Published on December 20, 2023 by Dakota Rice  
students studying map

The Ministry Training Institute has been offering theological education to pastors, missionaries, church leaders and community members since 1947. Anyone who has a desire to learn more and dig deeper has the opportunity through this extension of Samford University.

Through this program, students are able to obtain a variety of certificates or non-degree diplomas via online or extension courses. Extension classes are offered at more than 40 locations in Alabama, Tennessee, Florida and Alaska. There are a few locations, though, where you may find some unconventional students.

The Ministry Training Institute has recently been introduced to several correctional facilities and are already producing promising results. One class on Psalms at the Aliceville Federal Correctional Facility generated so much interest that there was a waiting list. Last summer, over 40 students also completed a class on Christian Leadership.

Taylor Gurley, pastor of Four Points Baptist Church in Centreville, Alabama, is the instructor at Bibb Correctional Facility. Gurley expressed his gratitude for how the classes have been received this semester. “The inmates are coming in genuinely wanting to know who God is and learn how to read His word through our Biblical Interpretations class,” said Gurley. “It’s been a great experience to see how God is sovereign even behind prison doors.”

Whether online, in-person or behind bars, God is moving through the ministry Training Institute. Kevin Blackwell, executive director, has aided in this program’s growth and success because of his great love for the local church. Blackwell has extensive pastoral and discipleship experience, and it’s evident through his mentorship and leadership over the Ministry Training Institute students and instructors.

When asked what kind of needs the program has, Blackwell mentioned those who may not have the resources to afford tuition. “Financial aid is always a need in our program,” shared Blackwell. “We reach many low-income students and the tuition plus the cost of the book stretches them. We have a dedicated fund for financial aid called the MTI fund and the Kevin Blackwell Endowed Scholarship, which is an endowed fund established in 2022. We need to continue to build the corpus of these funds so that we can continue to offer these educational opportunities to students who have a desire to learn but lack the resources.”

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Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.