Grace Institute seeks to partner in holistically training leaders
It might come as a surprise, but most Christians don’t think like Christians. According to the Barna Research Group, “Only nine percent of born-again Christians have a biblical worldview.”
Leaders, both inside and outside the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches, understand this problem. Thankfully, many pastors and churches are working toward a solution. The Fellowship is combating this startling statistic through summer conferences like BNYC, DRIVEN, and EQUIP, which provide theological training, ministry exposure, and spiritual formation.
Grace Institute (GI) also seeks to provide a solution. What is Grace Institute? It’s a model for leadership development that seeks to produce a community of life-long learners and laborers. It’s a holistic way of learning derived from a Hebrew mindset of education.
Grace Institute isn’t just philosophical. In GI’s first year at the Grace Brethren Church of Powell, Ohio, we had more than 350 people participate in a variety of leadership training experiences. A partial list includes Understanding Biblical Principles of Personal Finance, Who are the Brethren?, Biblically Discerning Media, Creation vs. Evolution, and Dare to Discipline.
Last summer 22 teens and young adults were trained through the Grace Institute Summer Leadership Track. One summer graduate, Ryne Leake, went on to receive further training from CE National’s 412 program this past semester.
Another graduate, Beth Arnott, a high school senior, commented, “Attending a public school, I don’t exactly spend time reading and studying the Bible. On the second day of GI, we went though Romans 1 verse by verse, and I don’t think I have ever enjoyed studying the Bible so much. Hermeneutics had a whole new meaning.”
Grace Institute isn’t a cookie-cutter program, forcing students into a particular mold. Nor does it crank out leaders in assembly-line fashion. People have different learning styles and need to experience learning in different ways. Methods may change, but the vision doesn’t.
The vision of GI is “To equip and empower current and emerging leaders to grow as authentic followers of Jesus Christ.” We achieve this vision through our mission, which is to “Partner with individuals and ministries to provide teaching, training, coaching, and consultation.”
Grace Institute centers around the paradigm presented in my new book Called (BMH books). This paradigm has been reviewed and critiqued by FGBC pastors, national organization staff members, and Grace Seminary faculty. It has been endorsed by Christian organizations, seminaries, and churches across the country, including best-selling author and Dallas Theological Seminary adjunct professor Dr. Gene Getz, who also wrote the foreword to the book.
The paradigm incorporates the four measurements and components that represent authentic discipleship. GI students aren’t measured exclusively upon their knowledge or grades. Rather, they are measured with regard to their knowing, being, doing, and reproducing.
We intentionally incarnate our theology, and all learning takes place within the context of experience and relationships. We don’t “dumb down” theology. Rather, we strive to reproduce theologians in thought and life. The essence of theological training is not a degree on the wall. It’s a way of life intended for every believer, regardless of age, gender, or vocation.
Most Grace Institute students are lay leaders who aren’t preparing to be pastors, missionaries, or church planters. But some are. One such student is 28-year-old Aaron Jones.
“I want to be a pastor in the FGBC,” says Jones. “My wife and I have felt God’s call to enter into full-time vocational ministry for some time now. I currently work full-time and cannot afford the cost of seminary. Grace Institute offers the courses I am looking for, at a price my family can afford. I would be able to put the wheels in motion a lot sooner than a degree would allow, while still gaining the education and integrity of Grace Brethren doctrine.”
Grace Institute is serious about partnering with other like-minded entities. We recently partnered with Grace Seminary to provide Continuing Education Units (CEU). Students who desire the continuing education route can work toward earning a certificate in biblical studies offered jointly from Grace Institute and Grace Seminary.
God is going before us and is creating a special movement among like-minded Grace Brethren ministries, including Eastside GBC. Nate Harrison, chairman of the DRIVEN young adult conference in 2006, serves as the director for Eastside’s Grace Institute. It’s much bigger than any one person or church. In fact, we want to extend an open invitation to upcoming Grace Institute events to anyone interested.
During the winter semester at GBC Powell, four classes will be offered–“Scripture and Interpretation,” “Going Public with your Faith,” “Woman to Woman,” and “Understanding Biblical Principles of Personal Finance.” Eastside GBC will be offering “Discipleship Principles According to the NT,” “Christianity Today,” and “Spiritual Formation.”
The Grace Institute winter orientation will be Monday, January 15, at GBC of Columbus from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. in room 215. We are hosting a North Central Ohio Grace Institute roundtable luncheon on February 21 at GBC Powell from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Please RSVP by emailing the GI registrar Kristin Artrip at email@example.com
To learn more about Grace Institute, including courses and a pictorial journal, visit www.karyoberbrunner.com/gi . To discover more about the Grace Institute paradigm, order a copy of the new book CALLED (BMH books) or request a free electronic version of my dissertation by e-mailing me.
Kary Oberbrunner is founder of Redeem the Day Ministries and author of The Journey Towards Relevance. He earned his doctorate in Transformational Leadership and serves as the Director of Grace Institute and Pastor of Discipleship and Leadership Development at the Grace Brethren Church of Powell, Ohio. He and his wife Kelly are happy parents of Keegan. Oberbrunner may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org