The Walla Walla University Department of Communications recently announced a new master’s program in media ministry set to debut in the fall of 2015, contingent on student interest.The newly created master’s program will attempt to close the gap between ministry and media. While early Adventists embraced the popular media of the 1800’s to share the gospel, the church of the 21st century has been slow to encourage mastery of digital communication. As the secular world relies heavily on new technologies to communicate, Adventist culture has fallen behind.
The addition of a graduate-level media ministry program at WWU has been in the works since 2013. In February of this year the program received administrative consent to move forward. The first workshop is scheduled to begin in September, but may be postponed if the minimum number of 16 students enrolled is not reached.
In a phone interview, WWU Communications Department Chair David Bullock expressed his desire to attract a wide collection of students to the program. There has been potential interest ranging from Canada to the southern United Sates.
WWU has brought on new faculty member Lynelle Ellis to help teach media ministry students. Ellis recently obtained her Ph.D. in Communications from Regent University, where she analyzed the church’s history of conflict with visual media–along with its current struggle–in her doctoral dissertation. She is joining current WWU professors from the departments of communications and languages, computer science, mathematics, technology, and theology, respectively.
The program takes two years to complete, and is made up of a collection of on-campus workshops and online classes. Students can take classes with titles such as “Foundational Theology,” “The Production Process: Script to Screen,” and “Web Design and Development.” The program is designed to allow students to choose between two concentrations: Media and Cinema, and Web and Interactive Media.
The mission of the media ministry program is “to build God’s kingdom by inspiring creativity, innovation, and excellence in media endeavors; to foster critical thinking and creative methods in presenting Biblical themes to today’s culture in modern language; and to cultivate the development and use of research methods in media and ministry.”
Dr. Bullock expressed his excitement at the possibilities the new master’s program will bring, stating that he hopes the media ministry center will bring students together into a community that could tackle media questions and share innovative ministry ideas.
“We will have here a center for media ministry,” said Dr. Bullock, “which would bring together speakers to give keynote addresses for our students and also create an opportunity for media organizations to use the resources we have to research in the areas of media and ministry.”
This year WWU had several student representatives at the SONscreen Film Festival, hosted by the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists. The festival is one way that the Adventist church has been celebrating young adults who express an interest and display talent in creating film or videos focusing on “social awareness, outreach, and uplifting creative entertainment,” according to the festival’s website. WWU students Erik Edstrom, Jesse Churchill, Michal Hall, Stephen Farr, and Cloud Tsai all contributed to award-winning submissions.
While there has been some buzz about the new degree, the program’s future at this point remains unclear. If sixteen students have not enrolled by the first workshop in September, the program may be halted.
WWU is now accepting students at wwumediaministry.org
Title image: WWU students setting up for filming Pilgrim Series, Episode 1.
Rachel Logan is a writing intern for Spectrum Magazine.