Students from Department of Religion Serve in Local Churches

Students from Department of Religion Serve in Local Churches

Brisa Ramirez

Students from the Department of Religion at Southwestern Adventist University are not just completing a degree, they are answering a call to ministry. Through the Pastoral Internship Program, junior and senior year students are given a unique opportunity to work alongside pastors, who serve as mentors, as they apply classroom knowledge to service with local congregations. Christian Tarbox, Jonathan Aguiñaga and Kayla Goodman are three students who have been able to take part in this program. Their experiences are unique, their locations diverse and the knowledge they gain is preparing them for a life of service. 

Christian Tarbox is currently taking part in his first year as a student pastor and is serving at The Joshua Crossroad Fellowship Seventh-day Adventist Church, affectionately known as the “Cowboy Church.” This has been a new and exciting experience for him and has allowed him the opportunity to grow, observe and learn from Terry Darnall, senior pastor.

“I have had several meaningful experiences throughout this year,” shares Tarbox. “As someone who is passionate about community outreach, our socially distanced Southern Gospel Jubilee Concert at the Cleburne Convention Center was a creative way to connect with local residents. I loved seeing how music has such power to bring people to Christ.” 

Tarbox has been able to apply classroom knowledge as he prepares sermons and visits members. Greek and Biblical Conflict Resolution classes have been especially helpful as he conducts research for sermon preparation.

Jonathan Aguiñaga’s pastoral internship has taken him right across the street from campus. He has been serving at the Keene Seventh-day Adventist Church and has enjoyed being able to use this experience to not only serve his peers but also members of the Keene community. Aguiñaga has ministered to middle school and high school age youth through Sabbath school classes. In addition, involvement in the three unique services offered, Daybreak, Elevate and Summit, has allowed him to minister to his peers and engage with the whole church family.

“Serving as a pastoral intern in the church I have attended for the last few years has opened my eyes to see a more complete picture of all this church does for its members and community. Students often just see the tip of the iceberg, but there is so much that this church does to care for each group and individual,” shares Aguiñaga. “This opportunity has given me the tools I need in order to be prepared for having a church of my own.” 

Aguiñaga is grateful to both James Winegardner, senior pastor, and Michael Gibson, pastor for young adults who have empowered him to be creative in ministry and encouraged his involvement. From church services to service projects, Aguiñaga continues to learn and grow as he prepares for his pastoral career.

A half hour north of campus, Kayla Goodman has also taken every opportunity to grow while serving at the 2,500 member Arlington Seventh-day Adventist Church. She has found a great mentor in Allan Martin, teaching pastor for Younger Generation Church. Serving as a student pastor in a church with such a large membership has expanded her understanding of varying backgrounds and beliefs and has strengthened her ability to listen to and support the values of each member.

Goodman has been given a variety of responsibilities, such as managing elements of communication, leading Bible studies and supporting ministry volunteers. She has enjoyed being able to immerse herself in a new church family experience and is especially appreciative of the empowerment she has received while serving at this church. 

In the classroom Goodman has particularly enjoyed Pastoral Ministry class, and her internship at Arlington has allowed her to apply knowledge in practical ways. 
“Ministry has always been about relationships,” shares Goodman. “That is why I initially felt the call to ministry and chose to answer it. My experiences both at SWAU and serving as a pastoral intern are providing me with opportunities to receive mentorship and practice building relationships with others.”

Christian Tarbox, Jonathan Aguiñaga and Kayla Goodman are three examples of students who have been able to gain valuable experience and mentorship within a church setting through the Pastoral Internship Program. The abundance and variety of churches in the Texas Conference, many within a short drive from campus, provide a taste of life in ministry and service to future pastors.

To learn more about how the Department of Religion prepares future ministry leaders, watch the video below. To explore the program, visit 

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