Young adults can struggle with their faith, especially during the first years away from home. Bethany College, Hepburn, Sask., – whose last academic class graduated April 2015 – is building on local connections, residential campus and church-rootedness to launch a new 8-month biblical learning gap-year program for post-secondary students in September 2017.
“We want Thrive to form Christian disciples in an environment that is experientially rich and culturally engaged,” says board chair Trevor Rempel. Thrive is designed for “young adults who want to a season of foundational biblical grounding and discipleship formation for life…without having to worry about marks,” says Rempel.
Based on feedback from surveys and forums with church leaders and Bethany College alumni, the board developed a modular program responding to the need for Christian learning that uses “head, hands and heart.”
“We want to do discipleship like Jesus did, teaching through life circumstances,” says Rempel. Learning, introspection and implementation are woven into each module through classroom time with adjunct professors; relationships with campus personnel and home church mentors; and service with local organizations and on campus.
Thrive’s purpose isn’t to prepare Christians for formal roles in ministry, but to form “whole and holy disciples” for a role in the world: in career, family and community.
The school exemplifies the unity of faith and life as local businesses and community organizations rent offices and recreational space on campus. “It’s a great way to expand the campus beyond a self-contained theological community,” says Rempel.
The board is intentional about developing its rental program for community usage, including collaboration with regional education and health authorities to bring more services to the town of Hepburn. This pragmatic arrangement not only covers maintenance costs and maximizes usage, but also creates opportunities for students to implement learning and interact in mentoring relationships.
Thrive is governed by the Mennonite Brethren Confession of Faith. The operational board is not formally tied to the Saskatchewan MB Conference, though it works closely with the Developmental Leadership Team on discipleship goals. Students of all denominations are welcome. Staff will include a program lead, two residential mentors, a facilities manager and administration support.
Thrive is accepting applications from students with a goal of a cohort of 25 for the first year. The small size allows staff to form relationships with each student and the program to vary from year to year based on the needs and opportunities of the students.