Why A Local Church Bible Institute :: Gospel Fellowship Association Missions

Why A Local Church Bible Institute

Matthew Recker
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The desire of Heritage Baptist Church is to win souls to Christ and train those disciples to live for Him. Since September 1996, our church has provided a ministry we call the Heritage Discipleship Institute (HDI) to provide an opportunity for believers in our local church to fulfill this goal.

Our HDI has been a great blessing in our church. A Bible institute ministry can be a blessing for you as well if the Lord leads you in starting one. For those who are prayerfully considering this ministry, I would like to briefly touch on some discipleship considerations, obstacles to overcome, and blessings to expect in starting a local church Bible institute.

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Defining the Purpose of a Bible Institute

A primary consideration in founding a Bible institute is to define your mission. God’s desire is for each of his children to grow into the image of our Lord Jesus Christ. With that in mind, we state our purpose with this simple sentence:

“Our Institute exists to see members of Christ become faithful ministers for Christ.”

It has been my vision and passion to labor so that faithful members of our church would learn God’s Word and then proclaim His truth to others. It is critical that true Christians understand sound doctrine and make an all-out effort to spread the Word through active ministry. I desired that our institute train children’s church workers, soulwinners, deacons, and other faithful workers for our local church. An institute can also help identify those who feel a call into ministry and even encourage them in that direction.

Overcoming Obstacles to Establish an Institute

There were several obstacles to overcome in establishing the Heritage Discipleship Institute (HDI). The first big step was to overcome feeling overwhelmed. The overwhelming thoughts came from the questions about how we were to do this and where we should begin. Through prayer and seeking the mind of Christ, I determined that it was God’s will. In this answer I found strength to tackle such a mountain of work.

Next, I had to address other issues, such as curriculum, classes to be taught, schedules, preparation time, and funding.

Deciding on a Curriculum

In deciding upon curriculum, I researched other Bible colleges and local church Bible institutes to survey what core classes needed to be taught. I determined that our foundational classes would include:

  • Bible Survey (6 classes)
  • Theology (6 classes)
  • Old Testament Survey (3 classes)
  • New Testament Survey (3 classes)

Individual classes would also be taught on the following subjects: Theology of God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Bible, Salvation, the Local Church, Man, and Future Events.

Over time, other classes have been offered in our rotation, including Preparation of Bible Messages, Cults, Church History, Biblical Counseling, Bible Geography, Romans, 1 Corinthians, and the Acts of the Apostles. I rotate these classes and try to teach in a 4–5-year cycle. But the survey and theology classes continue as the core, the foundation for our HDI.

Deciding on a Schedule

After trying a couple of different things, we determined to have two 13-week semesters a year. The first semester begins in September and ends in December. The second semester begins in late January and ends in late April.

The testing load is 2–3 quizzes per subject each semester, and every class ends with a final exam. Homework includes reading the textbook, memorizing appropriate Bible verses, and preparing for quizzes and the final exam. Every student also prepares an oral presentation of 7–10 minutes each semester. These presentations are very helpful to the students, and they enjoy hearing from each other.

Deciding How to Prepare

Multiple elements are involved in preparing the class materials. This is perhaps the greatest of all obstacles, particularly because of the time required. For teaching materials, I prepare printed outlines with blanks. I use PowerPoint with interesting pictures that provide the answers. We also put available notes online for our students who take the classes remotely.

I prepare one course at a time and labor patiently. Each semester two classes are offered. Both classes are scheduled for one hour, and both classes are taught back-to-back on Monday night. During the semester, I take nearly the full day on Monday to prepare the teaching notes, developing outlines and PowerPoint presentations, and writing and grading quizzes.

Deciding How to Charge Fees

While we are not trying to make money through the institute, it is helpful to charge or at least suggest a moderate amount. If for no other reason, this helps keep the students accountable. If students pay even a small fee, there is a greater likelihood that they will finish the semester. Students beginning but not finishing a semester has been one of the biggest challenges in our HDI.

We suggest a $50 fee for the first class and a $25 fee for the second class. The student is responsible for purchasing the class textbook(s) as well. A person who wants to take the classes but does not have the funds is still encouraged to enroll. When a class is completed, the student is given a class diploma at the end of the semester. At the end of three years, students receive a HDI graduation diploma.

The Blessings of Bible Institute Ministry

Over the years there have been countless blessings through our HDI ministry. Some of the most faithful workers of our church have been HDI students.

Our early graduates were three wonderful sisters in Christ, Helen Stevens, Hattie Henry, and Josephine Armstead. Helen went on to teach in our Sunday school for many years and distribute thousands of gospel tracts. Hattie taught during the children’s church, and even though she has become blind through glaucoma, she still teaches a woman’s adult Bible fellowship class. Josephine served in our hospital and nursing home outreach ministry, visiting many people who were sick.

Other vital workers in our church have taken HDI classes as well, such as our assistant pastor, ministry assistant, deacons, and children and adult Sunday school teachers. One of our graduates married a missionary pastor and is now serving with him in the Philippines. Other faithful men in sister churches throughout New York City have also taken our classes. It is a blessing to help other churches in this way.

It has also been an unspeakable joy to see fellow church members in union with us in Christ grow in their understanding of God’s Word and sound doctrine. Even more, it has been our joy to see some also become faithful ministers in His church through this local church Bible institute ministry.

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