Students find right setting at Pastors Roundtable

March 08, 2018 / by / 1 Comment

By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau

The mission of the College of Theology and Grand Canyon Theological Seminary is to help students find their path into ministry or whatever church-related calling they’re hearing.

What better way to do that than to invite them to hear from people doing those ministries now.

Thus, the Pastors Roundtable was born last fall at Grand Canyon University, and all three sessions have shown that students certainly are hearing a calling to take part in it – every single one has been full.

Wednesday, they were there to hear from four men involved in church planting in the United States – i.e., starting new churches, often in disadvantaged communities.    

That topic was chosen because many students might have heard of church planting but don’t know exactly what it entails.

“There are a couple reasons this is important,” said Dr. Jason Hiles, the College of Theology dean. “Most people going into ministry training are coming out of churches that are larger, more developed, more mature. They were at one time a plant, but they may not be really familiar with church planting.

“In the Valley it is very common. There are a number of church plants. We have a lot of great resources, and it’s a very viable sort of mission – it’s a mission strategy. This gives us a chance to share with students the vision for something that many of them may not even understand and to put them in contact with some networks.”

The guest speakers Wednesday all have considerable experience with church planting:

  • Kirk VanMaanen, Director of Church Planting, Great Commission Collective
  • Monty Patton, Phoenix city coordinator, North American Mission Board
  • Dwayne Pedroza, church planter for Vision Arizona and also a College of Theology adjunct faculty member
  • Ray Meadows, who’s planting a church in Anthem and is a new member of GCU’s online faculty

What was striking about their one-hour discussion was how often they agreed on the basics of church planting – and how important their mission is. Patton pointed out that the number of churches in the Valley isn’t nearly enough to accommodate its growing population, and afterward Hiles noted another reason it can be an attractive option.

“In some established churches, you’re not part of that community and you have to be there 10 years before you feel like an insider. With church plants, there immediately are new relationships that you have access to,” he said.

The previous week, the topic was the Christian character that church leaders need to have within the context of ministry, and in addition to the students it even drew some faculty members from another college. The speakers were:

  • Chris Schutte, Christ Church Anglican, Phoenix
  • Dewayne Hawkins, Life Givers Church, Goodyear
  • Gray Ewing, New Valley Church, Phoenix
  • Michele Pasley, GCU faculty member
  • Nathan Millican, Foothills Baptist Church, Ahwatukee

One of the things that fivesome focused on was the ways that students will need to mature to be in a ministry.

“It was really helpful for the students to be able to think ahead with somebody who’s already in ministry and to listen to them say, ‘Look, if you don’t get this right you’re going to struggle,’” Hiles said. “It was pretty powerful. It was as if they were saying, ‘It’s one thing to understand the gospel. To follow Christ is another thing. Follow Him while others are following you, and you’ve got to get your act together at a different level.”

The session last fall was all about the seminary life – why it can be a good option and what it requires. Hiles said that he and his staff will explore other topics that figure to be of equal interest to students, and the attendance at these midday sessions is a sign that students are eager for more.

“You do that three times, and you think that you may have found a niche,” Hiles said.

Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or


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One Response
  1. Jennifer Coggins-Kraus

    Awesome thanks for sharing your heart on Church Planting . Jennifer Coggins-Kraus May 2012 GCU Alumni

    Apr.16.2018 at 8:41 pm
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