Steve Bonner, Lipscomb’s newest associate professor of Christian ministry and assistant dean of the undergraduate Bible department, comes to Lipscomb University with a vision to help revamp the undergraduate department in the College of Bible & Ministry following a nine-year tenure as director of the Youth and Family Ministry program at Lubbock Christian University.
In his role at Lipscomb, Bonner has been tasked by Leonard Allen, dean of the College of Bible & Ministry, to roll out a new undergraduate curriculum for fall 2019, as well as expand undergraduate recruiting efforts, teach undergraduate Bible courses, and help champion a vision of growth for the department.
“We are very excited to launch the new undergraduate Bible curriculum next fall that intentionally highlights key concepts of spiritual formation and vocational discernment, as well as engages students in practical ministry experience,” said Bonner. “As we are developing this curriculum, we are asking specific questions such as ‘who do we want our students to be?’ and implementing concepts from those outcomes into our curriculum to give our students a solid foundation for theology, ministry, and holistic personal development.”
Bonner says that if Lipscomb’s College of Bible & Ministry is able to accomplish what it is currently envisioning, it will be the most unique undergraduate Bible program around.
“At Lipscomb, we have incredibly experienced leadership, dedicated faculty, and valuable resources that many institutions simple do not have,” said Bonner. “I have never seen a more committed group of faculty who considers the psychological and sociological state of our students as well as how the church is shifting, and are willing to let those realities effect the development of the program.”
Bonner has also contributed to recruiting the largest undergraduate Bible class the college has seen in the last eight years, and is helping implement a new vision for how to engage prospective students and create additional opportunities for current Bible majors to grow in community with their faculty and peers.
“I am really excited about the recruiting initiative that has started in the College of Bible & Ministry and that is already bearing fruit,” said Bonner. “We are constantly looking for opportunities to be intentional with students. Our faculty have already been doing a great job of this and have great rapport with students, but I want to help provide even more opportunities for the entire community to come together in new ways.”
Bonner says that, as much as he loves his administrative work at Lipscomb, it wouldn’t be complete without the opportunity to invest in students.
“I have a strong desire to see young people come to a stronger faith in Christ,” said Bonner. “As a faculty member, I have a unique opportunity to step into student’s lives when they’re learning and growing, being shifted and decentered, and invite them into the larger story of God. Working with Bible majors specifically is such a unique opportunity because I get to come alongside them to help them discern their vocation and navigate the deep theological questions they may be wrestling with.”
Growing up in a non-Christian home in Southern California, Bonner graduated high school and joined the army as a Chinook Flight Engineer. After basic and advanced training, he was sent to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and came to know Christ for the first time.
“God really did some work in my life during my time in the Army, and it was not long after that that I met my future wife Amy at a campus ministry event at Austin Peay State University,” said Bonner. “We have been married 25 years now and have three children. We have been on this journey together.”
After finishing his military service, Bonner attended Tennessee Technological University where he leaned into his passion for teaching and working with students. He knew he wanted to work with students in a ministry capacity, so he decided to transfer to Lipscomb to pursue an undergraduate degree in Bible with a concentration in youth ministry.
“I loved studying, so once I finished my undergraduate degree, I immediately enrolled in Lipscomb’s Master of Arts in Biblical Interpretation and finished that in 2002. From there, I decided to keep going and completed my Master of Divinity degree at Lipscomb in 2004, then my Doctor of Ministry degree in Youth, Family and Culture at Fuller Theological Seminary in 2008.”
Bonner says that while he was enrolled in graduate school, he was also doing full-time youth ministry to provide for his family and engage his passion of working with students. After finishing his doctorate degree, Bonner was offered a job at Lubbock Christian University.
“During my time at LCU, I was tasked to direct the Youth and Family Ministry program, expand its influence in the region through an annual conference, recruitment initiatives, teaching and research in youth ministry from 2010-2017. I also created mentoring opportunities as I partnered with students who were conducting undergraduate research. Many of my students went on to present their research on the national stage and win various awards,” said Bonner.
Since 2009, Bonner has been a member of the national Association of Youth Ministry Educators where he has presented his findings and has had articles published in the Journal of Youth Ministry. He was elected to serve on the AYME board in 2013, and for the past year, has served as the president of AYME.
After leaving LCU in May 2017, Bonner moved with his family back to Tennessee, and continued teaching as an adjunct professor for Fuller Theology Seminary and Northwest Nazarene Universities. In the fall of 2017, Bonner was hired as an adjunct at Lipscomb. He was also asked by Dean Allen to implement a comprehensive recruiting initiative for Undergraduate Bible, and assist Frank Guertin, director of Lipscomb’s Hazelip School of Theology, in coordinating a new graduate program. Bonner began his full-time position as assistant dean of the Undergraduate Bible department and associate professor of Christian Ministry on June 1, 2018.
“In the College of Bible & Ministry, we seek to foster a community for students who are bravely discerning God’s call on their lives as well as create opportunities for students to participate in the Kingdom of God and to be formed in a flourishing life of joy and expectation as they are deeply rooted in faith and community,” said Bonner. “That is truly a joy to be part of.”