Partner Stories: Emory Brown

We appreciate all our Antioch School partner churches and their leaders . . . but to be honest, we appreciate some more than others. Pastor Emory Brown of Refreshing Springs Church in Buffalo, NY is one of our very special partners. He loves Christ, recognizes the centrality of the church in God’s plan, and after investigating nearly everything out there related to support for church ministry, he chose to partner with us. Emory leads a vital program of leadership development using BILD resources and Antioch School degree programs in his own church, but also directs a larger effort to serve the City of Buffalo, NY.

Dangerous Calling

Paul Tripp’s new book, Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry, is a must-read for anyone who is serious about character development of church leaders.

Pat Bowler, Lead Pastor/Elder of Valley Life Church (Lebanon, OR) and a Certified Leader of an Antioch School program in his church, drew my attention to this book in an email.

“It is an extremely insightful book and one I thought would be of particular interest to you at the Antioch School; chapters 3 and 4 address an issue regarding the pastorate that directly relates to The Antioch Model (Chp. 3: “Big Theological Brains and Heart Disease;” Chp. 4: “More Than Knowledge and Skill”). Considering the paradigm of the school, I thought I would make you aware… Good stuff.”

I had already seen the book mentioned in a Christianity Today article, but Bowler’s email compelled me to order a Kindle copy even before I moved on to my next email.

Tripp’s deepest concern in the book is the peril faced by pastors with hazardous gaps in their character.  Pastors who try to do ministry apart from proper relationships with God, their spouses, and even their churches are pursuing a “dangerous calling.”  For example, Tripp asks hard questions, like “Does it seem best that most pastors are allowed to live outside of or up above the body of Christ?” (p. 68) and “Pastor, do you examine yourself daily by humbly placing yourself before the one mirror you can trust, the mirror of the Word of God?” (p. 157).

Some roots of the danger are traced by Tripp to the traditional form of theological education for church leaders.  “Over the years more and more professors came to the seminary classroom with little or no local church experience” (p.53).  “Academized Christianity, which is not constantly connected to the heart and puts its hope in knowledge and skill, can actually make students dangerous” (p.53).  “Their spiritual life became immediately more privatized when they left their home church to go to seminary in another city.  For many, the seminary became their primary spiritual community, a community that was neither personal nor pastoral in the way it handled Scripture and related to the student” (p. 84).

This non-pastoral approach to ministry training leads to a rather dangerous situation.  “Having graduated from an environment where, for three or more years, they were not pastored and had a rather casual relationship to a local church, they are now called by a church that doesn’t really know them” (p. 85).

Tripp longs for traditional seminaries to be different in terms of pastoral concern for its students.  “Shouldn’t every Christian institution of higher learning be a warm, nurturing, Christ-centered, gospel-driven community of faith?” (p. 49).  “What I am suggesting is that pastoral passion for the students shape the content of seminary education is delivered and applied” (p. 56).  “The goal of spiritual formation must dye the content of every area of study” (p. 56).

He illustrates this difference by describing the approach he uses to teach a pastoral counseling course for traditional M.Div. students.  He presents a “catalog of pastoral horror stories” and attempts to move students beyond their rather abstract biblical studies by helping them deal with some of the real issues in their own lives.  The complaint of one student highlights what he was trying to do.  “Professor Tripp, you’re preaching at us.  This is a seminary classroom, which means this is not your church, and we are not your congregation” (p. 46).

Think about that statement in relation to your Antioch School church-based theological education program.  Your “seminary classroom” is your church and you are a congregation.  Pastoral passion is a natural dimension of theological education when it is truly based in churches.  Rather than leaving home and church for seminary, ministry training is embedded in your pastoral communities.

On the last page of his book, Tripp issues a plea, “If you are a seminary, denominational, or ministry leader, work with others to address the places where your ministry training and culture are less than biblical” (p. 223).  We think this is what we have done with the Antioch School.  Some traditional theological education institutions are trying to make improvements in these areas, but we have recognized that the centrality of the church in the training process is itself a biblical concept.

Pat Bowler was right.  Dangerous Calling is an important book.  It helps pastors (and those who care for pastors) fulfill their calling.  And while Tripp focuses on improvement of traditional theological education, he also helps make the case for church-based theological education, particularly in terms of development of character and pastoral passion within the context of a church.

