In February of 1997, Mary Mohler met with a few wives of Southern Seminary faculty members to share a burden and a vision that wives of seminary students needed to be encouraged and trained, and in the fall of that year, Seminary Wives Institute (SWI) was born.
Many student wives had requested training to help them prepare for the important role they play in supporting their husbands’ ministries in the local church, the mission field, and in other ministry venues. Mary Mohler and the group of faculty wives assembled a curriculum and began classes they hoped would meet the needs.
“We started SWI as a program to equip student wives here on our campus for preparation alongside their husbands,” Mohler said. “We believe when God calls a man to ministry, he also calls his wife to a very important role, and the time when they are together here at seminary is the perfect time for her to receive training at the same time he does.”
Tanya York, a longtime SWI faculty member and wife of Theology School Dean Hershael York, attended that initial meeting and has watched SWI grow into one of the seminary’s most vital and cherished ministries.
“Mary shared with us a passion, a burden, and a vision,” York said. “Mary’s passion very quickly spilled over to a willing group of participants from within Southern’s faculty wives as they joined her in investing in educating and equipping student wives in the service of the kingdom.
“God has used this incredible and fruitful ministry to equip, fuel, and inspire hearts, homes, churches, ministries and lives in general.”
Hershael York, who teaches theology at SWI, said male students often stop and extol the incredible impact and encouragement SWI is having on their wives.
“Our admiration for Mary is off the charts,” Hershael York said. “We owe her so much. She has had such a profound impact. It’s a wonderful thing to see the way her vision has affected these families and shaped them forever.” That first class 25 years ago numbered 136 students; thousands of wives have taken classes in the years since, and many have received certificates for completing the program. SWI has now trained an entire generation of ministry wives. “I was the mother of preschoolers then and now I’m the grandmother of preschoolers, so truly an entire generation has elapsed,” Mohler said.
“We started this program due to the demand on campus here from student wives who were in a very friendly way asking for instruction that was tailored to them as they prepared for ministry alongside their husbands. The Lord has blessed it beyond any expectation we ever had, and he continues to do so.”
Tanya York said Mary Mohler’s ministry through SWI extends far beyond merely a list of names on class rolls. For SWI’s founder, each student is a dear sister in the Lord.
“Mary knows these students by name, she knows their churches, she knows their children, she knows their ministry, she knows their pets, she knows their favorite beverages,” Tanya York said. “She truly loves them, and they are forever stored in her heart and in her mind.”
SWI began with a meeting and a vision and today is one of the most cherished and vital parts of Southern Seminary’s ministry to its students. Mary Mohler deflected all credit; “God alone has built the ministry,” she said. Numerous faculty members and faculty wives teach in SWI, with classes ranging from hospitality and public speaking to evangelism, theology, church history, and much more.
“All I can say is, ‘to God be all the glory,’” she said. “This not at all a Mary Mohler effort; this is something the Lord did put on my heart in 1997. But then he also sovereignly brought alongside me a phenomenal group of faculty wives, such that a program like this doesn’t exist anywhere else on the planet. “The seminary faculty also gladly gives their time in addition to full schedules to teach our student wives, and this is priceless. I am astounded and truly grateful for how the Lord has chosen to use SWI to his glory for 25 years.”