Church and school lean in
“Do discipleship together,” Bethany discernment summit concludes
This is not the end of Bethany College, Hepburn, Sask., but the beginning of new roads for the 87-year-old Bible training institute. That message was clearly expressed by 32 stakeholders, staff and faculty who gathered for a discernment summit on the college’s future Oct. 4, 2014, at Forest Grove Community Church, Saskatoon.
“This is the church’s mission – let’s go for it,” facilitator and Hepburn MB pastor Rod Schellenberg summed up the meeting’s tone: “Let’s work together on pathways to making disciples.
“The focus of the conversation was not on what Bethany College is or has been doing,” he says, “but on what is going on in the environment and how we achieve the mission of the church to make disciples out of these young adults.
“There’s a leaning in; a desire to steer the change without a full stop,” says Schellenberg, using the image of turning on a curving street rather than a Prairie grid road. “Let’s keep rolling, but let’s turn.”
Regardless of the conversational approach or background, participants (including a current student, alumni, denominational leaders, an MCC representative, marketplace professionals, lay leaders and pastors) affirmed three needs: a strong connection to churches, life-on-life community and experiential education.
President Howie Wall observes that the appetite for change reinforcing those themes was “very strong – and there was a releasing of the current paradigm.”
“This conversation is really much broader than Bethany, and it’s a healthy conversation to be having among our conference leaders, pastors, schools, young adults,” Schellenberg says. “How can we [churches and schools] keep leaning in together?”
SunWest pastor and Bethany alumnus Matt Dyck says participating in the summit was as much help to him as for Bethany “because we’re both trying to figure this out. We can’t really make disciples just on our own – there are gifts at both of these levels that need to be deployed.”
Participants affirmed the value of the Bethany ‘brand,’ “not in terms of marketing but in terms of experience,” says Wall. “There was no ‘throw out the baby and bathwater.’”
The next step is for Bethany College leadership to interpret the information coming out of the meeting and present a plan of action to the board of directors in the next months.
“We know where we need to go; now [we need to discern] what will become the vehicle,” says Wall, assuring further opportunities for input and feedback. “We wrestle with and understand things a lot better in a community,” he says.
“I’m interpreting it as a good news day,” says academic dean Gil Dueck, citing the energy for change, the goodwill toward the school, and the “desire for mission to become collaborative.”
“If we’re serious about doing this,” says Dyck, “we need to do it hand in hand.”
Read the Bethany College news release about the event here.
Board update (Dec. 10, 2014)
Discernment summit finding report (Nov. 29, 2014)