Sharing a physical location with the Baylor University campus allows George W. Truett Theological Seminary to partner with and minister to the broader University in ways that many seminaries located off campus or not linked to an undergraduate institution are unable to. Perhaps one of the most meaningful opportunities to arise from this partnership is the ministering to Baylor undergraduates by seminary students. Truett students are able to take the ministry skills and theological knowledge they develop in seminary and share their faith with the Baylor campus.
Through the resident chaplain program – a partnership between Truett Seminary, Baylor Spiritual Life, the Formation Department and Campus Living and Learning – Truett students live in the on-campus residential communities and act as a pastoral presence to the students living there. The resident chaplains are able to connect with undergraduates to form relationships and to serve as spiritual leaders in a manner that can be more difficult to achieve by other residential staff members.
“My resident chaplain, Dan Venzin, was awesome. He always sent us weekly emails encouraging us and letting us know what he had planned for us to come to if we wanted,” said Shelby Scott, a Baylor sophomore who lived in North Russell Hall her freshman year. “He and his wife were very open and would drop everything if I or another student needed help. I sometimes went to his Monday night coffee talks where I just got to talk to them about whatever was on my mind.”
David Stamile, a fourth-year Truett student, has been the resident chaplain of Teal Residential College during all four of his years in seminary. Stamile actually worked as the residence hall director of Penland Hall at Baylor before deciding to attend Truett; he went from supervising resident chaplains to becoming one.
“I knew that campus ministry was what I wanted to do because of my work with college students and my work with resident chaplains as a hall director,” Stamile said. “I think and hope that students feel heard and feel cared for in a way that I didn’t do as a hall director because I didn’t have the spiritual training that I’ve received from Truett and from Spiritual Life.”
In addition to the resident chaplain program, Truett’s sports chaplaincy/ministry program allows seminary students to work with and minister to Baylor students through internships offered by Baylor Athletics. Truett interns organize events and lead small groups and Bible studies for the soccer, softball, football and track and field teams, providing them with valuable experience and investing in the spiritual health and well-being of Baylor athletes.
“Every day I get to be face to face with the girls on the team. I’m able to grow in relationships with them and love them,” said Hanna Gilmore, a current Truett student, former Baylor student-athlete and manager for the Baylor women’s soccer team. “Truett does such a great job letting grad students pour into Baylor undergraduates. It’s a testament to Baylor to let this discipleship flourish in athletics.”
Kennedy Brown is a member of the Baylor women’s soccer team and meets with Gilmore – or “Gilly” as the girls on the team call her – every Wednesday at a local juice bar to catch up and discuss the topics that don’t usually come up around the soccer office.
“Meeting with Gilly every week has grown my faith. She and I will talk about how gracious our God is and how He is working in our lives and in others’ lives every single day,” Brown said. “As a student athlete, I can honestly say that I would not be able to get through it without her. When I am freaking out about a practice or my performance, she calms me down, breaks down all the little parts, and she will help me get back to where I need to be. Because of her, I am a better player on and off the field.”
The work resident chaplains and student sports chaplains are engaging in across the Baylor campus are true examples of Truett’s mission - to equip God-called men and women for ministry and mission in and alongside Christ’s Church. As seminary students grow their ministry experience, they are sharing the message of Christ with the members of their community, creating a transformational environment during what can be a stressful time in young students’ lives.
“The motto of Baylor University is Pro Ecclesia, Pro Texana,” said Todd D. Still, Dean of Truett Seminary. “Truett Seminary advances the goal of Pro Ecclesia because we are of, by and for the church. We prepare students, would-be ministers, for gospel ministry and mission in and alongside the church. Further, the church is not of the world; the church is in the world. And so, we feel as though we are able to, by the preparation of ministers, make tangible and real our University’s motto.”
Maxcey Blaylock is a writer for George W. Truett Theological Seminary.