Why UK Bible colleges must change in the 21st century
Given we would all like to pass on vibrant, relevant and well run UK bible colleges to the next generation – what are some of the lessons I have learnt on the journey?
by Andrew Gray, Global Horizons
Posted: Monday, March 30, 2009, 11:44 (BST)
Last week we announced we are moving our UK training operation to Rugby in
Warwickshire. The decision to move UK training to Warwickshire is part of a new strategy we are embarking on to ensure we train more students and impact more nations this century than would have been otherwise possible. Our previous strategy focused on training all our students on one campus, the Bible College of Wales (BCW), established by Rees Howells in 1924.
For us, the old strategy was flawed. A campus in a poor state of repair, along with the associated costs of running a residential centre, funded predominantly by student fees was no longer viable. In the new world we will share a building with a well established church in Rugby. The training centre – Trinity School of Theology - will be non-residential, designed-for- purpose and rely more on qualified visiting lecturers.
Equally important is the training we will do overseas. We have begun targeting overseas locations where the church is growing rapidly but has very little training resource. Initially we are partnering with a training college in Lusaka, Zambia and a church group of 50,000 Christians in India. The demand for basic theological training by both partners is significant. This year we will train around 150 people through these two partners as well as the 40 or so we will train in the UK.
We wouldn’t want to say we’ve found ‘the’ way forward for UK Bible colleges but simply ‘a’ way forward. We still have many miles to travel and we will have to be prepared to amend our strategy as we go.
We are trying to face into the challenges many UK Bible colleges are facing - challenges that have become even tougher as an economic storm passes overhead. Given we would all like to pass on vibrant, relevant and well run UK Bible colleges to the next generation – what are some of the lessons I have learnt on the journey? All of the following needs to be preceded by prayer – without it we will come up with our own solution.
Firstly - keep close to the core church groups you have relationships with. As well as supplying students and lecturers, the local church and it members represent a key support base we cannot do without. They also help us keep up with the ever changing training needs of the local church.
Secondly - face into the financial and operational realities of your organisation. Financial losses don’t just go away. Make sure you are given reliable and easy to understand financial data and take the rose tinted specs off when reading it. Good stewardship of what we have now goes hand in hand with the faith we need for the future.
Next – watch out for peripheral operations which take up management time and don’t augment the core. There are certain things we are exiting from as a result of the strategic review.
Fourthly - as many UK Bible colleges are already doing, we need to continue pursuing good fund raising strategies to supplement the income. People are rightly selective about where they make their gifts so it is important we demonstrate that our operations are viable.
Next – Christian colleges need to consider partnerships, alliances and in certain cases, mergers. Not only will this result in a better use of scarce resources - the UK church at large will benefit as its future leaders better understand each other having studied with a broader group of students. These are tough things to do and will require us to continue building good relationships with each other.
Sixthly - if you can free up resources to help train the church in the emerging world you will make a big difference. Not all pastors in the emerging world need degrees - some simply need a better understanding of Scripture enabling them to teach and lead their churches more effectively. If we don’t have the financial resources to contribute to this invaluable area, we can at least put ourselves forward as the teaching and resource partner and let someone else bring the finance.
Finally – act – and if necessary be radical! We live in very exciting times. God is sovereign and he will bring many more people to himself this century. The organisations that help the worldwide church in its role of training have a key role to play – both here in the UK and overseas. Let’s rise to the challenge!
Andrew Gray is Operations Director of Global Horizons which currently
runs the Bible College of Wales. He has twenty years of experience in
business and was previously finance director of Boots the Chemist. For more information about the Bible College of Wales' plans for the future, visit