Mentoring Antioch Style

Everybody likes it in theory, but many of us struggle to do mentoring well! One of the most common areas of questions we are asked relate to mentoring. “Who should be the mentors of our Antioch School students?” “What are their qualifications?” “What exactly are they supposed to do?”

Here are a few quick thoughts about mentoring:

“Who should be the mentors of our Antioch School students?”
Essentially you should think of mentors as the people that God has already put in place for the development of your students. Of course, this includes you as a Certified Leader, but also pastoral staff, elders, other church leaders, students themselves, as well as family and friends of students. A mentor does not necessarily have to be someone in a formal position of authority over the student. The main idea in mentoring is to let those whom God has already put in place in your life to speak into your development.

It is good to identify a main mentor for each student who does many of the things described below, but who also orchestrates the mentoring by others for a student. For instance, long-time acquaintances may be best for some of the character assessments, but current ministry supervisors and colleagues may be best for some of the ministry assessments and guidance in ministry practicum. If you have a small program, you as Certified Leader will likely be the main mentor for students and be involved in many aspects of mentoring, but you don’t have to do it all, especially when God has already put others in place for aspects of this purpose.

“What are the qualifications of a mentor?”
There are no official Antioch School requirements to be a mentor. We begin with the theological assumption that God has already put people in churches (and church networks) to help with the development of students. The qualifications of a mentor are somewhat related to the type of mentoring to be done. Church leaders certainly have a special responsibility to be involved in assessment of character, ministry skills, and biblical understanding. However, others may be particularly well-qualified to help because of their special knowledge of the student or an area of ministry. Often, the best mentoring comes from overlapping assessment as mentors provide insight from different perspectives.

It is important that mentors have basic familiarity with the resources being used to assist in the mentoring. For instance, someone mentoring in areas of basic establishment and ministry qualifications should be familiar with the “Becoming Established” and the “Life and Ministry Assessment” tools. Someone mentoring a student in a ministry practicum should be familiar with the “Practicum Manual.” Certified Leaders of Antioch School programs should conduct occasional orientations or provide brief personal introductions to the resources being used by that particular mentor, as well as a general overview of the degree program as a whole.

The most significant qualification for mentoring is a commitment to the person being mentored and to the mentoring process. As a Certified Leader, your main job in mentoring is to help the right people have the right interactions with students. There are not strict guidelines for what needs to be done, but amazing things happen when you connect the right people with the right tools in mentoring. It is as if God intended for things to work this way in the church!

“What exactly are mentors supposed to do?”
This is the most commonly asked question about mentoring. We all know it is important and we want to do it well, particularly because it is a “requirement” in the Antioch School. Perhaps it is best to start with the big idea of what mentoring is from our perspective.

Mentoring of Antioch School students is intended to support mentoring that already exists and/or help provide a framework and tools for new mentoring that needs to be put in place. These mentoring tools are not primarily academic requirements, but leadership development tools from BILD International that were in use prior to the creation of the Antioch School. The more the use of the mentoring tools fits into the natural operation and relationships of a church or ministry, the better.

There is only one aspect of mentoring that is “required” by the Antioch School. Students are expected to meet with mentors at least quarterly to use the Personal Development Assessments (PDA) as points of reference in mentoring. The six PDA tools are: Becoming Established, Life and Ministry Assessment, Giftedness, Current Ministry, Ministry Team, and Journal of Mentor). This is not intended to be a rigid “filling out of forms,” but using forms to stimulate biblically comprehensive mentoring in relation to the churches and ministries of the students. The forms don’t have to be submitted, but students simply need to attest quarterly that they have met with a mentor and used the PDA tools as points of reference. Further guidance in how to use PDAs is found in the Personal Development Assessment Manual.

Additional aspects of mentoring are extremely valuable and recommended, but not required.

