Pre-training

Before a new church worker can start their job and be effective, some training is often needed.  Here are more ideas on how to train your workers.

A Bible institute

The content of what a church needs to teach, especially to lay leaders, goes far beyond what could ever be taught in Sunday School classes. Some churches have received significant assistance in their educational endeavors with a Bible institute. A Bible institute is a credit conferring, diploma granting, Christian educational institution that meets regularly in a local church to study the Bible and subjects directly related to it. The purpose of a Bible institute is to equip laypersons for growth and ministry. It may be considered pre-service or in-service.

It does not require a high school diploma. It does not offer liberal arts classes. It has developed from several sources, including the Bible college movement, the Sunday School teacher training programs, and the college extension programs.

Adults are going to school, as the community college movement gives strong evidence. Over 15 million adults are enrolled in some type of continuing education program. Christian adults will enroll in an evening Bible institute program at their church for quality instruction, if it is offered.

Some Bible institutes are started by one church for the purpose of providing training for its membership. Some are by one church, but an attempt is made at providing a service to other churches in the community. Some institutes are actually formed cooperatively by several churches working together. Some institutes are primarily an extension program of a Christian college. There are also correspondence institutes available like the Liberty program and the one from Moody that are primarily designed for individual study.

Curriculum. Many areas of study can be included in a Bible institute. Bible study is a major part, and courses could be offered on Bible survey, Bible book studies, Bible doctrine, Bible geography, Bible archaeology, and biblical introduction. How-to-serve type courses could be offered in Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, children’s church, music, Awana, evangelism, and missions. Other areas of study could include family life, church history, Christian leadership, money management, and even psychology and counseling. Materials to use for curriculum are available from many sources.

Schedule. The amount of time for each course may be dictated by the curriculum if a publisher or other organization is to recognize the work and to provide certificates. Evangelical Training Association requires 12 class periods of 50 minutes each, or a total of 10 hours of class time. The Seminary Extension program requires 16 class periods. A church can, of course, set their own standards and give their own certificates.

Bible institutes may meet from 1–4 nights a week. One night a week seems to be the most popular. Class sessions are usually 40–50 minutes in length. One schedule had two periods of 50 minutes each, with the first period being from 7:00–7:50 P.M. followed by a break, and then a second period from 8:20–9:10 P.M. Another schedule has 3 periods of 40 minutes, each with the first from 7:00–7:40 P.M., the second from 7:45– 8:25 P.M., a break from 8:25–8:45 P.M., and the third from 8:45–9:25 P.M. . The term, or semester, might last from 12–16 weeks, with one in the fall and one in the spring. Some churches are providing the equivalent of a Bible institute during the Wednesday evening service.

Workers. A Bible institute will need a few regular workers.
a. A director – to direct the entire program. The pastor or a minister of education would usually be the director.
b. A registrar – to keep the records. A record, complete with grades, should be maintained on all persons entering the program.
c. A treasurer – the director or registrar could do this. Institutes usually charge participants, and the fees must be collected and recorded.
d. Teachers – most of the professional church staff would serve there, but outsiders, including nearby college and seminary teachers, could be included. Outside teachers should be paid $25–50 per class hour.
e. In some churches they will have a committee or board to work with the staff.

Finances. People who attend a Bible institute have been willing to pay a registration fee or tuition as is customary with other educational programs. The church could also receive some income from the sale of texts and other books in connection with the institute. Expenses to the program will include advertising, teaching supplies, record keeping, and maybe salaries for the faculty. Salaries will be necessary if outsiders are used to teach the courses.

Promotion. Send letters, brochures, and posters to churches and schools in the area. Place posters and brochures in Christian bookstores. Announce the program over the Christian radio stations in the area. Write articles for the religious section of the local newspaper. Sponsor a luncheon for area pastors and directors of Christian education to explain the program and to gain their support. There needs to be a lot of in-church promotion. Many churches will offer scholarship assistance for workers in the church to encourage them to participate.

A director of pre-service training.  This person could be given the following responsibilities:
1. Discover training needs
2. Decide how training can be accomplished
3. Determine where training can take place. Here he must consider the time of other programs.
4. Schedule training events. When are participants available? When are instructors available? Will child care be needed, and when is it available?
5. Select training resources
6. Select training instructors
7. Enlist participants – personal, individual invitation that is preceded by a letter
8. Supervise the training
9. Evaluate the training
10. Keep records

The director can use an assistant to help with room arrangements, visitation of absentees, equipment, and materials. A secretary will be needed to maintain records and make reports.

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