BROOKSVILLE — With 22 students enrolled, the director of the Journey School of Ministry is happy to see the new Bible college off to a good start.
The college, a ministry of Journey Christian Center, began classes on March 3.
"The student responses have been extremely positive," said the Rev. Chuck Poole, the school's director and an associate pastor of the church. "Our classes are split almost 50/50 men and women. Sign-up for continuation of classes has been very strong."
All but one student, including three married couples, attend the host church.
"We hope to reach out more into our community," Poole said. "Our goal is to offer not only our church but also members of the community the opportunity to receive a well-rounded education in biblical studies. Our goal is not to steal sheep from other churches, but to bring unity to the body of Christ."
Classes are from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesdays, 9 to 11 a.m. Thursdays and 8 to 10 a.m. Saturdays at the church office, 7281 Sunshine Grove Road, Suite 131, west of Brooksville.
Poole said starting a Bible college has been a hope of his and his pastor's for years.
"Pastor Dan Bierworth and I wanted to open a school for some time," Poole said. "It was Pastor Dan's pastor, Dr. Leon van Rooyen, who founded the main campus (Global Ministries and Relief Inc.) in South Africa many years ago and has had over 100,000 students. We are operating an extension school under Dr. Leon's covering."
On its Web site, the South African school, founded in 1994, outlines its purpose.
"Global Ministries and Relief is leading the way in Christian education and equipping the Church, while also reaching out to a hurting world through acts of compassion," the site says. "We are actively involved both domestically and internationally in discipleship, leadership development and relief projects."
Poole said that is also the purpose of the local school.
"We hope to educate folks and make disciples of them — to make them fully functioning followers of Jesus Christ," he said. "We want to help folks develop confidence in their role as Christians. Developing a sound theology is part of the discipleship process."
The school offers 20 classes. Fifteen of them are required to obtain a 45-credit diploma in ministry. They include Discovery, Prayer School, Healing School, Evangelism I, Evangelism II, Principles of Faith, Knowing God's Will and Voice, Christian Doctrine, Christian Character, Christian Stewardship, the Glorious Church, Theology and Life, Christian Leadership I, Christian Leadership II and Christian Ministry. Optional courses offered are New Testament Studies I to V.
The 45 credits may be transferred to Global Ministries and Relief's online school. Sixty credits will be required for an associate's degree.
"A new course runs every month," Poole explained. "Each course lasts four weeks and is broken down into four weekly classes. Three parallel identical classes run each week to help with individual schedules."
Currently, Poole and Bierworth, each an ordained minister with a bachelor's degree in theology, are the class instructors.
"We have a couple students who are going to be trained as student teachers under our direct supervision," Poole said.
To take classes, a prospective student must have a high school diploma or pass the General Educational Development test and be over 18 years of age. Applicants will be interviewed by Poole or Bierworth.
"This is just a formality," Poole said. "We want to meet our new students first."
Because the courses are repeated every 16 months, students can begin classes anytime throughout the year unless a course is split into two parts, where Part I would need to be taken first.
"The courses are well balanced, easy to read and fun to study," Poole said. "Exams are open-book, and classes are offered to accommodate a variety of schedules."
Students may observe a course for one or two classes at no charge upon receiving his permission, Poole said. If seating is available, classes may be audited for free.
"Diploma courses are $30 each, which is only $10 per credit hour," he said. "The degree programs will be a little more expensive. Later, we hope to add an associate, bachelor's and master's degree program."
Poole said graduates will be qualified to become a commissioned or licensed minister, which may be a requirement for prison or hospital ministries.
"These facilities require more credentials now than they used to," said Poole, who was involved in prison ministry himself. "The graduate will also be able to transfer their credits to the degree programs. These programs are for equipping pastors and fully ordained ministers."