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Open Bible Churches has recognized four official schools of ministry that will add portals of preparation to those already provided by the association’s official colleges. These schools of ministry address challenges such as the high cost of education, student debt, and a need for local hands-on training.

By President Randall A. Bach

Contemporary Realities

Every generation deals with spiritual, cultural, and economic realities. The realities we face today have stirred us to evaluate contemporary models for ministerial training.

Distance from Home to College

In spite of globalization, recent high school graduates are still adolescents in search of direction, not inclined to travel far from home to attend college. It is unrealistic to expect a large percentage of students to attend Open Bible’s ministerial training campuses if those campuses are far from the students’ homes.

Second-career students seldom uproot families and leave employment to attend a campus-based institution. Adults are often better suited for the self-discipline required to maintain and complete distance education programs; however, adults also benefit from live interaction with fellow students and faculty. Schools of ministry can provide that dynamic.

Student Debt

Ballooning student debt has become an inescapable reality that must be faced. Recent research reports that in the past ten years the number of individuals age 60 and older with student debt has quadrupled. Seventy-three percent of that debt is from loans to finance their children’s and grandchildren’s college education. Even college graduates anticipating jobs in the profit-making sector find the repayment of thousands of dollars in college loans to be a heavy burden. Because of indebtedness, many defer typical adult ventures such as buying a house or starting a family. Young men and women desiring to enter ministry can also graduate from college with thousands of dollars of debt equal to that of a long-term mortgage. This greatly limits their ability to accept modest ministry income. We want them to become youth leaders, church planters, and staff pastors at sacrificial wages while making substantial monthly college loan payments. We ignore that conundrum at the peril of churches, new church plants, and ministries that will need pastoral and other ministry leadership.

Sense of Community – Peer Support

Most young people have not yet gained the maturity necessary to be able to independently make wise decisions, solidify values, and chart lifelong commitments. As they continue to develop, they need environments with positive, supportive peers. If dropped into a godless, secularist, and hedonistic peer culture upon graduating from high school, many young people are sucked into an evil vacuum for which they have not developed the necessary strength of convictions, spiritual maturity, and character to withstand.

Peer groups offer members the opportunity to develop social skills such as empathy, sharing, and leadership. Peer groups, or cliques, can have positive influences on an individual, such as academic motivation and performance. They can also have negative influences via peer pressure, such as encouraging drug use, drinking, vandalism, stealing, or other risky behavior.*

No campus can guarantee student outcomes, but the higher the level of a campus community’s passion to foster a peer environment that is spiritually and biblically rooted, the stronger the prospects for producing committed student servants of God.

Although contemporary technology makes it possible for colleges and universities to offer distance education, the average high school graduate is not yet ready to exercise the discipline required to complete distance education and to do so in a relational vacuum devoid of an actual (as opposed to virtual) supportive peer community. Young people need a positive, Christ-focused peer culture to help instill and deepen commitment to a biblical worldview, faithfulness to God’s Word, and a pursuit of God’s purposes and calling.

This dynamic is happening with our schools of ministry. “It has been exciting to see the students and teachers come together to form a family atmosphere,” said Keith Harris, Director of the Toledo School of Ministry in Toledo, Ohio. “At TSOM we are praying for one another, doing ministry together, learning together, traveling together, and just living life together.”

VISION

We cannot return to the past. Ministries that attempt to do so are limited in duration and influence. We are missionaries to our culture! Ministry and ministry preparation must be attuned to ways to effectively contextualize the Gospel in contemporary culture.

That being said, we can and should learn from history and identify principles and practices that were abandoned but could provide fresh life and ministry vitality today. We must raise, develop, and train a vanguard of young men and women who, having heard and accepted a call or are in pursuit of definition of God’s call, are eager to learn and be commissioned for service. Our goal is that these students would be

  • Equipped with a biblical and theological foundation, who having been transformed by the power of the Word of God, know and are able to minister from the Word.
  • Trained and experienced with ministry skills.
  • Oriented to look for and create new doors of ministry rather than waiting for positions to open.
  • Catalyzed to see beyond servicing what is to creating what could be for God.
  • Impassioned to save souls and make functional disciples, obedient followers of Jesus.
  • Emboldened with Spirit-empowered, Caleb-like faith and resolve to conquer mountains.
  • Hungry for and discerning about manifestations of the Holy Spirit.
  • Unencumbered by heavy student debt that compromises freedom to follow God’s call to service anywhere.
  • When Isaac returned to the land of his father, Abraham, “He reopened the wells his father had dug, which the Philistines had filled in after Abraham’s death. Isaac also restored the names Abraham had given them. Isaac’s servants also dug in the Gerar Valley and discovered a well of fresh water” (Genesis 26:18-19, NLT). Isaac did more than discover wells of fresh water. He also returned to and reopened wells that had been previously dug. Nothing was ever wrong with those wells. They had just been filled in and abandoned. The water supply was still fresh.

