Prairie Bible Institute

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Prairie College
Motto To Know Christ and Make Him Known
Type Private
Established 1922
Affiliation Christian
Endowment CDN $2.79 Million[1]
President Mark Maxwell
Students 280 (on campus)[2]
Location Three Hills, Alberta, Canada
Campus Rural (130 acres or 53 hectares)
Colours Blue     , Crimson      & Orange
Nickname Pilots
Affiliations CCCU, ABHE

Prairie College, a wholly owned evangelical post-secondary school of Prairie Bible Institute (PBI) of Three Hills, Alberta commenced classes on October 9, 1922, on the property of the McElheran family farm.[3]

Prairie College offers resident, commuter and distance education ministry degree programs with major concentrations in

  • Biblical Studies,
  • Music & Worship Arts,
  • Theology, and
  • Intercultural Studies.

All students in Prairie's four-year bachelor's degree programs have advanced standing in accredited M.A. or M.Div. graduate program from several seminaries in Canada and the United States of America, including Carey Theological College of Vancouver, British Columbia; Regent College of Vancouver, British Columbia; Taylor Seminary of Edmonton, Alberta; Columbia International University of Columbia, South Carolina; Fuller Theological Seminary of Pasadena, California; and Dallas Theological Seminary of Dallas, Texas.

In addition, the College offers training in:

  • Aviation (based at Three Hills Airport),
  • Digital Media,
  • Emergency Medical Technology,
  • Practical Nursing, and
  • Sports Management.

From its beginnings as a Bible college, Prairie added several other schools under the corporate administration of Prairie Bible Institute. This included Prairie Christian Academy in 1938, Prairie Distance Learning in the 1950s, Prairie Graduate School in 1988 (based in Calgary until 2004), Prairie School of Mission Aviation in 1992 and the Prairie College of Applied Arts and Technology in 2006. Eventually, Prairie Christian Academy was released to operate independently as its own local society. After further streamlining and restructuring, all of the educational programs of the colleges of Prairie Bible Institute were brought under the administrative umbrella of one post-secondary unified school named Prairie College.

Prairie College desires all it's students, while members of their community to be transformed by the Holy Spirit. Students will be invited to:

  • Be lovers of God
  • Know and be nourished by God through the scriptures
  • Grow in obedience to Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit
  • Be on mission for the kingdom of God


Prairie College's precursor was a local Bible Study group led by J. Fergus Kirk, a central Alberta Presbyterian farmer. L. E. Maxwell, a graduate of a Christian and Missionary Alliance Bible Institute in Kansas City, was invited to come to Three Hills to develop a structured curriculum.[4] He became the school's principal and later president. After 58 years, Maxwell retired in the spring of 1980 near the age of 85. The current president of Prairie College is Mark Maxwell, the grandson of L. E. Maxwell.

Maxwell, the Kirks, the McElherans, and other local families saw the school grow to attain an enrollment of over 900 students by 1948 and become Canada's largest bible college, a position it would hold until 1984. Although initially wary of outside alliances and influences, Prairie Bible Institute was officially incorporated and eventually accredited to grant degrees in divinity through provincial legislative acts[5][6] and amendments[7][8] of Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Alberta and has conferred associate's degrees and Bachelor degrees to its graduates since 1980. From 1988 to 2004, PBI operated a graduate school and offered Master's degrees at a satellite campus in Calgary. During that same period, PBI reached undergraduate credit and programmic block transfer arrangements with The King's University College in Edmonton and the University of Lethbridge in southern Alberta and became accredited in 1997 when the Association for Biblical Higher Education accepted PBI as a full member.

Graduate level education returned to Prairie in the fall of 2012 through reciprocal academic arrangements with Carey Theological College, an accredited seminary affiliated with the University of British Columbia of Vancouver. Currently, fourth year students in PBI's baccalaureate programs are eligible to receive one year's advanced standing toward a master's degree at Carey; alternatively, a student may enroll directly in Carey's seminary courses after completing three academic years at Prairie and have those graduate credits fulfill both fourth year bachelor's degree requirements at Prairie College as well as first year course requirements in one of Carey's graduate programs.

