In a historic first, the boards of directors of Central Bible College, Evangel University and the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary - all located in Springfield, Missouri, and owned and operated by the General Council of the Assemblies of God - met in January at the invitation of the church's Executive Presbytery to consider a Strategic Vision for these schools.
Following several hours of discussion, the boards of the three schools met separately to consider a resolution of consolidation. Each board unanimously passed the resolution which calls for the creation of a Task Force of 16 persons to oversee this effort.
The Task Force will be comprised of the general superintendent as chair; three members of the Executive Presbytery; the board chairs of CBC, Evangel and the Seminary; the presidents of the three schools; one faculty member each from the schools (to be chosen by vote of the faculty); and one lay donor from each of the schools.
The Task Force is to be responsible for the study and planning that will result in the consolidation of the three resident schools. Specific assignments of this Task Force are: (1) draft a resolution for consolidation to present to the August 2011 meeting of the General Council; (2) create a bylaw framework for the consolidated school; (3) provide for the initial narrative of a statement of core values and mission on the consolidated school, ensuring clear promotion of the mission statements of each school; (4) design the organizational framework of the consolidated school; and (5) ensure that all steps taken toward consolidation fulfill the requirements of the Higher Learning Commission. The work of the Task Force and the recommendations of the respective boards of directors are to be forwarded to the Executive Presbytery for its June meeting.
General Superintendent George O. Wood had outlined four compelling reasons for this action as:
1. Financial and organizational stewardship
2. Enrollment growth
3. Ministerial preparation
4. 21st century challenges and opportunities.
He noted the consolidation of the three schools will result in the elimination of duplicate services and programs and provide a substantial cost savings.
In outlining benefits in enrollment growth, he said the Assemblies of God has approximately 360,000 students in the 7-12 grades. "If we are to serve a larger number of these prospective college students at our Springfield schools, then we must be prepared to raise the enrollment goals. It is not difficult to assume that with proper and aggressive fund drives and enrollment recruitment and management, the student population could well exceed 10,000 in the undergraduate and graduate programs through multiple educational delivery systems," he told the boards.
The report noted that the Fellowship is planning for a net growth of 4000 new churches in the U.S. over the next 10 years which will require the training of an unprecedented number of young people, called of God to lead and staff these new churches.
By drawing on the strengths of each of these schools in the area of ministerial training, it is believed enrollment in this program would increase significantly as students receive an integrated and holistic philosophy of ministerial preparation. Another benefit in the consolidation would be the development of integrated undergraduate/graduate programs for ministerial students resulting in less time and costs.
The General Superintendent reviewed the fact that over the past 20 years (1990 to 2009) the number of ministerial students in all multi-major endorsed Assemblies of God postsecondary schools has increased from 7,456 to 11,737 - a gain of 57.4 percent. However, the number of students in singular-major schools (Bible colleges) has decreased 16 percent, from 1,687 to 1,415. "By deduction, these figures indicate that students with a call into ministry are increasingly selecting to attend schools that have a multi-major program," he pointed out.
Dr. Wood stated that the changes in our culture and world calls for new approaches in higher education. "A new consolidated university is better positioned to take full advantage of these changes whether it is a variety of delivery systems in education, multi-ethnic programs appropriate to a university level, or a strong university that will be uniquely positioned to serve an international constituency at resident undergraduate and multiple-masters and doctoral levels." He also said, "A strong university provides opportunity for the development of effective Christian and Pentecostal apologetics as a counter to secularization and the marginalization of the Christian community."
The report emphasized that delivery systems for higher education must keep pace with the technological connectivity of the present and future youth generations. With the universe of information increasingly accessible, this requires that digital education become an absolute component in a leading edge residential Pentecostal university.
Meeting with Faculties
Following the combined meetings of the boards, full-time faculties and administrators from all of the schools met with the Executive Presbytery. General Superintendent Wood gave the same presentation to them as he earlier gave to the boards. At the conclusion of his presentation, the faculties gave him a standing ovation.
The issue of consolidation of the Springfield resident schools has been a matter of study and discussion within the Executive Presbytery for the past six years. The general superintendent has met on a regular basis with the presidents to discuss this possibility.
If the August 2011 meeting of the General Council in Phoenix adopts the consolidation proposal, and pending approval by the Higher Learning Commission, then the board of the new university (consisting of all those presently serving on the boards of the three institutions) will work to:
1. Elect board officers
2. Approve bylaws and board organization
3. Authorize the core values and mission of the school
4. Elect a president
5. Continue operations of the three schools as separate entities during the 2011-2012 academic year
The new consolidated school would be operational for the fall semester 2012, if at all possible.
In summarizing his vision for this consolidation, Dr. Wood said, "Assemblies of God young people from ages 13 through 18 presently number approximately 360,000 with the likelihood that total will grow well past 400,000 in the next few years. I am concerned for them. We must prepare to serve these youth with a quality Pentecostal education. Our three Springfield resident campuses will be a part of this vital growth endeavor, and will be better positioned, through an asset protection, consolidation, and expansion program, to serve a future student population of more than 10,000 in undergraduate and graduate programs. If the Lord delays His return, may future generations say that this vision was too small."