    Open Bible Schools of Ministry

    We view schools of ministry, church-based or multi-church-based, as potential wells of fresh water that need to be reopened for today.

    These schools have several advantages:

        1. Inspired by visionary, apostolic pastors, such schools provide biblical and practical ministry training within the day-to-day working context of the church. Training takes place in an ongoing, living laboratory. The church not only contains the classroom; it also functions as the classroom.

    As Christy Hendrickson, Director of Creekside School of Ministry in Rapid City, South Dakota, said, “Our students serve alongside skilled pastors, community leaders, church planters, and missionaries. Our goal is to graduate ministry leaders who are not only academically prepared to lead but also have the experience, connections, and confidence to do so.”

      2. The proximity of church-based schools of ministry to students’ homes allows them to remain in or close to their homes and community until they are mature enough to venture out further.

      3.Church-based schools do not incur the cost of facilities and maintaining expensive campuses, thus helping to keep tuition costs low.


      4. Unlike church schools and institutes of the past where the school generated the entirety of its curriculum, contemporary schools of ministry can benefit from partnerships with existing colleges.


      5. While taking advantage of accredited educational partnerships for Bible and other curriculum, schools of ministry can be innovative and entrepreneurial in fine tuning all other areas of ministerial preparation according to vision, cultural variations, and the flow of the Spirit.


      6. Schools of ministry provide an avenue for entrepreneurial pastors to inspire and shape lives beyond what can be done in worship or youth services alone. Open Bible’s global mission is to make disciples, develop leaders, and plant churches. A visionary pastor can give influential leadership to all three facets of that mission and leave a powerful legacy by equipping generations of workers for the harvest.

     

    When Jesus sent 72 disciples on a mission into communities, He included this instruction: “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields” (Luke 10:2, NLT). While only the Lord can call people into His service, schools of ministry can be an avenue He uses to answer our prayer for workers.

    Chris Hansler, the director of Discover Ministry School in Pacific Region said, “There are a lot of great leaders sitting in our churches that don’t know how much they have to offer the kingdom of God, their neighborhood, or their churches. We can help people discover what it means to be a missional leader.”

    A pastor and church must have the vision and passion to launch, grow, sustain, and continue to refine the effectiveness of a school of ministry. Without those motivational drives, a school of ministry will come to be viewed as a taker from the mission of the church instead of a giver to it. When a school of ministry is rooted in the hearts of the pastor and congregation, they assume ownership and a parent-like attention and joy over investing in young men and women.

    “Our world is continually shifting in culture and belief, but amid the confusion one truth remains steadfast, the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” said Josh Bingaman, Director of Harvest Bible Institute in Des Moines, Iowa. “It anchors each new generation, captivating hearts and compelling minds towards grace. Our vision is to send out pastors and missionaries and church leaders into an abundant harvest.”

    Our vision is for Open Bible Churches to be changed by a fresh impetus of called, gifted, and trained ministers who will not only assume the pastoral and leadership roles that exist today but who will also be leaders of a vanguard of contemporary ministry for tomorrow.

    Open Bible has certified four schools of ministry:

    Creekside School of Ministry in Rapid City, South Dakota. For more information, visit creeksidesom.org

    Discover Ministry School in Pacific region. For more information, visit discoverministryschool.com

    Harvest Bible Institute in Des Moines, Iowa. For more information, visit harvestbibleinstitute.us

    The Toledo School of Ministry in Toledo, Ohio. For more information, visit toledosom.com

    Jessica Armstrong, Discover Ministry School student, Spokane Campus:

    “When I enrolled in Discover Ministry School I expected to gain a better knowledge of the Bible and a deeper understanding of God. I was not disappointed. But what I didn’t expect was the spiritual transformation that God has begun to work in me. My experience has led me to explore my relationship with God and my knowledge of Him in ways I’ve never considered before. God has used this program to change my life. I know the same is true for my fellow students. I can’t imagine any of us will leave this program the same as when we started.”

    *Boundless. “Cultural and Societal Influences on Adolescent Development.” Boundless Psychology. Boundless, 14 Nov. 2014. Retrieved 22 Mar. 2015 from https://www.boundless.com/psychology/textbooks/boundless-psychology-textbook/human-development-14/adolescence-73/cultural-and-societal-influences-on-adolescent-development-285-12820

    About The Author

    Randall Bach
    President of Open Bible Churches

    Randall Bach delights in opportunities to serve the Lord, including his current assignment as president of Open Bible Churches. He and Barbara, his wife, have been in ministry for over 45 years and call it “Our adventure together.” Randall loves the church, pastors, and church leaders and is convinced that God loves to work through them to make disciples, develop leaders, and plant churches.