Published Aug 15, 2023
For some time, California Baptist University’s Dr. Chris Morgan and Dr. Joe Slunaker have been dreaming with Clovis Hills Community Church’s Shawn Beaty about a partnership to bring a Christian Ministries program to the Central Valley. In the fall of 2024, those dreams may turn into reality. The proposed program aims to provide a hybrid face-to-face cohort in the Fresno/Clovis area, resulting in a full CBU Bachelor’s in Christian Ministries.
Cal Baptist has tentatively approved an associate degree of transfer at Clovis Community College, where students will be able to complete all of their general education requirements, leading to a track toward a Christian Ministries bachelor’s degree from CBU. Upon completion of an associate’s, students can expect 4 semesters of Christian Ministries coursework to earn their bachelor’s.
Dr. Slunaker, Associate Professor of Christian Studies, said, “The majority of our faculty are local church pastors – with a heart and connection for the church. CBU is not deploying. The local church is deploying.” Slunaker went on to convey that the goal of a program of this nature is to provide theological education in the context of the local church. “Many Fresno area residents love CBU, but when they send their young, pastorally-minded to CBU, they never get them back.” He continued, saying that this program aims to bridge quality Christian education with raising up pastors and leaders where they are.
Clovis Hills Community Church has volunteered to be the point church for this hybrid program. Shawn Beaty, lead pastor at Clovis Hills shared excitement over this venture. “Online education is great. It’s great for adults – but if you’re 19, you need a community…. and you’re not going to find it doing online college. But if we can partner with local churches, the larger churches can lay the foundation for community, and the other churches can jump in once it’s built.” He describes his vision for this program as one in which Clovis Hills works with the other churches in town to create a welcoming student life experience. “We don’t want them just coming to Clovis Hills. With the required internships, these students can have a wide array of choices and even go back into their church, pouring back into their local community.”
A 5-hour drive to Riverside puts CBU outside of the commuter student radius, and Slunaker sees a unique opportunity. “We have good relationships with our friends in Fresno and Clovis. As local Southern Baptist pastors, we have been recipients of their generosity, and they love us so dearly. Clovis is geographically in the right place.” A joint effort of this magnitude aptly reflects the refrain spoken by so many Southern Baptists, including Dr. Slunaker: “We can do more for the Kingdom together than we can isolated. Whatever we can do to cooperate under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, we want to take part.”