Pastors vision becomes reality with experiential ministry degree

Posted: October 16, 2013

Pastor Ed Hyatt’s vision for a leadership development centre is finally coming true.

Hyatt, previous pastor at the East Side Church of God in Swift Current, saw the need to develop pastors with experience to help serve both his and other churches.

Current pastor Kevin Snider acknowledged Hyatt’s vision during the signing ceremony for a new partnership with Briercrest College and Seminary.  The partnership agreement will see successful students receive an associate degree in experiential ministry.

“The former pastor Ed Hyatt, who was here 29 years, about 15 years ago went for his doctorate and actually his thesis was building a leadership centre right here through the church,” Snider said. “So I think he planted a vision way back then and I kind of feel that he was Moses looking at the Promised Land and we have the opportunity of entering into it a little bit and make it a reality.”

Snider went on to explain that the church was looking for ways to mentor future pastors and to give them hands-on training in the local churches while still having all the benefits of partnering with a college that offers university-level education.

“We think it’s got great potential, especially with all the skills and all the resources of Briercrest and the opportunities to serve that East Side and this community affords,” Snider said.

The Church of God’s Western Canadian leadership team agrees. John Campbell, director of credentialing for the Church of God in Western Canada, said that the denomination has been looking for ways to train their pastors since their Bible school in Moose Jaw closed.

“We have been exploring for some time how we might be able to improve the skills of our young men and women coming into ministry so that they are adequately trained and prepared for the calling that God has placed upon their lives,” Campbell said. “And so we are excited about the potential of being able to partner with Briercrest as one of those institutions that will help our students become what God has called them to be.”

“The value that that brings, not only to the student, but to our congregation - to the Church of God, is very important to us and to have people adequately prepared and confident  about moving in today’s world, trained and knowing that they go with a sense of confidence.”

That confidence will be fostered by having students accrue over 1,000 hours of service in a variety of capacities. Kevin Baum, youth pastor at the Swift Current church, is excited about the practical education the students working at the church will receive.

“Very excited,” he said. “I have seen it as a huge need in the churches. When people graduate from Bible school they have good theological training but they have no training in how to work with a board or how to begin a youth ministry in a specific local context so I think that will really help them to be well-rounded as leaders.”

Baum and Snider both worked closely with the school in developing the program.

“We have, over the last few years, developed a great respect and appreciation for Briercrest,” Snider said. “Their willingness to serve the church, their cooperation in this whole endeavour was unbelievable - it caught us by surprise- and also just their willingness to come alongside us as a church and so we’ve just developed a great relationship and are really excited and confident about what we can do together.”

Briercrest is also looking forward to the partnership. Brian Gobbett, associate vice president academic at Briercrest, said that this agreement fits exactly with the school’s goals of having a robust biblical and theological studies program, the very best of liberal arts education and also an engagement with church.

“We want to have curriculum that engages the church and meets the needs of the church and prepares people for the church,” he said, adding that this degree emphasizes the partnership Briercrest seeks with churches.

“So here we are reaching into a very particular church environment and a denominational environment as well and we are responding to that need in a way that is going to be useful for them and take advantage of some of the strengths and some of the philosophical initiatives that we want going forward for Briercrest,” he said.

George Boyd, dean of Christian ministries at Briercrest, agrees.

“I am absolutely thrilled with the initiative,” he said. “I think that we are committed to equipping the church and this is a prime example of how we can come alongside the church and take young people and be involved in the discipleship process.

“What’s really exciting for me is to have a church be able to identify young people with potential for ministry. So they have identified them and then they are ready to invite them to become involved in this internship, on-site, and then invest in them.”