Thompson Scholars

The Thompson Scholars program brings pastors and other church leaders with an interest in evangelism, to the seminary campus each spring.

This annual intensive study experience focuses on a variety of topics to prepare evangelism leaders for the future. Dr. Ralph Basui Watkins, Peachtree Associate Professor of Evangelism and Church Growth, serves as director.

This program includes not only lifelong learning opportunities, but also courses for basic and advanced degree students. Course work focuses on the church’s evangelistic mission in the rapidly changing context of North America and across the globe.

Who Should Apply

The program is open to clergy serving in congregations and other settings of ministry, Christian educators, lay pastors, judicatory staff, and in some cases other leaders fully involved in the life of the church who have an interest in evangelism in general and the annual topic under consideration.

Preference will be given to applicants who have not participated in previous Thompson Scholar seminars.

Program Structure

The seminar takes place over 3 days, generally Tuesday afternoon – Friday morning. Dr. Watkins and other leaders design a learning experience that draws on the knowledge and expertise of the leaders and participants alike.

Dates and Costs

Thanks to the Thompson Scholars’ endowment, the program fee covers all meals on campus during the seminar and all course materials. The program fee for 2018 is $175. It includes eight meals on campus, refreshments, and all program materials. Guest housing on campus is also available for a reasonable rate and  may be reserved at the time of acceptance and completion of registration.

The program will take place April 24-27, 2018.

Program Topics

The topic for 2018 is “Jazz as a Metaphor for Ministry: The Power of Improvisation.”  

This program is for pastors and other church leaders who are committed to leading and developing agile ministries. The program will explore how jazz as an art form can influence the practice of ministry. Improvisation, which is central to jazz, will be highlighted as way to encourage  creative responses in this time of intense and rapid change.

Designed by a team of leaders steeped in the practices of ministry, visual and performing arts, tradition and entrepreneurial leadership, the seminar seeks to equip participants with a paradigm of how to lead in times of change, using new tools to reach more people with the Good News, while acknowledging the deep roots of tradition. The program will introduce the concept of right brain leadership and encourage creative ways to lead and develop relevant ministry in the contemporary church. We will listen to live music, in the classroom and during an evening out at a local jazz club to experience the music in context.

Seminar leadership:  Ralph Basui Watkins, Peachtree Associate Professor of Evangelism and Church Growth, Columbia Theological Seminary and pastor at The Wheat Street Baptist Church in Atlanta, and Jeffery L. Tribble, Sr., associate professor of ministry at the seminary, presiding elder in the Atlanta District, Georgia Conference, A.M.E. Zion church and musician, will moderate the seminar and present on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Marcus Johnson, jazz keyboardist and CEO of FLO Brands, will lead the seminar on Wednesday, April 25.

Recent topics include:

2017: Evangelism and Social Justice: Re-imagining Evangelism for Such a Time as This

2016: Can They See Your Church? Evangelism in the Digital Age

2015: Spiritual Pioneers: The Call, Risks and Blessings of Church Development

2014: A Different World: Evangelism for the Screenshare Generation

2013: Evangelism: A New Scorecard

2012: Breathing Life into Young Adult Ministry

How to Apply

Click HERE to complete an application for Thompson Scholars 2018, Jazz as a Metaphor for Ministry: The Power of Improvisation. Applications will be accepted through January 26, 2018 and applicants notified in February. Preference will be given to applicants who have not participated in previous Thompson Scholar seminars.


About the Thompson Scholars Program

Thompson Scholars began in 1981 and is generously supported by an endowment in honor of Cecil Thompson, former professor of evangelism at the seminary.

For more information, please email Sarah Erickson, Director of Lifelong Learning, or call 404-687-4526.