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What the future holds: An interview with Jerry Johnson
August 18, 2003
By Staff

Jerry A. Johnson

Four years after the establishment of an accredited baccalaureate program at Boyce College in 1998, the school’s fall semester enrollment has quadrupled. With growth comes change, and Boyce College has gone through a number of adjustments over the last few years. Boyce College dean Jerry A. Johnson sat down with Voice of Boyce reporter Erika Nelson to discuss what changes students can expect for the upcoming school year, how the college will handle its growing population and where Boyce College is headed in the future.

VoB: What changes have taken place at Boyce this semester and what will change this summer?

Johnson: The significant change for the students is the introduction of the majors and minors. This allows students to leave the college with two areas of expertise and will help [students] in terms of being sought after by church and para-church ministries.

We have two staff changes. Jennifer Farris has been promoted from administrative secretary to the dean to administrative assistant to the dean. This will allow her to help the college and myself administratively to coordinate the calendar and other issues. Troy Temple has also been promoted to assistant professor of youth ministry. He is one more person who can relate to the students and mentor them. He will also give more help to the youth ministry program.

We believe we have needs for professors in the areas of theology and preaching. We won’t rush this and hire someone just to get by. We’re carefully looking for new candidates.

VoB: What changes do you anticipate to come with the 2 school year?

Johnson: We have a new dean — myself. Now that I’m finished with my degree I can devote 100 percent to the school. I’m excited about giving 100 percent and not being divided on my effort. Dr. Mohler will be teaching [a class this fall]. I think that this is the first time in the history of the college that he will teach a class. This says a lot about his interest in and devotion to Boyce College. We are also going to highlight missionary work in 2. We will encourage every student to go on a mission trip before they graduate. We want to encourage every professor to go on a mission trip once a year. I am planning on leading a trip in the next year and want for others to do the same.

VoB: Given the way enrollment at Boyce has increased with each fall semester, what effect will the growing student body have on the school as a whole?

Johnson: The more students we have, the more experience our students will have with people in their discipline. More students mean a greater variety of classes, a greater variety of class times ... and that’s good for our students. But, it also brings a challenge to some students who have to become comfortable with larger classes, and it will be a challenge for some to share professors that they have had to themselves in the past.

It is a great net plus to have more students. It means more students to help with chapel, more students for clubs like Berea, and it means the introduction of new clubs like the Boyce Missions Society. [Note: This club is a volunteer, student-led program where Boyce students get involved in local ethnic congregations.] The more students, the more kinds of activity groups we will have.

The calling of our students to ministry and to Boyce College is one we welcome, but we have to be prepared to handle the increased numbers. Moving from the seminary campus or limiting enrollment are the last options we want to consider. We would like to find a way to accommodate the students who come.

VoB: From your perspective, what is the value of preparing students at the undergraduate level for ministry?

Johnson: There are a large number of SBC pastors who will never have a seminary degree. Boyce offers the best of both worlds. Students can be equipped to do ministry at the baccalaureate level, and if they don’t go to seminary, this is their best option.

VoB: What is the value of Boyce to a student who is planning on attending seminary anyway?

Johnson: Our students are able to go to seminary at advanced levels of study. They can focus on electives at seminary rather than introductory classes. If you know you are called to ministry, a college like Boyce is one the best places you can go. If you start at a college like this, you are getting tools all along versus if you went to a secular school.

VoB: How do other seminaries around the country perceive Boyce College? How does the Southern Baptist denomination perceive Boyce College?

Johnson: I think that both Southern Baptist and [other] evangelical schools have a growing appreciation for Boyce College because our students are better prepared for studies than they would be at a liberal arts college, secular school or even a Baptist college. We’re getting children of denominational workers, so word is getting out about the work Boyce College is doing. I don’t think many non-evangelical institutions know about Boyce College. Our size has out-paced our age.

VoB: How will you, as the dean, work with the rest of the Boyce College faculty to maintain and improve the educational and theological standards held at the school?

Johnson: Last year we began an annual curriculum review and revision. We do a process of self-study. We’re re-evaluating what our core curriculum is and how our degree programs are made up. We have built self-study into the administration of the college and look to constantly improve.

VoB: How would you describe Boyce College’s present faculty?

Johnson: I would describe the faculty with the word “excellence.” I believe all of our faculty members are excellent in their disciplines. They are competent and there is a great deal of cooperation among the faculty. This year [in putting together the major/minor program], there was a good deal of give and take and discussion of the programs. Each department coordinator proposed what they thought should be done with their program, and we sharpened one another. We have a very good working relationship.

VoB: more like the “standard” undergraduate school? How will this be beneficial? What are areas that you will work on to keep Boyce different from the standard school? Why is this important?

Johnson: We don’t want to become the traditional university or liberal arts school because our focus is on preparing students for ministry. Our new theme this year is “A Biblical Worldview for a Biblical Witness.” This theme distinguishes us from secular schools, or even traditional Christian liberal arts colleges. Our base is a biblical worldview and we’re stressing theology, biblical studies, languages. ... Liberal arts colleges don’t do that.

We try to look through every discipline with a biblical perspective and to bring a Christian worldview to every area [of study]. We look to God for a purpose of ministry and for a biblical witness that we would be faithful to teach and preach the Gospel to a needy world.

VoB: What aspect of Boyce College do you feel needs the most work? What aspect of Boyce College are you most proud of?

Johnson: What needs work is the quality and quantity. Qualitatively, we must stay with the commitment to biblical authority and to a biblical witness. That is the one thing that every Christian college is tempted to abandon. Quantitatively, the quest for growth is one that presents an exciting new chapter for Boyce College. We are growing at 20 percent per year and we must be prepared ahead of time for each new stage of growth.

I am most proud of our students. Many have come here without the blessing of friends and family who might encourage them to come to a Bible college. Many have turned down scholarships from Baptist colleges. Most of our students work part or full time. They make a sacrifice to come here. Our graduates are going out to be pastors, youth pastors, and missionaries.... That is thrilling to me.


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