Are leaders born, or made? Is culture taught, or caught? How can a Bible College partner with the local church to educate and empower a millennial generation to grow the church and not its own agenda?
The Victory Bible College started in Lethbridge in 1983 and then moved to Calgary when Drs. George and Hazel did in the late 80’s. It was always the purpose of the College to raise and train leaders for the church planting movement, and by the mid 1990’s Victory Churches was widely considered to be the fastest growing church planting movement in North America with an annual rate of growth of 33%.
The college went through some struggles with a number of consecutive deans and by the late 2000’s it began to suffer greatly. I don’t think that there is any coincidence that the movement as a whole slowed greatly as well in its church planting efforts. Our mandate now is to resurrect it to its former glory and in effect, impact the movement as a whole because we are producing world class leaders from here.
“Growing Leaders….Growing Churches” is more than a tag line for the college, it sums up the focus of the Victory Church movement.
Leadership is a huge topic we discuss leadership in every podcast we do. An old question I’d like to discuss is: “Are leaders born or made?” While I have never met a leader yet who hasn’t been born, the question really refers to whether leadership is a natural skill or a learned one. While I believe that there are certain temperaments and personalities that naturally lend to leadership, I believe leadership is definitely a learned skill. In fact, I believe that when a leader stops learning they stop leading.
To take any movement to the next level, there must be a freshness in leadership. Leaders that take a movement or a technology to the next level are “game changers”. Martin Luther King was such a leader in the Civil Rights movement during the 1960’s. Steve Jobs was a game changer in technology….and the list goes on…Einstein, Edison, Ford… and a “game changer” leader in this Millennial generation?
I think leadership begins with challenging the status quo. So, when I see someone separate themselves from the pack and begin challenging methods and common thinking, I watch closely, because there is a potential leader. And, if people begin following, then you definitely have a leader.
At My Victory Church in Lethbridge, we have a youthful Millennial vibe here. And their enthusiasm is contagious and challenging to the status quo mentality. We have a goal to capitalize on this connection in our church and bring it into a our college mindset.
I think culture is often more easily caught than taught, and I think the students coming into our environment are not only going to be taught with excellence in leadership and theology, but just being in our facility day after day, rubbing shoulders with our amazing staff and volunteer teams, they are going to catch a crazy passion for the church and the amazing culture we have created around here.
Anthony Jay says: “The uncreative mind can spot wrong answers but it takes a creative mind to spot wrong questions”.
As a Bible College we need to be asking the right questions. Some of the wrong questions are “How do we comply with the government, educational standards?” and “do we have enough students coming in?” While I believe those questions are important and can’t be ignored, I think the better questions are “Are we effectively producing leaders for our churches?” “Are we attracting the right people?” and “Are we seeing life change in our students?”
Aristotle said: “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all”.
Make no mistake, I think a first class education is important for the minds of our students. We need smart leaders to move the church forward, so I won’t minimize that. And we have some amazing teachers lined up that will give our students the best education. But with that in mind, one of the things I’m most excited about is having Gene Brack on board to lead this college, because I have seen him in action with young people. He has an amazing heart for young leaders and has a way of calling out the best in them and getting to their hearts, connecting them with God in a life-changing way as well as igniting a passion in them for the church and its mission. Like what Paul the Apostle said, “we have enough teachers but we don’t have enough fathers.” Gene is one of those fathers and it will be an amazing experience for all those who attend.
“Fathering” the next generation of believers is critical to growing leaders that will grow churches in the Victory Church movement. Key to this “fathering” is creating a team of teachers. In Patrick Lencioni’s book “The Ideal Team Player”, he expounds on 3 characteristics: “Hunger, Humility and Smart”when describing the Ideal Team Player.
We need a faculty that are hungry for the Word of God and passionate to see the church move forward. I believe we have that in spades in the faculty we have recruited so far. We also need a strong humility that moves past selfish desires and self promotion and insecurities to press through for the betterment of growing the global church, not just one church or one leader. And I believe we have that in our team. And then we need a faculty that are people smart, that can connect with each student on an individual basis and pull out the best in them because they genuinely care about each one of them. And we have that as well! And it’s important that we do because the only way you can create students that are hungry, humble, and smart is to surround them with leaders who embody all three.
William Arthur Ward says this about teachers: “The mediocre teacher tells, the good teacher explains, the superior teacher demonstrates and the great teacher inspires”. I believe our faculty must not only do all of these things but must raise the classroom level of teaching to “empowering”.
