Bible colleges (sometimes referred to as Bible institutes) are post-graduate institutions that prepare students for Church ministry with theological education, Biblical studies and practical ministry training.
Bible colleges primarily offer undergraduate degrees, but may also offer graduate degrees and/or lower-level associate's degrees, "certificates", or "diplomas" in specialized areas of Christian training, where a full degree is neither required nor needed.
The Association for Biblical Higher Education asserts that "there are more than 1,200 Bible schools and colleges in the United States and Canada," and that Bible colleges produce "a large percentage of North American evangelical missionaries and serve as a primary training center for local church leadership." The South Pacific Association of Bible Colleges claims that "more than fifty percent of all Protestant missionaries in the world today are graduates of the Bible Colleges." According to Theology-Degrees.com, there are over 300 accredited Bible colleges in the United States of America as of November 2012.
There are around 200 postsecondary Bible institutions throughout North America that are affiliated with the Association for Biblical Higher Education. In 1997, there were 400 Bible colleges, representing 31,000 students, in the USA and Canada. There are over 1,200 post secondary Bible institutes in North America. Moody Bible Institute was one of the first Bible institutes.
Bible colleges are usually associated with evangelical and/or Pentecostal Protestant denominations. Their primary purpose is to prepare people for roles in Christian ministry. The Bible-centered curriculum is typically supplemented by structured programs of Christian service.
In the United States and Canada, the origins of the Bible college movement are in the late 19th century Bible Institute movement. The first Bible schools in North America were founded by A. B. Simpson (Nyack College in 1882) of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, and D. L. Moody (Moody Bible Institute in 1887). Many were established as a conservative reaction against liberal established theological colleges and seminaries.
The American Bible college movement developed in reaction to the secularization of US higher education. The "Bible institute/college movement" has been described as "a protest to the inroads of secularization in higher education and as a base for the education of lay workers and full-time Bible teachers, evangelists, and pastors". As one historian put it, "It is not a coincidence that the Bible institute movement grew up during the very period when the philosophy of naturalism became prevalent in American education." "Between 1882 and 1920, a total of 39 Bible schools were started in the United States."
Bible colleges generally confer bachelor's degrees, most often in biblical studies and various divisions of Christian ministry, pastoral ministry and worship ministry or church music. Some Bible colleges offer degree programs in ministry-related areas that also have secular application, such as Christian education.
At some Bible colleges, associate's degrees, diplomas, or certificates are available. These programs are generally designed for laypersons (such as Sunday School teachers) who neither want nor need a bachelor's degree to perform their Christian service, but who desire additional training in such areas as Bible studies or the teachings and practices of their denomination.
Many Bible colleges in the United States and Canada that offer intercollegiate athletic programs are members of the National Christian College Athletic Association or the Association of Christian College Athletics.
Each country has its own governmental process for approval or accreditation of higher education. The Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE) accredits many Bible colleges in the United States. Bible colleges may also be accredited by the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, by regional accreditors, or by international counterparts. About 25 U.S. Bible colleges hold accreditation by regional accreditors, which accredit most academically oriented colleges and universities in the U.S.
In the UK, from 2007 to 2012, all Bible colleges (along with all independent colleges of higher education) needed to be accredited under the authority of UK Border Agency by either the British Accreditation Council (BAC) or Accreditation Service for International Colleges (ASIC). The government then changed this in 2012 to the need to have compulsory 'Education Oversight' from organisations such as QAA, ISI and Bridge Schools Inspectorate.
In the USA, some Bible colleges and institutes purposefully operate without conventional educational accreditation, or even governmental licensing. These institutions typically claim exemption due to the religious nature of their programs, that involving an outside agency in this capacity would compromise their missions. Dr. Paul Chappell, founder and president of West Coast Baptist College explained the basis for his refusal to seek accreditation for that school, writing: "The local church should have no approving agency over its ministry. I believe this position to be consistent with the Scriptures and with our Baptist distinctives... A study of history would reveal that educational institutions begin to waver when they become more interested in what the world thinks of them than what God insists upon. ...For the accredited college, the approval of an accrediting agency becomes its 'life’s blood.' ...It is my firm conviction that the 'life blood' of a Christian college should be nothing other than the living Word of God itself."
Professor salary and teacher-student ratio
According to Todd C. Ream, the average salary for a full professor at a Bible institute is around $49,000 in 2012. The student to faculty ratio is around 13 students to one instructor.
Notes and references
- History: Biblical Higher Education, American Association of Bible Colleges website (accessed November 19, 2007)
- SPABC History
- Todd C. Ream, “Protestant Bible Institutes in the United States,” in The International Handbook of Protestant Education, ed. William Jeynes, David W. Robinson, Springer, 2012, pp. 123-136; William C Ringenberg, The Christian college: a history of Protestant higher education in America, Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1984.
- The Canadian Encyclopedia lists the largest affiliated denominations as Mennonites, Pentecostals, Holiness movement churches, Baptists, The Church of Christ, Church of God, the Missionary Church, and the Christian and Missionary Alliance. See Bible Schools, in The Canadian Encyclopedia (3rd page in online version of article)
- Bible Schools, in The Canadian Encyclopedia (1st page in online version of article)
- Bible Schools, in The Canadian Encyclopedia (3rd page in online version of article)
- Larry J. McKinney, "THE FUNDAMENTALIST BIBLE SCHOOL AS AN OUTGROWTH OF THE CHANGING PATTERNS OF PROTESTANT REVIVALISM, 1882-1920", Religious Education: The official journal of the Religious Education Association, 84:1, 589-605. Page 594
- Frank E. Gaebelein, quoted in McKinney (1989:590)
- McKinney (1989:599)
- Megan Boehnke, Johnson Bible College announces new name, Knoxville News Sentinel, April 29, 2011
- UK Border Agency Education Providers, UK Border Agency, August 28, 2013
- WCBC website page on Accreditation: Liberal Arts Studies and the Local Church Bible College
- Todd C. Ream, “Protestant Bible Institutes in the United States,” in The International Handbook of Protestant Education, ed. William Jeynes, David W. Robinson, Springer, 2012, pp. 123-136.