Ventures initiated by Prairie were the Prairie Sunday School Mission, established in 1929, which was subsequently reorganized as the Alberta branch of the Canadian Sunday School Mission. In 1933, at the invitation of Peace River area residents, Prairie College graduate Walter W. McNaughton traveled from Viking, Alberta, to Peace River country to establish the Peace River Bible Institute, now located at Sexsmith, near the city of Grande Prairie. By the 1940s, Prairie had founded three general education Christian schools on its Three Hills campus: Prairie Elementary, Prairie Junior High, and Prairie High School. In 2004 these schools were amalgamated as Prairie Christian Academy (PCA) and began to operate independently from the Bible Institute. PCA now exists as one of Alberta's alternative schools under the local public school division.

Another outgrowth of the school was its own campus church, The Prairie Tabernacle Congregation. This fellowship met for more than fifty years in a cavernous auditorium seating 4,300. Remodeled and renamed in 1985, the Maxwell Memorial Tabernacle was Canada's largest religious auditorium. In 2005, the building was demolished so that a new multipurpose facility, The Maxwell Centre, could be built.

Prairie was one of the first Bible training institutes in Western Canada. Alumni were influential in the promotion of evangelical churches, especially congregations of the Christian and Missionary Alliance and the Evangelical Free Church. These, along with other evangelical churches, employed graduates of Prairie and other rural Bible schools until they were able to establish their own denominational colleges and seminaries with campuses in urban and metropolitan areas of western Canada.

Prairie College now represents one of the most denominationally diversified theological faculties in the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities CCCU, with an Anglican priest, a graduate from Westminster Theological Seminary, a Wesleyan, an Anabaptist former pastor, and several nondenominational professors.


Today, on its Three Hills campus in Alberta, Prairie Bible Institute operates Prairie College, a post-secondary undergraduate ministry and vocational centre of higher education; further Prairie College maintains active academic arrangements with Bow Valley College of Calgary and Carey Theological College of Vancouver:

  • Prairie College offers resident, commuter and distance education ministry programs with major concentrations in Biblical Studies, Theology, Church Ministries or Intercultural Studies culminating in the A.A.R.S., B.Min., B.Th., or B.A. degree. All students in Prairie's four-year bachelor's degree programs have one year's access to and/or advanced standing in an accredited M.A. or M.Div. seminary degree program from Carey Theological College of Vancouver, British Columbia.
  • As well, in each of the four-year bachelor's degree programs of Prairie College the students study the whole Biblical cannon in seven courses (three New Testament segments and four Old Testament segments).
  • Applied vocational programs of Prairie College include Aviation (based at Three Hills Airport) culminating in an Associate of Arts in Mission Aviation degree. Other Applied Arts and Technology programs are offered by Prairie College which lead to vocational diplomas or Associate of Arts degrees with incorporated provincially recognized diplomas in Digital Media, Emergency Medical Technology, Practical Nursing, Sports Management and other applied disciplines under consideration or development from partnering colleges, most notably Bow Valley College and Olds College. Prairie College also confers a four-year Bachelor of Marketplace Ministry which is an interdisciplinary ministry and vocational program of studies.

The school teaches creation as represented in the Book of Genesis, including the view of Adam and Eve as historical figures. In order to foster Christian development, most single first- and second-year students, as well as students in full-time flight training live in residence.

Notable alumni[edit]

  • Don Richardson: Missionary and author
  • Ralph D. Winter: Missiologist, Author, Founder U.S. Center for World Missions, Founder William Carey University
  • Elisabeth Elliot: Author, Teacher and widow of martyred missionary Jim Elliot
  • Elmer V. Thompson: Founder Cuba Bible Institute, Founder West Indies Mission>>WorldTeam
  • Peter Craigie: Old Testament Scholar, Author, Dean of Humanities Faculty and V.P. University of Calgary
  • William K. Bjerk: Pastor Emeritus, the Historic First Baptist Church of Hazel Park, Hazel Park, MI.


  1. ^ "Annual Report 2015". Prairie College. Retrieved January 1, 2016. 
  2. ^ "Annual Report 2015". Prairie College. Retrieved January 1, 2016. 
  3. ^ Davidson, Roy (1986). God's Plan on the Prairies. Roy L. Davidson. 
  4. ^ First Hand Written Prospectus
  5. ^ Incorporation, 1946
  6. ^ Post-secondary Learning Act
  7. ^ Name change, 1971
  8. ^ Power to grant degrees in divinity, 1980

External links[edit]