Seeking to equip students for increased ministry opportunities, Ouachita Baptist University faculty members recently approved three new majors in the university’s Pruet School of Christian Studies.
Two of the majors, Church Media/Production Arts and Christian Media/Communications, are interdisciplinary majors involving Ouachita’s School of Fine Arts and School of Humanities. The third major, Biblical Languages, will provide an academic foundation for students preparing to be biblical teachers, preachers or translators or those interested in pursuing graduate studies in a related field. The three majors will be available beginning in the Fall 2010 semester.
Dr. Stan Poole, vice president for academic affairs, noted that most majors are housed within one of Ouachita’s seven academic schools. With the Church Media/Production Arts and Christian Media/Communications majors including more than one school, “this involved a greater collaboration among the schools.”
The deans of Christian studies, fine arts and humanities began with “conversations about putting together an attractive program for students interested in combining Christian ministry with expertise in communications or production arts,” Poole explained. The Church Media/Production Arts major combines foundational courses in theology, biblical studies and ministry with hands-on study of production arts and media in such areas as stage lighting and sound, graphic design and video production.
The Christian Media/Communications major, which involves a partnership between Christian studies and humanities, includes a double major in Christian Media/Communications and Mass Communications. It is designed to prepare graduates for media-related vocations in Christian organizations, institutions and other ministry settings.
“I was excited to see the level of collaboration” among schools to create the new majors, Poole emphasized. “It allows us to take available resources on campus to meet the needs of students, churches and Christian media.”
Dr. Danny Hays, dean of the Pruet School of Christian Studies, said each of the three majors will meet specific needs that have emerged in various ministry settings.
The Biblical Languages major is an expansion of Ouachita’s current minors in Greek and Hebrew, Hays explained. Combined with a minor in Christian studies, “it allows students to focus on those languages and gain a strong basis in translating and interpreting Scripture for teaching, preaching and translation work.”
Detailing the need for the Church Media/Production major, Hays said, “In the last 15 years, a new vocation has appeared in church ministry – media director. We view them as ministers and want them to be trained theologically. We also want them to have all the technical and artistic training and savvy they need for that particular vocation. It’s a unique combination of training and talent.”
Dr. Scott Holsclaw, dean of the School of Fine Arts, said the impetus behind developing the Church Media/Production Arts degree was “the current trend in ministry and worship for expertise in technology with an understanding of Christian ministry, worship and theology.”
Citing the growing need “to offer students an option for worship ministry that allows for the trends in technology in the worship centers, such as lighting, sound, design, staging, film and video,” Holsclaw added, “More and more high school students are working as volunteers in these churches and are wanting to find a way to combine their passion for ministry and worship with their passion for the arts. This interdisciplinary degree offers students options for exploring the area where they have the most passion such as art, music, theatre, media or film along with Christian ministry.
“As most churches are using more and more technology in worship, this degree allows for the development of a theological basis for how these mediums are used and provides a solid foundation for a thoughtful and well-planned process in producing programs for worship,” Holsclaw said. “It is one thing to use technology. It is another to use it with an eye to how it will undergird the ministry and the worship of our loving, redeeming Savior. That is what we wish to accomplish with this degree.”
Concerning the Christian Media/Communications major, Hays said, “There are people in Christian-related, non-church settings – state conventions and other organizations – involved in public relations, communications and news media. This double major will equip students both theologically and technically to do that type of ministry.”
Dr. Jeff Root, dean of the School of Humanities, credited current and former Ouachita students with sparking interest in a Christian Media/Communications major.
“As often happens, our students led the way,” Root said. “We already had 15 students with a Christian studies and mass communications double major, and many of our graduates were telling us they had found media-related jobs in churches and ministries. When Dr. Hays came to us with the idea that we formalize the relationship and create a unique combination just for these students, we were anxious to work out the details and make it happen.
“Media jobs in churches and ministries have boomed as we have learned to use new communication tools to tell the story of Jesus,” Root added. “Whether media is displayed as part of worship or employed to enhance ministries, this combination of majors gives students some real-world tools to do the work of Christ.
“In mass communications, we teach writing, video production, photography, print design, online media, public relations, journalism and advertising,” Root concluded. “All of those skills and techniques can be used to reach people for Christ. It’s a great combination.”
Emphasizing that the new majors are “vocationally-driven,” Hays said, “One of the strengths of Ouachita is that the different disciplines see education as a cooperative effort and are more than willing to work with each other to craft an interdisciplinary degree. It is an opportunity to draw on the expertise across campus and craft the degree to match the vocation. We feel this will enhance students’ options.”
Ouachita Baptist University, a private Christian liberal arts university in Arkadelphia, has been ranked the No. 1 Baccalaureate College in the South for three years in a row by U.S. News & World Report. With an enrollment of almost 1,500 students from more than 30 states and 50 nations, Ouachita seeks to foster a love of God and a love of learning in a vibrant, Christ-centered learning community.
For more information about Ouachita’s new majors, contact the Chesley and Elizabeth Pruet School of Christian Studies at (870) 245-5599.
By Trennis Henderson, OBU Vice President for Communications