  • Mentors can help coach students through the SIMA MAP process (and the annual MAP responses). Having a mentor involved in this process will greatly help students to understand themselves, their ministries, and how they fit on ministry teams.
  • Mentors can help coach students through the Personal Development Plan process (and annual updates). Having a mentor involved will greatly help students to connect their development process with their life and ministry goals.
  • Mentors can guide in the identification of ministry experiences to be used for Ministry Practicum, particularly if the mentor has experience and expertise in ministry areas. Having a mentor involved helps students set learning goals, prepare for the experience, evaluate the experience, and report on what has been learned. Similarly, mentors can help greatly in Teaching Practicum to help students learn from their teaching experiences.
  • Mentors can check on progress being made in Leadership Series courses. It is particularly helpful for mentors to review the culminating work from Unit 5 projects and work being submitted in e-Portfolio as evidence of competencies.

Mentoring should not necessarily be thought of as merely an isolated one-on-one relationship. Mentors may meet with multiple students at one time, such as for the Becoming Established assessment or Ministry Practicums. This may add efficiency, but also effectiveness because it creates a dimension of mutuality in development.

In conclusion, we hope that you don’t view the mentoring dimension of the Antioch School as a “hoop to jump through.” Rather, we hope that you view it as the means by which you are able to accomplish the mentoring that you say is important, but may not be doing very well on your own.

“Survey Says . . .”

Certified Leaders and Antioch School students were surveyed in January 2013 to help us gather data and reflect on our service.  Here are the results.

Completion Rate: 

  • 91% of the Antioch School students who took Leadership Series courses in 2012 completed them.

The rate was lowest for the first three courses (Acts, Pauline Epistles, and Essentials of Sound Doctrine), probably because students are still determining whether the program is really for them.  Rates are highest for the courses taken later in the program.  This means that once students get rolling in the program, they are even more likely to complete courses.

See below for comments from the Certified Leader Survey.

Student Satisfaction:

  • 87% said that they achieved the goals they had when they started the course.
  • 95% said they would recommend the course to a friend.
  • 93% said that they were satisfied with the course.

The data on student satisfaction can be a bit confusing.  For instance, it is possible for students not to achieve their goals for a course because their goals were not well-matched to the course.  We think the 93% satisfaction rate and the 95% recommendation rate are very encouraging.

The following comments were taken from the surveys submitted by Certified Leaders of Antioch School programs:

Many Certified Leaders made simple, positive comments, such as:

  • “Enjoyed them tremendously.”
  • “The courses are great.”
  • “Excellent!”
  • “Love them, very well done.”
  • “Great material.”
  • “We are enjoying them thoroughly.”
  • “Great tools!”
  • “The courses are awesome.”

Others offered more explanation with their appreciation:

  • “Series is excellent because it is a serious attempt to build concepts from biblical data; and students are responding well to the curriculum.”
  • “Those taking the courses are benefitting and dedicated to the coursework.”
  • “I have appreciated them. They have been a great benefit to our church, especially to the existing leadership. The more of them I lead the more excited I get about how our church and leaders can develop.”
  • “The courses are very thorough and comprehensive. They demand and deliver disciplined reflection and understanding.”
  • “Finding the courses of great benefit in our church planting from our local church.”
  • “Excellent and difficult.  Work is great.  Great practical teaching.”
  • “Appreciating the way Leadership 1 builds a ministry platform at the same time preparing the Trainee for Leadership 2 and doing the our theology in culture.”
  • “Good content, effective methodology for actual learning & appropriately challenging.”

Some focused their comments on particular courses, both in appreciation and concern:

  • “The course on Shepherding is an exceptional study. . . . The Preaching study does not have the great impact of the others.”
  •  “The Shepherding course is excellent and is helping us re-think our approach in training existing and emerging small group leaders.”
  • “The Essentials Course seemed too much material to cover in a 15-week time span and it assumed a lot of knowledge about church history on the part of the participants.”
  • “There is a little frustration with not having the Kevin Giles readings in the Theological Reader for the Leader in the Early Church course.”

And some focused on issues related to format:

  • “Would be great when these are made digitally available.”
  •  “Are the materials being updated?”
  • “We’d love to have the binders in electronic format and some of the readings updated.”
  • “It would be nice to find a way to periodically update readings, perhaps electronically.”
  • “The e-portfolio is the most confusing part of the Courses, both to students and to leaders.”

