2007 International Bible School Dialogue (0607)

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By Rod Boyd and Jorge Echazabal

Tuesday, March 20, 2007, 7:35 PM., Panama City, Panama…  Everyone has arrived to the meeting room, sensing the atmosphere of friendship and camaraderie.  We haven’t been able to say hello to everyone, but, as old friends, a smile from a distance is enough for now.  We have a “tight agenda”… we’ll have opportunities later to have coffee together.

These friends and colleagues of Christian education are gathered at a hotel in Panama City to dialogue over very important topics that will affect ministerial formation in all of Latin America.  Having seen important changes in recent years, this group of key people—20 leaders representing a dozen countries and key educational ministries—has been called together to share ideas and promote improvement.  Nine national Christian education directors are among those present.

Our first order of business is to listen to the delegates as they share their areas of concern for their countries and ministries.  The dialogue process takes these 19 nominations, consolidating them to the final list of 9 concerns.  These are prioritized by vote of the body and these top three are chosen for consideration by the group:

  • Better prepared teachers, with emphasis in Pentecostal experience and continued, comprehensive training
  • Maintaining clear the Bible school’s reason for being: the comprehensive formation of the Pentecostal minister
  • International unification of criteria that includes educational philosophy, delivery systems, accreditation standards and a glossary of terms

Small groups study these topics, suggesting actions and strategies.  Each group makes its proposal to the larger group where adjustments are made and additional actions are added.  Many of these proposals are forwarded to ministries for implementation.  But these international leaders take these ideas and begin to implement them immediately in their countries.  The Bible School Resource and Advisory Center (Centro de Recursos y Asesoría) coordinates the follow-up, publishing results on our website (www.ElAsesor.org, only available in Spanish) and in our semi-annual bulletin El Asesor.  In addition, these topics serve as a base for planning the program for the next International Bible School Summits, coming up in 2008:  Guatemala, April 14-17 and Buenos Aires, September 1-4.

The Dialogues take place in odd years; the Summits in even years.  The Dialogue is our opportunity to “listen.”  The Summit is for “speaking.”  This year’s Dialogue has a new dynamic.  The official Triennial Educational Meeting (9/06, Managua, Nicaragua) commissioned those of us present at the Dialogue to consider two topics of very high importance:

  • Implementation of the PROCEPA program (Professor Certification Program)
  • Review of the Basic Plan (curriculum) for Bible schools

This made planning this year’s Dialogue a real challenge.  How were we going to fit everything into the two-day agenda?  But our colleagues and friends have been with us before and have now achieved a new level of efficiency.  And we’ve talked about many of these needs before.  Although our time is short, as a group we are able to set the course for both of these important areas.  Together we not only finalize the 15 workshops that comprise the PROCEPA program, but those present gladly choose one to write!

A long discussion about the Basic Plan combined the observations of countries and ministries previously surveyed with the work of the small group of the unification of criteria.  The three main areas of discussion were:

  1. Define which courses would comprise a required study core; review the order of course study to increase flexibility; and the addition of new courses to meet current demands.
  2. Strive for unification of criteria in program levels and degrees offered and the development of a glossary of terms.
  3. Define credit hours and how different delivery systems should be measured in fulfillment of those credit hours.

A follow-up Basic Plan Commission will be meeting in October in Honduras.  Any proposals will be made to the Administrative Committee for Educational Ministries in September.

As Bible School Advisor for the Spanish-speaking Bible schools in Latin America and the Caribbean for the Christian Education Service ministry (Servicio de Educación Cristiana), we view all those that attend the biannual Dialogues as members of the Bible School Advisory Committee.  This group understands that they serve a vital role in both the development and execution of the Bible school strategic plan.  As such, they willingly participate in the planning of the 2008 Bible School Summits, by consensus approving dates, locations, theme, program and many other details.

Words cannot describe how privileged we feel to be with these international educational leaders, to serve them, and to able to count on them as part of the team.  Their smiles and participation honor us.