Gaines Dobbins

Gaines DobbinsGaines S. Dobbins, professor of church efficiency and Sunday School pedagogy from 1920-1956, was born on July 29, 1886 in Langsdale, Mississippi. An ambitious youth, Dobbins spent time in the publishing business before enrolling at Mississippi College in 1905. He graduated in 1908 with a journalism degree and moved to Southern. Dobbins excelled at the seminary, earning a Th.M. and a Th.D. after completing a dissertation on Southern Baptist journalism. He also married his long-time love, May Riley, and raised three children with her.

Following work as a pastor and editor of the SBC's Home and Foreign Fields, Dobbins was asked by Southern President E. Y. Mullins to join the seminary faculty in 1920. Dobbins consented and inaugurated the study and teaching of church efficiency and Sunday School pedagogy at Southern. In the 1930s, Dobbins helped President Sampey refinance the seminary’s debt, a move that sustained the school in desperate times. He also pursued a doctorate at the University of Chicago, where he studied pragmatic philosophy with John Dewey and psychologist George Albert Coe. Though Dobbins’ dissertation was rejected by the Chicago committee, Dobbins ever after sought to meld the pragmatic and psychological concern with the religious. His work helped pioneer the field of church growth.

Aside from his dissertation, Dobbins wrote thirty-two works, including such texts as The Efficient Church, A Winning Witness, and Evangelism According to Christ. Following the sudden death of President Fuller, Dobbins served as the interim president of Southern for the 1950-1951 school year. In 1953, he became the founding dean of Southern’s School of Religious Education, a position he held until his retirement in 1956. Dobbins later returned to Boyce College as a lecturer in 1975-1976, when he was 90 years old. Dobbins died on September 22, 1978 in Birmingham. The professor was a member of Crescent Hill Baptist Church while in Louisville.

Sources: Hal Pettegrew, "Gaines Stanley Dobbins," available from

Austin Dobbins, Gaines Dobbins: Pioneer in Religious Education, Nashville, TN: Broadman, 1981.

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