Partnership to Expand Educational Opportunities
The growing School of Urban Missions Bible College & Theological Seminary (SUM) is poised to expand further, thanks to a partnership agreement signed with the Assemblies of God National Black Fellowship, which has nearly 400 member churches.
SUM cohort campuses will be located in various NBF member churches around the country. The live, online, interactive classes are available both daytime and evenings, allowing for students to see both professors and peers. SUM Chancellor George A. Neau started SUM in 1991 in New Orleans while an inner-city pastor in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
“SUM has been ethnically diverse from the beginning,” says Neau, 60. “We’ve always been a city-centered school because the bulk of the nation’s population is in cities.”
In 2007, Neau pioneered the cohort mode, foreseeing interactive online instruction as a way for would-be ministers to achieve affordable education. The school now is based in El Dorado Hills, California, but classes are beamed to 43 cohort sites in 40 states, as well as to 15 foreign locations. In all, 611 students are currently enrolled.
One of the cohort sites is Parklawn Assembly of God in Milwaukee, where NBF President Walter F. Harvey is senior pastor.
“We anticipate SUM will help become the pipeline for the next generation of church leaders and planters in NBF churches,” says Harvey, 59. “The model they have with cohort campuses makes it available, affordable, and accessible to church members.”
While some of the cohorts have live flesh-and-blood faculty who are SUM staff and adjunct professors, the majority of the cohorts are via an online platform. Classroom sites are equipped with video, cameras, and speakers, with students interacting in real time with other students and faculty around the world. Harvey, who says Neau was one of the few white people in the room when NBF formed three decades ago, leads a one-hour SUM chapel service on Tuesdays.
Other NBF churches that have signed on as cohorts include Cornerstone Worship Center International in Hampton, Virginia, pastored by NBF Treasurer Gerard H. Ruff, and New Life Church International in Lima, Ohio, pastored by NBF Vice President Darnell Keith Williams Sr.
Harvey is an aficionado of the street evangelism outreach SUM conducts annually at Mardi Gras in New Orleans, which he has participated in three times.
“It’s amazing to see students pray for salvation, physical healings, and filling of the Holy Spirit,” Harvey says.
SUM students enrolled in cohorts also are involved in hands-on ministry at their local church up to 10 hours per week as an intern, in ministry areas such as worship, children, youth, media, and administration.
“Our primary heart is to reach the inner cities of America, where there is a great need for the gospel to touch the hearts of people,” Harvey says.
All SUM programs are geared to shape ministers, worship leaders, missionaries, and evangelists. SUM offers bachelor’s degrees in worship and music plus theology and ministry. The school also tenders master’s degrees in divinity, Christian leadership, and biblical studies.
The school operates on a trimester program, so students can graduate in three years, with 86 percent of graduates ending up in ministry. Roughly 95 percent of students receive financial aid.
SUM, which is accredited by the Association for Biblical Higher Education and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, also has a partnership agreement with the AG Northern California-Nevada District.
“This is now our go-to school,” says Assistant Superintendent Samuel Huddleston.
PHOTO: Neau and Harvey: George Neau (left) and Walter Harvey have forged an agreement to facilitate the education of SUM students.