By Vivian Roach | Staff Writer
Baylor and Compassion International started their first project in partnership this week with George W. Truett Theological Seminary. A group of eight Guatemalan pastors were provided the seminary’s online certificate program for free and began the course Wednesday.
Baylor and Compassion International announced their partnership last month to collaboratively serve impoverished populations overseas. Compassion International is an organization that partners with churches worldwide to combat child poverty through sponsorships.
David Tate, director of Truett Seminary’s online certificate program, said this part of the multidisciplinary partnership is to provide theological education to pastors in Latin America and hopefully elsewhere in the future.
The certificate program at the seminary school is a non-academic program meant to advance understanding of ministry and personal faith. However, Tate said it has only ever been taught in English, so instead of only translating the program, feedback from the beta testing group of eight will be used to adjust the curriculum to the cultural context.
“The goal has been to listen to them, to then develop a new curriculum that is custom tailored and built for pastors like them in Guatemala and then into the rest of Latin America,” Tate said. “We simply reached out, connected them, provided them the books and got them registered. This is our existing curriculum that’s been in place for four or five years. They’re simply going through that curriculum.”
There will be periodic listening sessions with the pastors throughout the program to get their feedback, Tate said, and then they will make changes accordingly.
Instead of a monetary donation to Compassion International sponsorships, Tate said, this is providing educational opportunities for those churches that partner with Compassion International overseas.
“This isn’t working with the domestic churches that may be sponsoring kids and so forth. This is with the churches in Guatemala initially, that are working alongside of Compassion International as partner churches,” Tate said. “So many times their pastors, their church leaders, don’t have theological education, so this is a way for us to then provide that.”
Dr. Lori Baker, vice provost for faculty development and diversity, said during a trip to Guatemala by administration they asked the country’s leader what they needed most.
“They said we need pastoral education. We don’t have any way to help enrich and support our pastors in the way that we should,’” Baker said.
Baker said the partnership had been talked about for a long time by Dr. Joel Gregory, Truett Seminary endowed chair in preaching and evangelism, alongside others. The aligning faith-based mission of both partners and Baylor’s available resources just made sense for the two to collaborate, she said.
“We have 12 schools and colleges at Baylor that are full of experts in a host of areas, and Compassion is working to address poverty in children, and poverty is a multi-dimensional issue,” Baker said. “If we’re able to come alongside them then we can then engage our 1,200 faculty members and their expertise to think about ways we can work with Compassion to combat child poverty.”
Baker said they started by asking what exactly they can do together. So the aims for the partnership include meeting some of the five strategic initiatives under Illuminate, applied research on human flourishing and Baylor in Latin America.
Baylor’s areas of expertise in data science can also help Compassion analyze and evaluate data collected from children in their programs and those that are not, Baker said as well as initiatives for student opportunities to meet and talk with global leaders involved with Compassion.
“We’re not looking to have explosive growth,” Tate said. “We’re looking to have sustainable growth. We simply want to look at the needs that are present overseas, in particular, in partnership with Compassion, and do our part to meet those needs. So we’re not trying to do something incredible, we’re simply trying to do something faithful.”