Font Size » + | -An Interview With the Directors of Open Bible’s Schools of Ministry Conversations surrounding higher education are popping up across the country with experts examining the declining value of a traditional four-year college degree as well as the rising costs of tuition and student debt. Many experts are reemphasizing the importance of trade schools, where students are required to take (and pay for) only the classes related to their field of interest. Traditional Bible colleges are undergoing similar scrutiny. Open Bible Churches has addressed this dilemma by championing its own schools of ministry. We sat down with the directors of these four schools to learn what might make them the best option for many students. Students at HBI in Des Moines during a recent lecture. MESSAGE: Young people are forced to choose among many options to obtain higher education. Why should students consider Open Bible’s schools of ministry? CHRIS: There are a lot of reasons. The school of ministry allows students to continue to serve in their local church, to have that practical opportunity to serve in an environment that they’re familiar with, that they can continue to grow in, but also to get the training necessary while they’re serving – training in biblical ministry and the Word of God. The school of ministry also makes it affordable for the students so that they’re not racking up a lot of debt while they’re getting the training. A lot of students aren’t certain that Bible school or even college is a path they should take but are afraid they are going to miss out on something, so they start racking up debt for something they aren’t certain about. The schools of ministry provide an opportunity to explore that path without taking on that debt. Another thing is that the school of ministry exposes students to ministry practitioners, people doing the ministry, who can share not only knowledge but also experience. Director of Legacy Schoolof Ministry in Rapid City,South Dakota (legacyrc.org) CHRISTI: I would agree and reiterate the practicality of a school of ministry. If a student is truly called by God to be a missionary, a church planter, or a pastor, then there’s nothing that’s going to replace that very practical experience they can get right away in a school of ministry as opposed to some training facilities in which you have to wait until your junior or senior year before you get your hands on anything. In a school of ministry, immediately you’re right in the mix of things and learning from tried and true pastors and ministry leaders. Nothing replaces that valuable experience. JOSH: I think there are many great Bible colleges out there, but those colleges are built on a model that gives our students unsustainable debt that ill-equips them to go and serve anywhere God wants them. The school of ministry is a historical model that we are reviving because we feel the world is changing, and we need to be prepared for the time when the church is no longer accepted as an institution in our society. When things shift, we will still be preparing ministers and doing it at an affordable price and equipping our students with everything they would get at a regular Bible college – the rigorous education and practical experience – but at an affordable price and with hands-on ministry that cannot be provided at a larger institution. Because our schools are smaller and more focused, we provide an atmosphere of family and community. We do ministry together so that when our students get on the field it won’t be their first time serving; they will have the experience they need. Director of Toledo School of Ministry in Toledo, Ohio(toledosom.com) KEITH: It’s a balance. The schools are not just focused on academic or theological training although we have that in depth, but there’s a balance between the theology training, the hands-on experiences, and the outreaches. I like the family atmosphere that is built within the schools. You get to spend a year or two with someone and you develop strong bonds. Sometimes you can get lost in bigger schools. In the school of ministry, not only do you get to do school together but you do life together. Our graduates are not just students graduating, but they’re family forever. And there’s something about learning from pastors and leaders who have been doing ministry for decades that gives you insight you can’t get anywhere else and that you can’t get from a book. I like that students are being trained by people who have lived it out, who have done it. MESSAGE: What kinds of students should come to your school Mostly kids right out of high school who are interested in ministry? CHRISTI: We designed our school for students of any age. I’ve found that we have a neat mix. Yes, we have students right out of high school, and then I have my oldest students who are in their sixties. Why would I have students in their sixties? Because they know they are not done, and they want to be trained to be an elder or director in a church plant and they want to get more experience. They want the additional experience so that wherever God sends them they’re prepared, so we’ve been a little surprised at the age variety in our school. That’s the beauty of our school. Director of Harvest Bible Institute in Des Moines, Iowa (harvestbibleinstitute.us) JOSH: Our school is designed for anyone who wants to become a church leader. They don’t necessarily have to become a pastor or missionary, but if they want to be a leading person in the church, they can gain something valuable at our school. Our curriculum is designed specifically to prepare students for ministerial credentials and ministerial vocations whether that’s a pastor or whatever, but our purpose is not limited to that. Some