With another announcement of one of our local Bible colleges closing, we are facing a dire need to train men and women for ministry. Oil Belt’s mission is To Make Disciples of Jesus Christ through the teaching of God’s Word. With the opportunity we have of serving 108 independent Christian services across 14 counties in Southern Illinois, we find ourselves postured for such a time as this to take a step of faith to meet this need.
With the decline of population and church size in southern Illinois over the last 50 years, many churches are seeking bi-vocational ministers. Likewise, students seeking Bible training are seeking affordable options close to home. We believe we can create an entry-level program to help both take their next step whether that is: full-time, part-time, bi-vocational, Bible college, or just a desire for a biblical foundation.
Therefore, we are reaching out to you to see if you have students or adults who would be interested in a program like this. This is targeted for men and women who desire a base level training in Bible and ministry.
The training will focus on 4 core areas: Old Testament, New Testament, Basic Christian Beliefs and Practical Ministry Training. Our goal would be for local ministers to partner in teaching the classes. For the ministry part, we are going to be asking local ministers and churches if students can observe and serve in your church while in our program to gain experience and mentoring. What a great opportunity to meet and learn from those currently serving!
What’s the target demographic of students? We don’t believe it’s limited to one. This schedule opens the door to many types of students:
18-year-olds who just graduated and are interested in Bible training but don’t want to leave home just yet
College-Age students who are finishing an associate degree and will attend Bible college after they finish a 2-year degree, but want to start their Bible college training now
Bible college graduates who don’t have a ministry lined up yet and want a place to grow their skills and network with churches
Ministers who are new to ministry and would benefit from mentoring and experience
Men and women who are bi-vocational ministers, or leaders at church, and want to grow in their Bible knowledge and ministry training
As you can see, there are many that this will serve. Also, we know this doesn’t fit everyone. If a student is set on full-time ministry and a Bible college experience, that’s great! This is probably not for them. We are not attempting to be a Bible college. There are some great schools already for that. We are targeting what we believe could benefit local churches in our area for men and women who can’t travel to a Bible college, but want an in-person, mentoring experience.
When and what do classes look like? There are currently many different ideas we are bouncing around. We are guessing it will be night classes or weekend class times. The length of those and how many we offer each week are to be determined.
What does something like this cost? Like our summer camp program, we desire to make it as affordable as we can. There will be costs of program fees, staffing to oversee it, paying teachers and instructors and facility use fees. As we develop what it will look like, those will be the driving force to costs.
To aid that, would your church consider a couple options such as helping students from your church like you do with summer campers? Or, would you consider supporting the school program like you do our summer camp program once we develop a budget?
What are the next steps? Step one is we are bathing this idea in prayer and direction. Second, we are doing a feasibility and interest survey on our website (link below) through the end of December to establish the need. If you have anyone you could share this with and point them to our website, that would help us tremendously to determine what it could look like. In January, we will look through the survey results with the camp leadership and create a plan to determine if we will launch this program and what it will look like. Our current thought is to start this program in August 2024. Therefore, February thru Summer we will be sharing the program and registering students.
If you have questions, ideas or thoughts then please don’t hesitate to contact me at the camp office. This has been a vision of Oil Belt’s for many years that we believe God may be opening a door to serve now.