Religion Major (B.A.)

Program Summary

The religion major prepares students to succeed in many professions. Our graduates thrive as ministers, scholars, social workers, and preachers. In the 36 hours required for the major, students explore the Bible and Christian theology, as well as the history, sociology, and philosophy of religion. Courses examine not only the Christian tradition in which Samford is rooted, but also the many different religions that shape our world. Our Preministerial Scholars program offers scholarship support, co-curricular discussions, and internships to help nurture students preparing for ministry. Religion majors are eligible to participate in a fast track option for the master’s degree in social work.

I learned to think critically, to read scripture closely and to draw connections between scholarly theory and the everyday life of faith. The faculty invested in me, and other students, in a profound way—naming our gifts, honing our skills and nurturing our sense of calling. The Rev. Meg Lacy, 2011 Minister of Spiritual Formation & Community Ministries, Emerywood Baptist Church, High Point, North Carolina

Students participate in academically rigorous courses, asking challenging questions about faith, scripture, history, the realities of ministry, and modern society. They explore diverse cultures and distant lands, and can even spend a month in Israel performing archaeological research in the ground where Jesus walked. They may also take courses focused on ministry such as preaching and pastoral care, as well as internships that link the the classroom to everyday life. The major is part of the broader bachelor of arts curriculum in Howard College. It can easily be combined with other majors and the general requirements for the B. A. help root students in thinking and engagement at the heart of liberal learning.

Students interested in a career in counseling or social work can take part in the fast track program with Samford’s social work department and complete both a Bachelor’s degree and a Masters in Social Work in five years.  Students should apply for this course as early as possible using the forms on the M.S.W. fast track page.

Not only has the religion department prepared and equipped me for ministry, but it has also created lifelong friendships with other students and professors. The Rev. Josh Waugh, 2012, Associate Worship Pastor at First Baptist Church, Hendersonville, Tennessee

Objectives & Goals

Students will be skilled in interpreting the Bible according to several different approaches. They will be knowledgeable about the religions of the world—their varieties, similarities, and role in history and contemporary affairs. They will be skilled participants in Christian theological traditions, able to contribute to them by persuasive analysis and argument. They will understand how social structures shape religious life and have the opportunity to develop skills in several forms of ministry. Students who are particularly interested in focusing their studies on practical skills for ministry may wish to complete the Religion Major with a Concentration in Leadership and Organizations.

View Curriculum

Is This Program for Me?

The religion major is for anyone who has intellectual curiosity, love of God and neighbor, love of learning, curiosity about faith and human motivation, interest in social systems and institutions, or a desire to think carefully and communicate clearly.

What Makes Us Different?

Students at Go Global Fair

Personal Attention

Students forge personal relationships with professors. Small classes, one-on-one advising, discussion groups, and informal meetings in professors’ offices and homes facilitate in-depth conversations, careful directions, and life-long friendships.

Scholarship and Ministry

Our department is distinctive in offering rigorous courses in both the study of religion and in religious leadership. All professors hold doctoral degrees in their field and many have seminary degrees and serve in local churches and ministries; some pastor Birmingham congregations. Students can, for example, study the religions of Asia, the latest scholarship on the Bible, and how to preach the gospel all in the same semester. Some students focus on the academic study of religion, others on preparing for ministry. All learn to think critically and faithfully about religion.

Joint Programs

The religion major may be easily combined with most other majors in the Howard College of Arts and Sciences. You can also participate in fast-track programs for the Cumberland School of Law and the master of social work degree from the School of Public Health.

Career Preparation

Market Ready

Through internships, directed research, challenging courses, and hands-on advising, Samford religion majors sharpen their skills and knowledge in religious studies and ministry. They have the opportunity to preach weekly through Samford Sunday, learn archaeology by participating in our excavations in Israel, and develop research skills in independent studies. Students graduate prepared to be leaders in today’s complex religious world.

Internships

Our students have had internships in many settings. Here are a few:

Male student listening to lecture

Churches

  • Baptist Church of the Covenant
  • Canterbury United Methodist Church
  • The Church at Brook Hills
  • Mountain Brook Presbyterian Church
  • Shades Mountain Baptist Church
  • Sixteenth Street Baptist Church
  • Mountain Brook Community Church

Non-profit Organizations and Ministries

  • Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice
  • Apologetics Resource Center
  • Campus Outreach
  • Children's Hospital
  • First Priority of Alabama
  • Grace House Ministries
  • Samaritan Counseling Center of Birmingham
  • Sav-A-Life Pregnancy Resource Center
  • Student Life
  • The Eternal Word Television Network
  • The Vineyard, Hoover
  • The WellHouse
  • University Christian Fellowship
  • Woman’s Missionary Union

Accolades, Alumni & Faculty

Awards & Recognition

  • Dean’s Award for Teaching, Dr. Jeffery M. Leonard, 2017.
  • Dean’s Award for Research, Dr. James R. Strange, 2015.
  • Lilly Fellows Program in Humanities and the Arts, Regional Conference Grant for conference “Teaching the Christian Intellectual Tradition: Augustine Across the Curriculum,” Dr. T. Scott McGinnis 2014.
  • George Macon Memorial Award for teaching, Dr. Penny Long Marler, 2013
  • Alpha Iota Epsilon Chapter of Theta Alpha Kappa, the national honor society for religious studies and theology, chartered 2008.
  • Distinguished Book Award, Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, 1998 (to Dr. Penny Long Marler for Being There: Culture and Formation in Two Theological Schools).
Dr. Bains in class

Alumni Careers

  • ministry
  • social work
  • education
  • law
  • business
  • publishing
  • missions
  • history
  • biblical studies
  • evangelism
  • psychology
  • finance

Notable Alumni

  • Shelah H. Acker (1996), director, Refuge and Hope International, Kampala, Uganda
  • Karon O. Bowdre (1977), chief judge, U. S. District Court, Northern District of Alabama
  • Cedric Bridgeforth (1997), lead pastor, Santa Ana United Methodist Church, California, past chairperson of Black Methodists for Church Renewal
  • Sarah Chandler Davidson (2010), clinical therapist, Dekalb Community Service Board, Atlanta, Georgia
  • Jenny Eaton Dyer (1998), executive director, Hope through Healing Hands, Nashville, Tennessee
  • Chad Eggleston (1999), provost and dean of the college, Huntingdon College, Montgomery, Alabama
  • Whit Goodwin (2002), director of student life, Houston Baptist University, Texas
  • Brad Landry (2003), rector. St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and Montessori School, San Antonio, Texas
  • R. G. Lyons (2003), pastor, the Church without Walls, Birmingham, Alabama
  • Tyler Mayfield (2002), A. B. Rhodes Associate Professor of Old Testament, Louisville Seminary, Kentucky
  • R. Albert Mohler, Jr. (1980), president, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky
  • Rob Pacienza (2003), lead pastor, Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
  • April L. Robinson (1993), minister to students, Samford University
  • Chris Thomas (2006), pastor, First Baptist Church of Williams, Alabama
  • Megan E. Zeien (2001), physician, Medical Centers OB/GYN, Guntersville, Alabama
  • Jason Loscuito (1996), college chaplain, Converse College, Spartanburg, South Carolina
  • Nathan Smith (1975), professor of psychiatry and assistant dean of admissions (retired), School of Medicine, University of Alabama at Birmingham

Notable Faculty