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    What's Bible College All About?

    For students on the fast track to full-time ministry, Bible college could be just the ticket.

    Steve Hendershot

    Troy Dolge sat with his guitar and suitcase for six hours at the airport in Anchorage, Alaska, waiting for a bus to pick him up. He says, "I was looking around and thinking, This is so sparse, this is so cold. But I felt like I was on the right path for once—I knew this was where God wanted me."

    After another four hours traveling to Alaska Bible College, Troy was even more convinced. He came to ABC to learn about ministry, to spend time with God apart from the distractions of his hometown in Washington, and to live and study in a small, close-knit community. The warm welcome he received on the bus and his experience in classes showed him he'd found what he was looking for.

    "I knew I wanted more of a foundation in Bible than a general education," says Troy, now a sophomore. "I wanted to get away from the English and the math and just focus on God's Word."

    For students like Troy, who know they're headed for full-time ministry, Bible colleges and institutes offer focused education. The schools' targeted curriculum and fellowship opportunities are designed to train people for careers where serving Christ is in the job description—pastors and missionaries, for example. But since a lot of undergrads change majors about as often as they order pizza, they'd better have a good idea of their calling before enrolling. Changing majors might mean transferring to a different school.

    "The kind of person who would come here is looking to work professionally in ministry and missions," says Larry Seif, a professor at Christ for the Nations Insititute in Dallas. "The excitement is high, not only for the acquisition of knowledge, but to go out and do some thing about it. There's a passion here for the Great Commission, for leading people to Jesus. This place just pulsates with that."

    This strong focus on ministry is certainly a distinctive of a Bible college education.

    "We're hoping that students sit down and say, ‘What's the difference between a Christian liberal arts school and a Bible college?' and find that a different mission drives a Bible school," says Larry Davidhizar, associate dean of undergraduate academics at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. "Neither is wrong; it's just how God tugs at your heart. If God is calling you to be a Christian businessman, God is going to use a Christian liberal arts college to prepare you better than a Bible college would. But if you're thinking about going into full-time ministry, Bible college might be the better option."
    "There's a real family atmosphere at a Bible college," says Sharon Clawser, a graduate of Lancaster Bible College in Pennsylvania. "Some of that may be because of the size, but I think a lot of it is because most of the students here are serious about preparing for full-time ministry."

    It didn't take long for Troy to realize his classes at Alaska Bible College were a different kind of schooling than he'd seen before.

    "You could spend five years going to church every Sunday to learn the things I've picked up in one semester," he says. "It's like a burst, and I've got to constantly ask myself, ‘How is God acting in my life?'"

    While students learn how the Bible relates to everyday life, they also build relationships with teachers. Professor Seif says a big part of teaching at Christ for the Nations is becoming involved in students' lives.

    "For me personally, it's not so much the dispensing of information as watching the students as they get some sense of finding the kind of person they want to be," he says. "What's really important is that students get some sense of how to live an authentic and successful life."

    Beyond in-depth academic study of Bible and ministry-related subjects, Bible colleges and institutes place a premium on off-campus ministry experience. Students explore missions opportunities ranging from worship teams and pastoral training to ministries in prisons, inner cities and overseas.

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