When I attended the first bible college I went to, I was taught by professional teachers and professors. That is all they did. When I attended Victory Bible College right after that, I was impressed that my teachers were not just teachers, they were pastors and leaders with genuine experience and successful experience in the very topic they were teaching me. So I was able to push deeper with them into a topic and they would genuinely be able to help me because they were right in the middle of working those things through.
We have chosen a faculty that are just that. They are not just teachers and professors, they are experienced leaders who have been successful in their field and are currently leading with success in their field. To me, that makes the biggest difference. It allows the teacher to take their students deeper to empowerment because they can press through past just the knowledge of a topic, they can press into real life experience as well.
Michael Morpurgo says: “It’s the teacher that makes the difference, not the classroom”. While I agree with that, his statement overlooks the power of the quality and relevance of the curriculum.
While it’s definitely the teacher that makes a difference, you can’t discard the importance of what is being taught either. Both are important. But the teacher is what makes a subject come alive and stick for the students.
Victory Bible College in Lethbridge focuses on 3 major objectives.
- Establish students in their faith
- Equip students in leadership
- Empower students in ministry
Establish students in their faith
We don’t just talk about faith, we live it. We surround them with on fire, spirit-filled, passionate leaders who are madly in love with Jesus and full of wisdom and revelation. When they see the fruit of a deep relationship with God, they will press in for one themselves. Plus, we teach them in such a way, revelation not just information, so that the scriptures come alive for them. I think what is most important for students, if there is one thing I want every single student that attends here to walk away with, it’s a life changing deep connection with Jesus that will stick with them for life.
Equip students in Leadership
One of the reasons we moved the college here to Lethbridge is because we felt that partnering the college with a large church was one of the best ways we could give each student the opportunity to work alongside a group of well trained, highly skilled, and passionate leaders in every field of ministry. We have great media, music, children’s, youth, admin, and pastoral teams here, and we will provide each student the opportunity to train and work alongside our great leadership teams. So they will not only be taught leadership, but they will experience it as well.
Empower students in ministry
I think we empower them by finding their God-given call and partnering them with opportunities to walk that calling out. Another advantage to having the Bible College in Lethbridge is that as the chairman of Victory Churches of Canada, I work closely with our nations pastors and know of opportunities for ministry all around this country that we can match students with. As Pastor George always says, we have more opportunities in Victory than we have leaders. Well, let’s begin addressing that by training leaders in all aspects of ministry and then matching them up with opportunities to lead.
Partnering with the Local Church
A young person that stands out to their pastor in a local church is typically the prime candidate we’re looking for here in Lethbridge. We want to assure any pastors that Victory Bible College in Lethbridge is the best training ground for “their" future leaders. But the biggest fear of every pastor is that if they send their best to the Bible College, they will lose them and it will negatively impact their church.
I know that fear, because I lived it as a pastor for years. What we want to do differently is shorten the students week, holding classes from Monday to Thursday, allowing them a long weekend every weekend to travel back to their local church and do their practicums and leadership responsibilities in their home church. So, we will train them during the week, and send them back equipped to help grow their local church, partnering with each local pastor in growing leaders within their congregation for their congregation.
A Look Ahead
I want to see hundreds of students trained with excellence each year and sent out as leaders into this nation. The local church is the hope of the world and if we want to see change in the spiritual climate in Canada, we will need leaders, and what I am looking for most of all is the results on the back-end. I want to see high caliber leaders changing the spiritual climate of our country because they are leading or part of leading the greatest churches this world has ever seen. That’s not too big of an ask, is it?
Regaining the Why
Statistically Bible Colleges in general, both here in Canada and in the U. S., are dying off. Is it outdated terminology? Is it irrelevant curriculum? Is it antiquated teaching methods? Are we asking the wrong questions? I think it is probably a combination of all of the above. But most of all, I think it is evidence that we have lost our why. I think the moment bible colleges separated themselves from the local church and became para-church is the moment we started to drift away from our purpose. A Bible College exists to serve the local church, to train leaders passionate about the local church, not just passionate about higher education or the right theologies or degrees, but passionate to build God’s kingdom on planet earth — the church.
It is vital that we establish, equip and empower this millennial generation. We need the highest caliber of leaders on the planet to come from the local church — because the church is the hope of the world and we are on a mission to reach every available person, at every available time, by every available means with the Gospel of Jesus Christ by creating churches unchurched people love to attend.
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