The Assemblies of God Seminarians Conference was held at Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in Springfield, Missouri, July 9-17, 2009.
Some 22 Assemblies of God students from non-AG seminaries attended the two-week conference, which was sponsored by the Executive Presbytery and The Alliance for Assemblies of God Higher Education. The purpose of the conference was to give them the chance to take courses taught by Pentecostal faculty that may not be available to them in a non-AG seminary and to encourage them to continue to be a part of the Assemblies of God upon their graduation. Students received complimentary tuition, books, and room and board. This unique opportunity not only allowed students to gather with other Assemblies of God seminarians but also with the Fellowship's leadership, which was an experience most seminarians did not anticipate.
"Before I came, I was focused on the classes I would be taking," says Jerelyn Lawson of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. "I wasn't expecting interaction with the leadership."
Carolyn Pappy Kuzhivila of Ashbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, Kentucky, was surprised at the interest the executives had in the seminarians' opinions, "I was pleased to be exposed to AG polity, but I wasn't expecting the leadership to be interested in the seminarians' input about the future of the Assemblies of God."
Beto Carvalho of Fuller Theological Seminary says, "I was encouraged by the Assemblies of God's commitment toward graduate education and how that will positively impact the Fellowship in the coming years."
Another added benefit of the conference was exposure to several Assemblies of God ministries including Hispanic Relations, Chaplaincy, Women's Ministries, Single Adult Ministries and others.
"I was pleased with the intentionality of The Alliance to help us get connected with various ministries because I only expected an emphasis on education," says Jacob Canales of Fuller Theological Seminary.
Lawson was also pleased to get the chance to see where the Assemblies of God is headed with its ministries. "We got a much better overview of what's important to the Assemblies of God."
While the opportunity to meet with other seminarians from non-Assemblies of God seminaries benefitted everyone in attendance, the impact of learning from Assemblies of God professors was powerful.
"I'm certain that if I had not come to this conference, my education would have been subpar," says Isaac Smith of Sioux Falls Seminary in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. "Since I attend a non-AG seminary, I have to try a lot harder to apply what I learned. However, everything I'm learning here is immediately applicable."
One of the drawbacks of going to a seminary that does not have a Pentecostal emphasis is that the professors may lack much needed knowledge to pass on to their students.
"It's not a guarantee that the professors at my seminary will have multiple experiences in ministry," Canales says. "Here the leaders have practical experience."
When Smith found out about the conference, his initial reaction was that the Assemblies of God was desperate to keep him and other seminarians in the Fellowship.
"Despite my original impression, I came because I believe in the Assemblies of God," Smith says. "When I got here, I was pleased to discover that the conference was not an act of desperation. The leadership basically said, ‘We endorse what you are doing. We want to join you in what God is doing in your life and give you the tools you need to succeed.' As a result, I'm enthusiastic again about where the Assemblies of God is going. This conference has been extremely rejuvenating for me."