How to Choose A Good Bible School or Seminary
I have been working in the arena of Bible School and ministry training since 1989 when I first went to Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California to study world missions. I had just spent over three years as the television producer for Reinhard Bonnke and wanted to help pastors absorb the huge harvest being won to Christ through evangelism. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I was hopelessly prepared and needed specific training if I was going to accomplish anything for God.
My choice of Fuller was based largely on its reputation and the fact that Dr. C. Peter Wagner was a professor there. At that time, he was the world’s leading expert on church growth and church planting. I learned volumes from him and his expertise set in my mind the FIRST principle of choosing a good training program for yourself.
1) It must have high quality professors and trainers.
These must be people who are not just theologians and academics but those who are practitioners and those who have lived and done what they teach. Wagner had been a missionary, a theologian and a practitioner. Such instructors are difficult to find but important to search for.
As I stepped onto the missions field in Nigeria after Fuller, I realized a second factor that most of the world has to cope with.
2) It must be affordable.
Most people considering doing more in ministry do NOT want to rack up two years of student loans. They are looking to get good training at an affordable price. Cost should not be a barrier to people wanting to do more for God and yet one does not want to compromise the quality of one’s training just to save a buck. That does create a dilemma for many because a lot of people today are already carrying heavy student loans from their secular studies. Adding more debt only prolongs the payback period and thus reduce the likelihood of them stepping out anytime soon into some kind of ministry endeavor.
3) It must maximize the time.
The third factor I came to understand was that most people have very limited disposable time. The prime group of people considering doing Bible School and ministry training are young adults and many of them are starting families, working two jobs and juggling kids, car payments, keeping in shape and rent obligations. Fitting in Bible School training is not an easy task. This is where today’s technology advances have to come into play. The few training opportunities people have are during a commute to and from work, whether that is in a car, bus or train. Other opportunities are at the gym while they physically work out. I have come to learn that Bible training NEEDS to take the hectic schedules most people lead in today’s world into consideration. The days when people had the chance of taking off two to four years of their lives to be trained for ministry are numbered or at least very limited.
4) It must have a good reputation.
Finally people need to look at the reputation of the training they will be receiving. This brings up the term “accreditation” and people need to decide whether they want their training to be government accredited or whether they want training whose accreditation is based on an Association of Christian Educators. Many times, the difference is NOT in the quality of training but simply in the PRICE. There is a HUGE cost in getting and maintaining a government accreditation. It often limits institutions to teachers with academic credentials and NOT real life experience. The average two year ministry degree consisting of 60 credit hours will cost about $350 per CREDIT HOUR or roughly $21,000 in tuition costs. That does NOT include books and other expenses. The cost of training based on an Association of Christian Educators is often less than a thousand dollars or only a few thousand dollars in total.
Many of the most respected Bible School training programs in the USA are NOT government accredited. A classic example is Christ for the Nations Institute in Dallas, Texas. It is HIGHLY respected throughout the Christian world with some of the best professors and teachers anywhere. Government accreditation is NOT a major factor when it comes to respected ministry training. With that being said, I highly endorse a number of government accredited institutions. These include Regent University, Oral Roberts University, Grand Canyon University, Biola, Azuza Pacific, Kings University in Dallas, Vanguard and many others. At these institutions please expect to pay between $10,000 to $35,000 per year in tuition alone.
Looking at these different factors, I realized long ago that there was a great need for the global Church to reinvent the process of training for this current generation. This is why my life work has been to develop a new type of ministry training program that considers all I have put into this blog. The result has been the creation of the International School of Ministry or the ISOM as it is known. Over the past ten years, it has become the largest video Bible school in the world with well over 300,000 students in 150 nations.
In creating the ISOM, I decided I wanted the trainers to be some of the greatest voices in Christianity today, practitioners with tangible fruit to prove their effectiveness. For the core program I chose 30 teachers and that core content includes courses by people such as Jack Hayford, Joyce Meyer, John Bevere, Marilyn Hickey, Reinhard Bonnke, A.R. Bernard, Bill Winston, Brian Houston and many others. In the Bachelors program we chose other teachers like Robert Morris, Perry Stone, Lance Wallnau and Darlene Zscheck.
Because I was Reinhard Bonnke’s TV producer and have a Masters degree in television from Regent University, I decided to professionally record these teachers with high quality picture and sound. When each came to record with us, I asked them to bring forth their life messages. They taught to camera so students feel they are being directly instructed by these great men and women of God. They also were recorded bilingually so we could add many world languages (now 85) while also creating shorter 30-minute session versions in single languages like English, Spanish, German, Japanese, Portuguese and Mandarin.
Finally, because we have a track record of 20 years of training and because the instructors we have chosen are some of the most respected names in Christianity, the ISOM has a credibility all of its own. It is being recognized more and more worldwide as being a solid preparation for ministry. We have three University and Seminary institutions who grant degrees for those who complete the ISOM training and those degrees start at $150 for the Associates Degree in Ministry, $200 for the Bachelors Degree and $350 for the Masters Degree. We even have a denomination (Elim out of New York) who have seen such fruit from ISOM graduates in the USA, that they now recognize ISOM graduates to have fulfilled the training requirements they have set for licensing into full time ministry.
So if you are looking for a high quality, affordable and credible program to help you get a ministry degree, look no further than ministrydegree.org where you will find the ISOM delivered to your desktop or mobile device in an easy to use fashion. You will also join a global community of believers who are being trained in 150 countries through the same content and you will have opportunity through forums and postings to connect with believers being trained for ministry worldwide. As our slogan famously says: “ISOM – equipping believers locally on a global scale.” I hope you will check us out and take advantage of this program today to meet your training needs.
Dr. Berin Gilfillan is the Founder and President of Good Shepherd Ministries, International, the creator of the International School of Ministry (ISOM). He holds an undergraduate degree in Communications from the University of Michigan, a Masters Degree in Communications from Regent University and a Doctorate in Ministry from Vision International University. He also did two years of study at a Masters level under Dr. C. Peter Wagner at Fuller Theological Seminary. ISOM has over 20,000 training schools who have used its curriculum in 150 countries and in 85 languages. It has been a proven curriculum of training for more than 20 years.