard on Nov. 8, 2023 during its regular meeting on the WWU campus.
The NextGen Difference
Two years ago, NPUC and WWU launched the NextGen Scholarship — the first of its kind in the Adventist education system in North America — to develop more pastors and teachers to serve this union in the future. Combining funding from a variety of WWU and NPUC sources to cover full tuition for qualified theology and education majors, the scholarship has proven successful in attracting more students to study in these areas, university representatives reported.
Thanks in part to the NextGen Scholarship, 25 freshmen and sophomores are now studying education at WWU, and the number of WWU freshmen and sophomore theology students jumped from just a handful to 45.
"Our NextGen students are transforming our campus with new life and fresh energy," said Carl Cosaert, WWU School of Theology dean. He added that most theology majors at all academic levels are preaching in area churches or campus gatherings on any given weekend.
During the meeting, three current theology majors shared how God is working in their lives and calling them to pastoral ministry.
Donna, a pastor's daughter who is highly involved in local ministry, had plans to become a doctor. "It's not a thing in my world to be a female theology student or a pastor," she shared. "God has worked in miraculous ways for me — as a woman — to be involved in pastoral ministry and to find female role models."
Jeremias likes two things: public speaking and sports. He dreamed of becoming a sports analyst. Health challenges, including 34 back surgeries, redirected his thoughts toward ministry.
"I am one who is acquainted with grief," he said. "If I can help and encourage one person in their faith, it is a win."
David once went to a leadership seminar in Kirkland, Washington, where he was told by a trainer that he would be a future pastor. David initially tried to study theology online, but online learning wasn't the best option for him. The NextGen Scholarship opened new doors for him.
There were many more stories to hear. In fact, in the same week as executive committee, conference leaders from Oregon, Washington and Montana met with all 55 theology majors. They heard story after story about God's call in the lives of these emerging leaders, including the positive impact of the NextGen Scholarship for many.
Not all theology or education students are NextGen Scholarship recipients, yet the scholarship has sparked new interest in these ministry areas. In fact, the scholarship is so successful that the number of candidates exceeded the available funding, but WWU's financial counselors continue to find ways so students can lean into God's calling and prepare for ministry at WWU.
Theology Meet-And-Greet Photo Gallery
All 55 School of Theology students participated in a meaningful meet-and-greet session with four leaders from three Northwest conferences and one leader from NPUC. This was a great, energizing time of hearing stories of God's call and His purpose in the lives of these primarily Generation Z leaders. This annual event significantly fosters a connection between conference leaders and theology students, proving invaluable as it lays the foundation for future hiring cycles.
More Partnerships in the Works
G. Alexander Bryant, North American Division president, was among the NPUC executive committee attendees who heard these inspiring stories, and he applauded the initiative's success.
"Thank you for your leadership in this area," Bryant told committee members. "We're hearing [across the division] about financial hindrances for theology and education students. We're concerned that there are not enough people in the ministry pipeline. This type of initiative is rewarding and exciting."
The NextGen Scholarship approach, Bryant noted, aligns with the division's three mission emphases: multiply ministry, mentor next-generation leaders and use media to reach people for Christ.
NAD, he announced, will open an Adventist Information Ministry west coast office on WWU's campus to aid in nurturing online Bible study interests for local churches. This office will create 15 student jobs, offering these future leaders even more frontline, hands-on ministry experience.
The NPUC executive committee meeting concluded with a small-group brainstorming session to explore other WWU partnerships that will encourage more students from a variety of academic areas to be involved in local ministry, noting that young people need help, especially financially, to respond to God's call and find a pathway forward.
Additional Executive Committee Highlights
WWU Report: John McVay, WWU president, shared multiple vignettes about how the university campus is thriving and nurturing young leaders through a robust academic program, Center for Humanitarian Engagement service activities, community building and spiritual growth. Enrollment is still marked by the pandemic’s influence, and the university is operating with a conservative budget forecast. Currently, there are 1,357 students advancing their education at WWU.
Finance Report: Tithe year-to-date is up 9.85% to $77,526,715 through September, according to Mark Remboldt, NPUC vice president for finance. Tithe per capita in this union is $691.31. The NPUC is in a good financial position with cash and investments, current ratios, financial indicators and stewardship of funds. NPUC has a clean audit review.
Half of tithes and offerings submitted come through online donations via Adventist Giving. The offering schedule for 2024 includes 27 local church offerings, 12 conference-level offerings, five each General Conference or North American Division level offerings, and three additional offerings for NPUC mission needs.
Church Business: The NPUC executive committee approved Oregon Conference’s commission and ordination request for a pastor and two chaplains. The committee also voted updated guidelines for local conference nominating committees.
NPUC leaders are moving through a vetting process for a new vice president for Hispanic ministries and ministerial director.
Membership Report: To date, NPUC has 102,579 members, 460 churches and 51 companies. Bill McClendon, NPUC vice president for administration, reported the baptism and profession of faith accession rate is up 2.36%. NPUC is part of the North American Division which has 1,234,397 members, 5,719 churches and 910 companies.
The largest member population is people between ages 30 and 59 years (47%), followed by those ages 60+ years (32%), those ages 19 to 29 years (15%), those ages 13 to 18 years (5%), and those ages 0 to 12 years (1%). Membership is not counted officially until a person becomes a baptized member. NAD comprises 5.33% of total world church membership.