Please note that your concerns are our concerns.  We are designing the next generation of our e-Portfolio that will have many more features and be much more user-friendly.  And we are committed to making our resources available digitally and updating the Theological Readers (though our goal is not necessarily to include the “latest stuff” or to deliver content through the chapters and articles, but to include those that give excellent perspective and insight related to your own study of the text, interaction as a ministry team, and building your ministry plan).  We always welcome your suggestions for material that you think would be good in our courses.

Where Is The Finish?

How much work do my students need to do to show competency?

Partners asking this question want to know what a student must specifically do to fulfill our requirements and receive academic credit. This question is understandable.  After all, it is difficult to hit a mark that you don’t clearly see. At the same time, however, the question is problematic. Students who ask it may subconsciously make a finish line out of a minimum bar. Partners who focus on it may not use the Antioch School to maximize the development of their students.

Here is a better question:

What work will help my students to become really competent?

Asked this way, attention is drawn to the overall equipping agenda you have for your leaders. This question also better reflects our vision for what an Antioch School program can accomplish in your church or ministry. Ideally, we want to see you use elements of the Antioch School training as launch points for a range of needed development. And, while we want students to gain cultural currency, we hope they look beyond degree completion alone and pursue what they need to be effective in ministry.

With this in mind, let me describe ways to leverage our resources for larger gains than just meeting minimum requirements.

  • Pull out the SIMA Motivated Abilities Pattern often (not just for the annual reflection), and use it to help students understand both fruitfulness and frustration within their ministry responsibilities. In the future your students will have better judgment in the use of their gifts.
  • Use the Personal Development Plan to build lifelong habits of assessment, prayerful planning, and adjustment in your students.  Such habits will be critical for these emerging leaders as their ministry responsibility and the demands that go with it expand.
  • Students can show core competency without doing every project in a Leadership Series course. However, all the projects are valuable.  Some of them call for reflection and introspection. Use those projects to help students grasp the importance of the concepts that they are learning and to internalize those principles at a conviction level.
  • Use the Ministry Practicums to teach students when they are most teachable – in the midst of the realities of ministry. Add to their learning objectives mid-stream if you see that it would be strategic for shaping the student.
  • Help your students to see that doing the range of projects within the courses will lead to an extremely useful body of work. In the future, portions of their work may be developed into resources used to instruct others. In addition, doing the work will help them develop the clarity and critical understanding they will need to shepherd others around Christ’s teaching.
  • With the Teaching Practicums, challenge the students to master the New Testament concepts so completely that they can readily, in a variety of contexts, entrust those principles to others.
  • Use the Ministry Strategy Plans to either create or adjust actual ministry plans for your church.  Help your students to develop the skill of putting biblical principles into action.

This post has emphasized our experience that when leaders focus on comprehensively equipping their students, those students end up with ample material which show competency.  I want to end, though, where we started. The initial question is an honest one.  Let me give you four resources that will help students to assemble a portfolio that demonstrates competency and will be granted academic credit from the Antioch School.

  1. Students should use our Student Competency Assessment Guide to self-assess their own work before posting to their portfolio.  This guide contains the rubric we use for evaluating every competency set within an Antioch School degree program.
  2. Students should use the additional manuals on this same webpage to create effective practicums, personal development plans, and SIMA reflections.
  3. If you are a leader directing a program, register for our e-Workshop entitled Assessment of Leadership Series Courses. This will help you understand the range of evidence your students can post to demonstrate they have achieved the course competencies. This workshop will be held on Thursday, April 11, 2013, but you can register now at the Antioch School Web Conferencing Center.
  4. Contact us directly with remaining questions. We ultimately want to help you and your students to be successful. We welcome the opportunity to assist you as you equip a new generation of leaders for Christ’s church.




Competency-Based Education is Arriving

We have been singing the praises of competency-based education for years and predicting that it would bring significant change to the higher education world.  Well, it is starting to happen.  The Wall Street Journal reported on January 24, 2013 that the University of Wisconsin is now offering “a program that promises to award a bachelor’s degree based on knowledge” regardless of the source or method of learning.

There has been a lot of attention given to MOOCs (massive open online courses) that provide instruction to enormous amounts of students at one time.  Often MOOCs are taught by the top leaders of a field at little or no cost.  However, educational organizations offering MOOCs and academic institutions offering credit and degrees have not been able to sort out the credentialing issue.  The University of Wisconsin (and the Antioch School long before it) addresses credentialing through rigorous, multi-faceted, and trustworthy assessment.

