A DOCUMENT recently came to my hands giving the results of a questionnaire that was filled out by fifty-one conference presidents in the North American Division. The questionnaire dealt with the crucial question of ministerial training and the capacity of the colleges and the SDA Seminary to meet the need of supplying qualified and trained men for the Advent ministry. The document gave an impartial report and direct quotations from letters of these fifty-one administrators. The questionnaire probed deeply into the question of our ministerial program.
It is interesting to note that more than 50 per cent of the conferences indicated pastoral vacancies. Some had as many as five. Along with the summarization came this direct observation: "In addition to these needs, some indicated in separate letters that they had other vacancies in departments, office help, Bible workers, and certain other lines of work." This is precisely the point of this article and is what prompted its writing. For a number of years we have recognized the increasing need for qualified and dedicated workers, not only in the ministry and teaching fields but in all lines of denominational service
General Lines of Christian Service
With this in mind, the religion department of Columbia Union College set about to develop a program that might assist in meeting these growing needs of the expanding church. Many of the young people in training do not anticipate going on for professional degrees beyond the Bachelor level. Some are young women who plan to enter educational work. Some prefer serving the church as a Bible instructor or perhaps as a personal visitor in many of the routine calls of the growing church. Though many of our congregations are small, we are developing large centers. These centers require the time of the pastor in fulfilling multiplied administrative duties. As a result many of the necessary calls, visits, and Bible studies that were formerly handled by the ministerial staff of the church are sometimes delayed and not infrequently sidetracked because of the heavy administrative duties. As the work grows these duties increase.
Many years ago the Spirit of Prophecy writings made it clear that both men and women should be trained for service as visitors, personal workers, and Bible teachers in the homes of the people. In the book Evangelism many of these quotations are brought together. This divine instruction has been with us for many years, and through the passing of the decades we have done very little to seriously carry out this instruction. "The plan of holding Bible readings was a heaven-born idea. There are many, both men and women, who can engage in this branch of missionary labor. Workers may thus be developed who will become mighty men of God. By this means the Word of God has been given to thousands."—Evangelism, pp. 456, 457.
"We greatly need consecrated women who, as messengers of mercy, shall visit the mothers and the children in their homes, and help them in the everyday household duties, if need be, before beginning to talk to them regarding the truth for this time. You will find that by this method you will have souls as the result of your ministry." —Ibid., p. 459.
"If half the time now spent in preaching, were given to house-to-house labor, favorable results would be seen. Much good would be accomplished, for the workers could come close to the people. The time spent in quietly visiting families, and when there speaking to God in prayer, singing His praise, and explaining His Word, will often do more good than a public effort."—Ibid., p. 463.
"In the various branches of the work of God's cause, there is a wide field in which our sisters may do good service for the Master. Many lines of missionary work are neglected. In the different churches, much work which is often left undone or done imperfectly, could be well accomplished by the help that our sisters, if properly instructed, can give."—Ibid., p. 466.
There are many young women who would be delighted to enter into denominational service as a trained Bible instructor. If trained, she could assist her husband, who is carrying heavy pastoral responsibilities. Likewise, there are young men qualified and dedicated to the work of personal ministry. Not all are equipped for a preaching ministry. The Lord has singularly laid His hand upon many young men who are particularly skilled in personal work. They can influence men and women in behalf of the truth as they gather them around the family circle for Bible studies or in private instruction. These are potentially most productive workers and can be a tremendous asset to any pastoral evangelistic program within the church. We have to recognize, however, that we have come to the time when the pastor in the local church is not able to carry the multiplied administrative duties and at the same time carry forward a strong evangelistic program as he would like to do. It is therefore logical that trained and dedicated assistants be prepared to labor with him in his ministry.
With these factors in mind, the department of religion of Columbia Union College set about developing a Bachelor of Science in Religious Education degree. This is an innovation for us as a denomination. This degree is a combination program. The Bachelor of Science degree differs largely from the Bachelor of Arts degree in that it does not require foreign-language courses and is designed primarily for those interested in a college degree with an emphasis in special areas without pursuing a professional Bachelor of Arts degree such as in one of the sciences, the humanities, theology, et cetera.
There are two programs in this new Bachelor of Science in Religious Education degree. In each program twenty hours of religion are required and fourteen or sixteen hours in a second department such as education or business administration. Along with these required courses are other required cognates that will effectively give balance and background material so that the student who elects to take this degree may later certify in the field of education by taking additional courses. Later he may wish to take additional work in business administration or otherwise broaden the base of his educational background.
Meeting the Needs of a Growing Church
These special programs have been set up to meet the needs of the church in areas of Christian service, such as the work of Bible instructors, church secretaries, institutional workers, et cetera. All of these workers may be classified as pastoral assistants, doing the work that is so necessary and essential to the successful pastorate.