students are not certain what they want to do when they graduate high school, and that discernment period could be well spent at one of our schools. They can discern while they’re studying the Word of God. KEITH: I would say anyone who has a calling to a life of ministry, maybe within a church or even outside the church, should come. Some people get that calling when they are very young, maybe not even out of high school. For me I had the calling that God wanted me to do more, and I knew I wasn’t equipped for it. God called me to a school of ministry similar to ours. I didn’t know until my second semester that I was called to pastoral ministry. For anyone who has that calling, whether they are right out of high school or in their seventies or eighties, these are places that can equip them for that. Although our school specializes in pastoral ministries, those skills can be transferable to many different types of ministries. Director of Discover Ministry School in Graham, Washington(discoverministryschool.com) CHRIS: The name of our school, Discover, is very intentional. Ours is for anyone who is in that process of trying to discover “What is God calling me to? What is God’s next step for me?” Our school is for juniors in high school and up. Because our schools happen in the evening, the opportunity is opened for people who are working during the day or those who have families for whom it might be more difficult to go to a more traditional type school. We have people from high school up to those who are looking at a second career. God is stirring up something in them, but they are still exploring. And then we have some seniors who are in a new phase of life. They’ve had some success and now they wonder “What will be my significance in this season of my life?” So it’s an opportunity to discover that. MESSAGE: In addition to tuition how are your schools funded? JOSH: Our school is funded by generous support from individuals, generous support by churches including the church of which our school is a ministry, and generous support from our region. We also have an endowment fund that is able to provide for scholarships. That is a huge blessing to our students; every student who comes gets a scholarship. So it is a diversity of funds that come in, and we are always looking for more! KEITH: Our school is funded through regional support. It is a regional school, so we don’t have just one church that helps us with the finances. Because one of our main revenues is MVP (Mission Venture Plan) giving, we have pastors and churches who give on a regular basis through MVP, so it has been a great blessing and resource. The third is the tuition of the students. We cannot cover the school through tuition alone so MVP, outside contributions, and the giving of the region are very important. CHRIS: Ours is funded partly through the students’ tuition but also largely funded through regional support. Of course the reason that can happen is because churches give five percent. We’re grateful the region has decided that schools of ministry are a priority in this season of growth in our movement. They put their money where their values are. CHRISTI: Our school is funded mostly by our church, Open Bible Christian Center in Rapid City, and then we have had private donors from our church, and of course tuition, but we don’t really charge an additional tuition beyond costs, whether that be INSTE or individual books, so our costs are very low. Students from the Toledo School of Ministry enjoy ethnic Tai Dam food prepared by missionary Dara Rasavanh (foreground). MESSAGE: How can we best pray for you? KEITH: Pray that God would continue to stir the hearts of individuals that will be coming to the school. Always pray for funding. Pray that God would move people to see the vision and the value of the school. The students are not just leaders of the future; most of them are in ministry already. Pray they will have the heart to multiply God’s Kingdom. Pray for our teachers that we would have wisdom and guidance and would be able to love the students and lead and teach them—basically pour out everything we have into them. Pray that the students can be an impact in their communities and in this world. CHRIS: Pray that the Lord would give us leaders and stretch us beyond who we currently are to be what we need to be and that we would be able to serve these students and the Open Bible community. Obviously we pray that the Lord will not only call students but that He would connect them to us. We believe that these schools are not orchestrated by man but orchestrated by God. So we are looking to find those divine appointments and find those places of connection so that we have students who get everything the Lord has for them to prepare for a fruitful life of ministry. CHRISTI: I would ask you to join us in praying that these students would be a blessing to their local church, whatever ministry God sends them to. That it won’t be just about them but about what they bring to the Kingdom and how their reach can be expanded. We have covenanted with our students to give them a customized approach to education. Pray for us that we can make that happen so that when they leave they truly feel equipped to go right into whatever ministry they’re supposed to. JOSH: We do this for one reason: we want to make disciples for the sake of the Kingdom. There are too many people who are lost. If the result is not making disciples for the Kingdom, we are wasting our time. I pray all of us would keep that in mind, from the leadership and staff to the students of schools of ministry, that that would be our focus. If we can keep that end in mind, I think we will stay on track. To learn more about Open Bible’s Schools of Ministry, click here!