Some have responded to the University of Wisconsin news by declaring that “it just won’t be the same” as a traditional campus-based education.  Well, how will you know?  You have to assess!  And if you say that there are things about a traditional campus-based education that you “just can’t measure,” then how can you ever be sure that a graduate has them?

The bottom line is that competency-based education is forcing higher education to rethink its fundamental assumptions.  No longer can we just assume that a student on a traditional campus is getting a high quality education, even if that institution has a prestigious reputation.  It all comes back to assessment.  And that is where the Antioch School thrives with its portfolio transcripts, e-Portfolio, and multi-faced church-based assessment system.

Read the full article here.

Partner Stories: Harvest Bible Chapel

This week we are highlighting one of our North America partner programs.  Pastor Bob Brueggen directs the School of Ministry at Harvest Bible Chapel Davenport.  They have entered their third year of partnership with the Antioch School and currently have 23 leaders in training.  Listen to Bob describe their vision for training solid leaders and the tangible fruit they have seen emerge so far.

When Vision Meets Practice

Bright IdeaWe are always encouraged to hear success stories from our partners.  We start 2013 with nearly 150 North American partners working to train up leaders in the context of their ministry.  They tell us of creative implementation and of fruit.  At times, though, we also hear from those who have hit logistical snags or from potential partners who fear starting because they anticipate problems. In the latter case the concern is sometimes that “if I build it, they will come”. They worry that their first, small group of students will multiply too fast as others hear about the opportunity.

What have successful practitioners of Antioch School programs done to manage the process?  Here are 11 practices we have seen used to move the vision of 2 Timothy 2:2 forward on the ground:

  1. Decide as a leader team to earmark time for developing other leaders.  In successful situations the existing leadership team has discussed the mandatory and missional nature of 2 Timothy 2:2.  A portion of someone’s time has been given over to this task and certain ministry responsibilities shifted to allow this to happen.
  2. Tap your students. Some may be able to teach the early courses to new waves of students (fulfilling a practicum in the process).  Others may be able to serve as mentors for younger students. Yet others may provide critical administrative help.
  3. Develop a mentor pool. Mentoring need not fall on a few shoulders. Find the people-developers in your midst and use them.
  4. Arrange for volunteer administrative help.  If you are more visionary by gifting, you may find that certain basic administrative tasks consistently drag down the training.  If so, look at who God had put around you.  You will often find someone within your ministry sphere, possibly one of the students, who is a perfect fit.
  5. Organize your students in cohorts who start a cycle of Leadership Series courses together.  Students may enroll anytime in the year to begin working on the more flexible portions of the training – personal development plan, assessments, practicums, etc. But many logistical problems are solved by arranging the courses on a consistent annual schedule.
  6. Have more than one person on your team go through our certification training. This can be done easily online.  This will reduce review bottlenecks if you have several students posting work to their portfolios.
  7. Recruit your students.  Don’t just take who signs up.  Pursue your “Timothy’s”, and use our resources to intentionally build your leadership team.
  8. Manage the expectations of the students from the start. They are being trained in the midst of ministry, on the front lines. The process will be transformational but also messy. That’s the nature of ministry.  If students expect this, they will work with you when any problems arise.
  9. Network with other church leaders in the area.  Find other leaders who share your vision for leadership development and who will partner with you.  Certain components of the training (the courses for example) can often be done collaboratively between several churches.
  10. Call us. We want you to be successful. We have expertise and multiple resources to assist you. We also have knowledge of best-practices that we have heard from others.  And if you are encountering a unique problem, we want to help discover solutions.
  11. Look beyond the first year.  Don’t be discouraged by the first year learning curve.  From the first moment you invest in developing leaders, you are expanding your ministry capacity.  Think ahead to ministry responsibilities that you will be delegating to your students which in turn will allow you to be more balanced as you continue to train.

Sometimes when vision meets practice, the difficulties cause the vision to die.  We believe, though, and have seen that church-based theological education works in churches and networks, large and small, rural and urban, with ample resources and few.  In the future we will bring some specific stories to you. In the meanwhile, we hope these suggestions will be helpful to you in crafting workable strategies for training leaders in your context.

