2023 Faculty Citation Award
Jeff Bope presents the 2023 Faculty Citation Award to Elizabeth Smith, surrounded by her family.
“I’m grateful for this job—very grateful, very honored,” said Elizabeth Smith, beaming after she received the Faculty Citation Award on February 3, 2023. Smith is program head and associate professor of Children and Family Ministry at Moody Bible Institute and also serves as field chair of Education and Counseling.
Jeff Bope, executive director of the Moody Alumni Association, presented the award during the morning session of Founder’s Day in Torrey-Gray Auditorium. “In my role I have a distinct privilege to shepherd a few unique processes behind the scenes to recognize and honor some very special people in our Moody community,” he said. “Our recipient is well loved by students and fellow faculty.”
Professor Smith has worked at Moody since 2004. “I have a passion for the next generation, for children and youth and their families all over the world with all abilities—that they all come to know Christ as their Savior,” she said. “I get to work with students who want to learn about how to take the gospel around the world to the next generation. It is beyond a privilege.”
Professor Smith gave her remarks on stage at Founder’s Day flanked by her husband, Brian, and two of her three adult children and their spouses. She expressed gratitude for God, Moody, her students, her family, and the faculty and administration.
“You’re only as good as your team,” she said. “And I’m just going to tell you, Moody is an amazing team.”
Praise from peers and students
In a video tribute, several faculty members shared why Professor Smith is so deserving of the award. “She makes her classes fun, enjoyable, full of depth, and still very student-centered, and brings a lot of joy to the class,” said Dr. Michael Rydelnik, Jewish Studies professor and interim vice president and dean of the Undergraduate School.
Lisa Smith, program head and assistant professor of Elementary Education, said, “She’s empathetic. She is a builder of future leaders.”
Dr. Megan Clunan, associate professor of Human Services, added, “She loves Moody and is involved in its support, its growth, its mission, and God’s mission in our world.”
The video included tributes from students majoring in Children and Family Ministry too. “It’s very evident that she’s passionate about teaching us the Word of God,” said Kharis, who grew up in Ecuador. “I’m so, so thankful for you, Mrs. Smith. You have also helped me grow because I know you believe in me and in each one of your students; you are so encouraging.”
Elizabeth and Brian Smith have been married for nearly 34 years.
Sylvia, an online student from Uganda, said, “She has a strong desire to see everyone succeed and become Christ-centered individuals who will impact generations for Christ… Professor Smith is not just a professor to us; she is a mentor, a friend, a shepherdess.”
Professor Smith was nominated by her peers and students, selected by committee, and affirmed by the Moody Alumni Board, who were there to witness the award ceremony. She received an engraved desk clock and a cash allowance of $3,500 to use to further the effectiveness of her ministry. (The Alumnus of the Year will be revealed at Founder’s Week in October 2023.)
Developing her love for Christ and kids
Elizabeth grew up in a Christian home but didn’t surrender her life to Christ until she was a junior at Indiana University. She has an MA from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Counseling Psychology, with an emphasis in Systematic Theology, and is pursuing her doctorate in Educational Ministry from Dallas Theological Seminary. She developed her love for kids and teaching from her mom, a former elementary school teacher in Indiana who won Teacher of the Year in the early 1990s.
She and her husband, Brian, who serves as senior pastor of Valleybrook Community Church in Geneva, Illinois, have been married for nearly 34 years and have three married children, including daughter Caitlyn (Max), and sons Caleb (Katie) and Joshua (Sydney), both theology majors and Moody graduates. All are in some form of ministry.
Children and Family Ministry Program Options
Moody’s Children and Family Ministry program offers a Bachelor of Arts, a Bachelor of Science in Ministry Leadership with a concentration in Children and Family (currently ranking as the third-largest concentration in the Ministry Leadership major), an associate’s degree, and a certificate.
“These are on campus and online in all sorts of modalities because we truly want the whole world to know how to effectively share the gospel with the next generation,” said Elizabeth Smith, who runs the program. “We also do a Certificate in Disability because we believe that everybody of all abilities deserves to know Jesus.”
“If you want to work with kids and families, whether it’s in a church or missions, nonprofits, social work, or counseling, we can train you to do that,” she said later when describing the Children and Family Ministry program.
Students first gain in-depth training in Bible and theology, then philosophy and methodology. “My students need to be the best theologians on campus because they have to talk about it with a 6-year-old,” Professor Smith said. “When 1 John 2:2 says Jesus came to be our propitiation, they need to know what that means and then how to speak that to a child.”
She added, “D. L. Moody said, ‘If you save the life of a child, you have saved their whole life. If you save the life of an adult, you have saved half a life.’ So we want to save the whole life.”
Providing Practical Ministry Experience
The Children and Family Ministry program provides students with Practical Christian Ministry experience in organizations like Lydia Home, working with at-risk kids, and in churches that need help with children’s programs. Last year, Professor Smith added new partnerships with Awana and Joni & Friends.
“I want my students not just to learn in the classroom, but I want them involved in the local church and in assisting other ministries all the way through their degree,” she said. “So their field experience is embedded in the program.”
In the fall and spring the students take part in organizing special events at Moody. Before Candlelight Carols in December 2022, students hosted a family-friendly Bethlehem Experience, which attracted 500 visitors to a market, live nativity, sensory table, and photo booth. The popular event will be offered again in 2023. In the spring they work with Moody’s Employee Appreciation Committee to organize kids’ events for “Bring Your Child to Work Day” in late March.
“I want to train students to do ministry well,” said Professor Smith, who also teaches courses in Study Abroad. (This May she’ll teach “Marriage and Family” in Scotland.)
Trained for the front lines
Professor Smith’s goal as a teacher is clear. “We are preparing students to go to the front lines of a spiritual war. I want their faith to last their whole life, and then I want them to pass on that faith to the next generation. So it’s boot camp, it’s work, but it’s so worth it. And they’re so good at what they do when they graduate.”
The Children and Family Ministry program has a 100-percent placement rate, she added. Alumni are working for organizations like By the Hand Club for Kids, the Agape Center, Rafiki Villages in Africa, and as children’s pastors.
Having the Faculty Citation Award presented by the Moody Alumni Association was special to Professor Smith because “the alumni are amazing. They are the ones on the front lines of ministry.”