GP: WOULD YOU BEGIN BY DISCUSSING THE UNIQUE ROLE THE NAZARENE BIBLE COLLEGE HAS PLAYED AND CONTINUES TO PLAY IN NAZARENE CLERGY EDUCATION SINCE ITS FOUNDING IN THE 1960s
HG : When the idea of the Bible college was discussed and brought into the conversation of the church in preparing ministers, there were only two methods in the U.S. to become credentialed in the Church of the Nazarene. You would either go to a liberal arts university (or at that time, a college) with traditional-aged students. At that time, most of our colleges and universities didn’t have adult programs like they have now. You could also do the home study course. So, there was a pool of second career adults that felt a call to ministry, that were past the age of going to a traditional-aged college, and were frustrated, I think, with the home study course. At the 1964 General Assembly, the assembly voted to establish Nazarene Bible College (NBC), along with MidAmerica Nazarene College and Mt. Vernon Nazarene College. NBC opened in 1967 with no building or property. We ended up in Colorado Springs, thanks to some donated land. The school had the idea of providing education to second career adults, which was revolutionary at the time. Of course, this was before schools that targeted that age group and before online programs. The first year NBC enrolled around 117 students and very quickly grew to around 800, with both day and night classes and wonderful chapel times.
GP: THIS SECOND CAREER GROUP THAT NBC ENVISIONED REACHING IN ITS BEGINNINGS IS NOW THE FASTEST GROWING DEMOGRAPHIC IN THEOLOGICAL EDUCATION. HOW HAS NBC ADAPTED IN ORDER TO CONTINUE TO REACH THIS GROUP?
HG : In the 1980s, when Dr. Jerry Lambert was president, two trends affected the development of the school, including the decentralization of education and a growing need to connect with interested adults seeking to further their education. The first step was taking education to people instead of simply asking the people to come to the college. NBC began doing this by partnering with districts to offer extensions of the Bible college on the district with approved instructors and curriculum. At first, this created challenges in regard to accreditation. To deal with this, NBC formed district alliances that could give academic credit through the evaluation of portfolios. We still have these kinds of alliances today. Like all of our universities, NBC is accountable to our RCOSAC (regional Nazarene accrediting body), and I believe that the more that this process is standardized and overseen by our regional and international course of study evaluating body, the easier it is for students to navigate their way through the ordination process.
GP: IN ADDITION TO THESE DISTRICT ALLIANCES, NBC HAS ALSO BEEN A PIONEER IN NAZARENE ONLINE EDUCATION.
HG : That is correct. We are in our twentieth year of offering low-cost online education. Through online studies, students can complete the course of study for ordination (called MPP programs) or full-degree programs. Initially, we used a variety of online delivery systems over a period of time, until Fred Phillips was convinced that we could build our own system. I believe that we were the first Bible college in America to offer online education, and we were certainly first Nazarene institution to do so. At first, we allowed many schools, especially schools outside of the U.S., to use our platform and our materials as needed. Now many of these have their own materials and online platforms, and of course there are many of our Nazarene schools that now utilize online education.
GP: THE EXPANSION TO ONLINE EDUCATION SEEMS TO FIT WELL WITH THE ORIGINAL VISION OF NBC TO TAKE EDUCATION TO ADULTS WHO COULD NOT COME TO CAMPUS.
HG : Yes, it does make sense for us. At first, we were not even going to have dorms at NBC, but that gradually changed. Now, since our transition to the Global Ministry Center, we again have no dorms. So, all of our students get their training through our online program. When NBC started, the only models we had were traditional models. Even though the model we used is normal, exemplified in places like the University of Phoenix and elsewhere, we were extremely innovative for our time, and we hope to continue that kind of innovation. In fact, as president, when I travel to various districts and churches, the most rewarding part of my job is hearing former students who approach me with tears in their eyes and say, “I would never have gotten ordained without Nazarene Bible College.”
GP: NBC IS ACTUALLY NOW ASSISTING DISTRICTS IN THE TRANSCRIPT EVALUATION PROCESS, RIGHT?
HG : Yes, we assist a number of district boards of ministry in evaluating student transcripts, taking that administrative burden off of these boards. This program continues to expand.
GP: HOW IS YOUR ROLE AS PRESIDENT OF NBC INFORMED BY YOUR YEARS AS A PASTOR AND A DISTRICT LEADER?
HG : I served over 24 years as a pastor, and when I was serving in Cincinnati, I was elected to the board of trustees for NBC. This role allowed me to look more deeply into the history and the ministry of NBC, and I became more aware of the men and women who had been trained for ministry by the school. Later, when I served as a district superintendent in Oklahoma, I worked with many NBC graduates and continued my work as part of the board of trustees. When my predecessor, Dr. Sanders, retired, the board did a nationwide search, and my name came up for a vote. By then, after serving on the board for 18 years, I was familiar with and enthusiastic about the mission of NBC, and I accepted it as the will of God and of the church when I was elected. This role has helped me to see more of the work of the church throughout the world, and it has also allowed me to encounter NBC students serving in all parts of the world.
GP: TALK ABOUT NBC’S MOVE TO THE KANSAS CITY AREA.
HG : From the beginning, NBC has tried to keep track of the innovations and changes happening in regard to higher education, especially among adult students. What surprises many who are unfamiliar with NBC is that it is in our DNA to try and stay a step ahead of those changes. So, it is not so much that online education ended the NBC campus—that is just not the full picture. NBC moved from providing education through extension courses, to district alliances, and now online. Decentralizing adult education is what we have always been about, and this new move provides us with the resources necessary to do this even better. The Bible college is mission-driven, and within that mission is this overarching desire to serve. True service doesn’t look for recognition. We’re a servant of the Church. We only exist to serve the Church. Not getting credit for innovation can be frustrating at times. I’d probably be less than honest if I said it doesn’t. But that’s not what drives us.
What drives us is the mission of preparing men and women to evangelize, disciple, and serve Christ and His Church. By God’s grace, that is what we will continue to do. Nazarene Bible College is still doing its task. The mission is alive. We have around 700 students in this session, about half of whom are degree seeking. The other half is pursuing courses in our ordination modules (MPP). I think some people are confused that because we moved from Colorado Springs that the Bible college is no more. That’s not true at all! Nazarene Bible College is as alive today as it ever has been. The only difference is the classroom today is either at Starbucks, McDonald’s, a pastor’s study, or someone’s den—wherever they can get an internet connection. Nazarene Bible College is there helping them to prepare for the calling God has given them. So, we’re alive and well.