Have you found other practices that are critical to managing your Antioch School training process?


Here’s What You Missed

Were you not able to attend the BILD annual conference this year?  Here are some highlights of what you missed!

The Newbies: We do most of our Antioch School Initial Certification Training online using Webex, but the conference is one of the few times when we offer the training live.  We had an excellent group of church leaders that extended from rural eastern Iowa to urban eastern Africa (Kenya)!   Some were focused on using BILD resources for their own modest-sized churches, while others were preparing for large-scale implementation for an entire country (Sierra Leone).  It is always exciting to discover the ambitions of those who attend the initial training.  For instance, some are eager to bring the BILD resources and Antioch School programs to their church networks in North America and around the world.  You will be hearing more about some of these folks in months and years to come as we hope to tell their stories in this blog.

The Oldies: Dozens of church leaders participated in the Ongoing Training in order to maintain their Antioch School certification.  Mostly, this meant that they took part in workshops to help them be better equipped to teach the BILD Leadership Series courses.  Nine different two-day course workshops were offered during the conference.  In some cases, church leaders took workshops for courses they had already taught.  It was not unusual to hear them remark, “So, that is how I was supposed to teach the course.”  At one level, the BILD courses teach themselves, but at another level, it is helpful to have the input of those with vast experience teaching BILD courses.

The Goodies: (Feedback and Networking Opportunities– Positive and Negative)  During lunch on Tuesday and Thursday, many Antioch School Certified Leaders met for a partner forum (think “Antioch School users group”).  They shared things that they really appreciate about BILD and the Antioch School, including some that came somewhat by surprise.  For instance, several reported about the mindset changes that have happened in their churches as they have adopted a broader view of ministry and what it means for leaders to be trained.  Others gave testimony about the impact of various BILD resources, such as the SIMA MAP, the Personal Development Plan, and the First Principles especially for people in their churches beyond those enrolled in the Antioch School.  A group of pastors in rural Iowa and a group in New England expressed interest in forming regional/affinity groups so that others will not feel all alone, but will have an ongoing community in which to address issues.  We will be announcing more about these in the near future.

The Not-So-Goodies: The “Antioch School users group” also uncovered some challenges being faced by those using BILD resources and Antioch School degree programs.  Some are struggling with implementation because they don’t have complete buy-in from their leadership team.  Others are having difficulty getting students to post work in e-Portfolios and/or being confident in doing portfolio assessment.  There were several expressions of interest in having more samples of the Antioch School’s non-traditional components, such as the Ministry Practicum Report and SIMA MAP Responses.  We hope to provide additional support in these areas in months to come because we are committed to serving our partners and trying to improve our service.

The Biggies: The plenary sessions at the BILD conference are not just big in number of people attending.  They are huge in terms of the ideas presented.  This year, Jeff Reed challenged us from the perspective of “shadow cities” (urban slums) as being strategic in the spontaneous expansion of the church.  It included four big ideas:  1) Global Cities are the new Roman Road, 2) Shadow Cities present enormous opportunities and challenges, 3) Bottom-of-the-Pyramid investment (with the poorest billion people) provides a mutual benefit, and 4) Church benefactors are key because “the money is in the pews” of evangelical churches.  Randy Kennedy, Asia Strategy Director of the Maclellan Foundation, also presented “Asia Review:  Growth of the Church and Presenting Opportunities.”  In coming weeks, we will feature highlights and video links to these various presentations.

The Cronies: Often, we hear that someone’s highlight of the BILD conference was the opportunity to meet and hang out with the indigenous apostolic leader of a massive movement of God somewhere in the world.  BILD’s partners represent some of the most exciting things that God is doing, particularly in strategic places like India.  In just a matter of a few days, deep friendships are formed and ministry partnerships are initiated.  This year, the BILD conference was focused on leaders of church planting movements and church networks that are more advanced in their use of the BILD resources.  We heard numerous testimonies of how much participants enjoyed the opportunity to be with these seasoned BILD partners.

So, why do we tell you all of this?  On one hand, we want to give a report.  On the other hand, we want you to start making plans now to participate next year so that you will be able to give your own report.

Mark your calendar now for November 4-9, 2013.