The History of the Center for Advanced Ministry Training
Current and Former Directors of the CCP and HSBS programs
Bill Richardson, Joe Jones, Bill Lambert, L.V. Pfeifer, Ed Myers, Ed Sanders
A History of Ministry
For more than 80 years, Harding University has dedicated itself to preparing preachers of the word, missionaries and personal evangelists. Students have utilized both undergraduate and graduate Bible degree programs, resulting in numerous alumni who have and are sharing God’s message throughout the nation and world. Training individuals for various ministries integrates the three focal points of Harding University’s mission — faith, learning and living. This is a brief history of one unique department within the College of Bible and Religion: The Center for Advanced Ministry Training.
The Christian Communications Program
Since 1974, more than 670 nontraditional students have been enrolled in what was originally called The Christian Communications Program (CCP) to prepare themselves as ministers, missionaries, and other full-time church workers or as a critical step in their continuing academic pursuits. Several visionary leaders dreamed of pooling the academic resources on the Harding College campus to develop a preacher-training program. Dr. Joe Hacker, the Bible department chair, along with Jerry Jones, Jimmy Allen, and Neale Pryor began organizing the new program. The Harding College president at that time, Dr. Cliff Ganus, Jr., gave his enthusiastic support and a new training program was made available to our brotherhood. The first class in the fall of 1974 had 35 students and their studies included a comprehensive curriculum of Old and New Testament courses as well as practical ministry training. These were “non-traditional students” meaning most were older than the typical college student and were not seeking a degree. Many had some ministry experience. Courses were taught by the Bible department professors while overseen by the first director Dr. Ed Sanders. The CCP was a two-year course of study. At that time, the program was a “certificate” program; students did not receive college credit.
Dr. Cliff Ganus, Jr.
Dr. Joe Hacker
Dr. Jimmy Allen
Dr. Jerry Jones
Dr. Ed Sanders
The Harding School of Biblical Studies
Beginning in 1984, the name was changed to The Harding School of Biblical Studies (SBS). The name change indicated a broadening of our perspective for training. The leaders at that time felt that others could be trained who did not choose specifically to preach. Educators, church leaders, missionaries, and authors and editors, to name a few.
“Regardless of the name or administrative organization, the objectives of the program have not changed through the years,” says Dr. Bill Richardson, current director of the center. “Our goal is to prepare students to faithfully engage in fruitful Christian ministry as capable students of biblical literature and theology, effective communicators of the message, and humble servants.” The curriculum was offered over a two-year period (including the summers terms) in two blocks for eight weeks during a semester. Students took four courses in each block.
Course work included classroom and correspondence instruction as well as field training. Many enrollees spoke in small local churches on weekends and participated in summer mission campaigns. Spouses of students also took classes to help prepare them for their roles as ministers’ wives.
On-site classes were conducted in the $300,000 Christian Communications Center, located in the back of the Ezell Building. It included a lab with a video camera and a television to record and review sermons. It also included a missionary training lab to aid students with textual material and learning foreign languages. The center was also used to develop audio and video correspondence courses and evangelism programs for cable television.
During the first decade, 140 individuals graduated from the program. They went on to serve as youth ministers, personal evangelism directors, prison evangelists, campaign team workers, foreign missionaries and pulpit evangelists.
The curriculum changed very little and only to address the needs of ministry at that time. Courses added were Church and Youth, Techniques of Counseling, and Education Work of the Church.
During these decades of growth and expansion, the program could not have attained its level of success without the leadership of former Bible department chairs Drs. Jerry Jones, Neale Pryor, Allan Isom and C. Phillip Slate and former deans of the College of Bible and Religion Drs. Carl Mitchell and Tom Alexander.
Dr. Neale Pryor
Dr. Allan Isom
Dr. Phillip Slate
Dr. Carl Mitchell
Dr. Tom Alexander
College Degrees Were First Granted in 1994
After being a diploma-awarding program for its first 20 years, the School of Biblical Studies received accreditation in 1994, enabling it to offer the bachelor of ministry and bachelor of theology degrees. Director Dr. Bill Lambert worked tirelessly to steer the program through the accreditation process of North Central Commission for Higher Learning. Two years later, faculty, staff and students reorganized on the third floor of the newly completed McInteer Building — taking advantage of the spacious and modern facility.
Dr. Bill Lambert
Assessments of 2007
To further strengthen the program, an assessment was conducted in 2007. SBS alumni, present students and faculty responded to a survey created and administered by Dr. Flavil Yeakley, director of the Center for Church Growth. A number of strengths were noted in the results. “The program has been very successful in getting preachers into pulpits and other graduates into various ministries throughout the nation,” Yeakley said.
Dr. Flavil Yeakley
However, the study revealed three areas needing improvement: financial assistance, hands-on ministry experience and student workload. School loan indebtedness kept some from accepting full-time church-supported ministry positions where incomes tend to be rather modest. Also noted was a need for more practical ministry courses that offered hands-on experience in local congregations. Finally, too many students were suffering from burnout.
Many members of the administration, faculty, staff, alumni and students addressed these challenges, concluding that a restructuring of the program was in order. The outcome: the Center for Advanced Ministry Training.
The Center for Advanced Ministry Training
The newly created center provides an umbrella organization for not only the Bachelor of Ministry program but also the Master of Ministry degree program that was started in 2007. These two programs are housed on the third floor of the McInteer Bible and World Missions Building and are directed by Dr. Bill Richardson since 2007. The term “advanced” is used because the two-year (or three-year) undergraduate BMIN is generally taught at a higher level of instruction than the typical undergraduate Bible course. The fact that the BMIN degree requires approximately 94 hours of Bible makes it advanced beyond the typical 60 hours of Bible for all other undergraduate Bible majors.