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Professor, pilot, pastor, soldier, but most of all servant

Bethany College professor William H. Snow believes in learning by doing, and just because he’s program director of the psychology department at the Scotts Valley, Calif., school doesn’t mean he’s waxing philosophical in an ivory tower.

In fact, Snow isn’t content to hold down one full-time college job. He also is a church planter and in the California Army National Guard.

By tackling three divergent and demanding professions simultaneously, Snow is merely putting into practice what he teaches: academic involvement shouldn’t be confined to books in the classroom.

“If I talk to my students about planting churches, I should be willing to do it myself,” Snow says. And he has. Snow in January became co-pastor of Sojourners, a new Assemblies of God church plant in Scotts Valley. The congregation meets for worship on Saturday evenings and for prayer on Wednesday evenings.

“It’s not really work,” Snow says. “It’s a privilege. It forces me to study the Word more.”

Snow’s pastoral specialties for the nascent church are personality gift assessment, ministry placement, coaching and mentoring. It’s a natural progression for what he teaches at Bethany regarding the importance of students being passionate about their chosen profession, using sound judgment, being of good character and competent in their work.

In all his roles, Snow knows that teamwork is crucial. “Few things in life can be accomplished as individuals,” he says. “Even a great preacher needs to rely on everybody from the church administrator to the soundboard operator.”

At Bethany, Snow tells undergraduates they are practicing psychology in daily relationships with other students and professors. Learning to resolve a spat with a roommate is the practical undergraduate equivalent of tackling the problems of a schizophrenic client once the students become psychologists, says Snow, who began teaching at Bethany in 1986 after obtaining his master’s degree and doctorate. Next year the school will begin offering a master’s program in clinical psychology.

A lieutenant colonel in the Army National Guard, Snow commands the 980th Supply and Service Battalion, a quartermaster unit in San Jose. The citizen soldier supervises five companies and 650 people.

For six years during the 1970s Snow served in the U.S. Army. He became a Christian three decades ago when a Special Forces recruiter evangelized him. While in the military in South Korea, he began attending the Assemblies of God Christian Serviceman’s Center and Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, the megachurch pastored by Dr. David Yonggi Cho. There, with other servicemen, he went to Bible studies that laid the groundwork for his Christian faith and theological framework.

Now the National Guard serves as a leadership laboratory for him, another area where he can put academic theory into practice. There are parallels between professor and commander. As leader of both classroom and unit, he sets the cultural and emotional climate of each environment. For instance, he promotes proper professional language and conduct in both the school and his military outfit.

Although officially he is on military duty one weekend a month, it’s really sort of like being a pastor on call 24 hours a day. After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Snow went on active duty for five months. Last year he spent eight weeks in Ukraine as joint logistics officer for NATO forces.

Snow believes this is a perfect time for Christians to be in the military because Christian values — such as no smoking or drinking alcohol — are aligned with basic training rules. He has the opportunity to teach moral leadership virtues such as loyalty, duty, respect, integrity and courage.

In these times of heightened tensions Snow’s role in overseeing a headquarters medical, airborne, supply and transportation company takes about 40 hours a month rather than the typical weekend.

“My job is to mentor leadership,” Snow says. “As a leader I set the moral climate.” That involves focusing the attention of those under his command on their primary job, and making sure no one in the unit is acting unethically, immorally or illegally.

Snow still manages to eke out time to spend with his wife of 26 years, Debi, who is director of financial aid at Bethany College. They run five miles and lift weights every weekday morning — and run half marathons on weekends. Somehow the busy Snow also finds a few hours to fly his one-place glider and to paddle kayaks. The couple has three adult children, Jared, Tarah and Shelly. All are involved or planning to be involved in church service leadership.

Meanwhile, Snow isn’t concerned about burnout because he says his priorities are right.

“It’s not a matter of being busy,” Snow says. “It’s a matter of doing what’s important.”

By John W. Kennedy

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