Thinking Out Loud

August 5, 2014

Canada’s Evangelical News Story of the Year

Tyndale College and Seminary - Arial View

Morrow_Park_Tyndale_Bayview_CampusIt’s only August, but I’m prepared to call it; I’m just not able to better report it. The short version is that Canada’s Tyndale University College and Seminary announced in the spring of 2011 its intention to “buy the house next door;” that is, to purchase the former Sisters of St. Joseph Convent, a rather imposing structure, visible from Toronto’s Bayview Avenue that more than a few visitors thought was the Christian university for many years.  The acquisition has been a slow and steady process dating back to 2007 and a $58M (CDN) fundraising program.

In fact this has been so long in quietly approaching fruition — students will fully occupy the facility in the second semester of the 2014-15 year — that leads me to make the “not able to report it” clause in my introduction. Basically, I think this story is the hottest news on the rack as far as Evangelicalism in Canada is concerned, but the institution has not exactly been blowing its own horn about it.

Tyndale’s existing property has been sold to a housing developer. This is the fourth significant location for the school which began life in 1894 first in a church and at 110 College Street as Toronto Bible Training School, and then in downtown Toronto at 16 Spadina Avenue as Toronto Bible College (TBC). The move to its current location, 25 Ballyconnor at the very north perimeter of what is now Metro Toronto in 1976 occured eight years after a merger with the London College of Bible and Missions (LCBM) and a change of name to Ontario Bible College. The seminary was later added and a new name incorporates both the undergraduate and graduate programs.

This report is rather sparse because, at least in this writer’s opinion, the new Tyndale campus is probably a story not known to the broadest percentage of the Christian community in Canada’s largest city; the biggest religious news story in town that nobody knows about. Capital projects tend to play to the donor base, who are no doubt better informed, and so far, this has been a very large capital project.  A blog documents the month-to-month progress and contains hints of what the future campus looks like, including state-of-the-art IT equipment in the classrooms and a much improved library.

The chapel, pictured below, will be quite a change from the informality of the present one, though I expect the acoustics are rather amazing. Otherwise, Tyndale seems to be saving all the photo ops for when the facility officially starts receiving the bulk of its student body, expected to be the first week in January, 2015.

Tyndale College - Bayview Campus - Chapel

April 6, 2014

Liberty University & Benny Hinn: Too Late for April Fool’s

Filed under: education, Uncategorized — Tags: , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:26 am

Benny Hinn - Liberty UniversityReleased on April 1st, this story would have made more sense. Thanks to the blog Pajama Pages for alerting us to a story that through a series of subsidiary spinoffs, Benny Hinn is offering Liberty University Biblical studies certificates; hence the picture at left. Yikes. 

If you want to read Liberty’s distancing themselves from this oddity, click here. If you want to read and listen to Benny’s pitch for the diploma, click here. If you already hold one of the certificates, and feel this renders it just a little closer to worthless, click here. P-pages promises a further story in a few days. 

Is it me, or does Benny look a little weary of all this?

April 4, 2014

Bad Ad Placement

Filed under: education, ethics, media — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:00 am

So last night I was relaxing watching The Big Bang Theory on CBS, and the local station ran a teaser for a story about a 49-year old teacher charged with kissing a 13-year old student. WIVB-TV reported:

WILLIAMSVILLE, N.Y. (WIVB) – A Casey Middle School art teacher is resigning after admitting she kissed a 13-year-old boy on the mouth.

Donna Sleap pleaded guilty in court on Thursday to endangering the welfare of a child. Staff members alerted administrators about her behavior in October, and the art teacher was placed on leave in December. The incident was reportedly caught on video…

[...continue reading here...]

Then, Big Bang Theory returned, but CBS begins each segment by plastering animated advertising over the bottom one-third of the screen. This one was for a new comedy series beginning April 24th titled — wait for it — Bad Teacher.

[series] Centers on a sexy, foul-mouthed divorcée who becomes a teacher to find her next husband.

[first episode] Former Trophy Wife Meredith Davis seeks a return to a life of leisure and luxury by posing as a teacher at an upscale Elementary school to meet the students’ rich, single fathers and land one to marry.

[...continue reading at IMDb...]

I guess I’m supposed to be outraged by the former, and then tune in to be entertained by the latter.

Still, the timing was strange. The local station had no idea what the network was going to do, and of course the network could care less what the affiliates are running.

…speaking of which; if there’s an ad currently running on this article, it’s not from us!

 

 

 

January 23, 2014

Home-Schooled Kids Speak Out

Filed under: education, parenting — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:36 am

A few days ago, the cable network Al Jazeera America reactivated a dormant Twitter hashtag #homeschoolkid with this question: Should home schooling be regulated more?  There was also a link to this article on their website. Responses have been pouring in, and I thought we’d share a sample here for those of you who don’t do the Twitter thing.

  • As someone who was (very successfully) homeschooled for 12 years, yes.
  • Homeschooling was one of the best choices my parents made for me as a child. I was given freedom to learn – & I went for it.
  • H-schooling saved me from gender stereotypes (girls=bad at math). I delved into my interests w/o being pushed down by society.
  • We w/subjected to state tests yearly, and my family always ranked higher than school district.Here’s to not following curriculum.
  • Homeschooling allowed me lots of of time at home alone reading encyclopedias

Somewhere along the thread however, you notice a shift in response that is perhaps less Al Jazeera’s regular audience, and more from people in the Christian stream of home-schooling:

  • Pro – I became a great speller Con – I grew up believing Robert E Lee was just doing his Christian duty.
  • Maybe the bigger issue with homeschooling is this ‘divine right of parents’ thing that seems to have no boundaries.
  • I think homeschooling can be done well, but someone has to look out for the kids who aren’t getting the education they need.
  • Homeschooling should not be an altar raised for the gods of parental rights on which children’s rights are daily sacrificed.
  • I’m disgusted that my parents belonged to HSLDA, a group that called a man who forced his kids to live in cages a “hero”
  • I was raised with ACE, a curriculum that until recently, claimed that the Loch Ness Monster actually existed. Seriously.
  • As a #homeschoolkid I knew a few of homeschoolers who stopped school after middle school. The homeschool community did nothing about it.
  • My white mother and black father taught me history from Bob Jones [curriculum]
  • It’s always sad to hear people say my time as a #homeschoolkid “sounds like a lot of fun!” – it really wasn’t. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
  • I’m fond of telling people that I was Valedictorian, class clown, prom queen, and most likely to get pregnant.
  • new responses still being added…

March 5, 2013

Online Ordination Organizations Offer Sketchy Screening

Filed under: Church, education, ministry — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:58 am

Wanna become an ordained minister in the next 24 hours?  If you do, the odds are that you’re doing it so you can perform weddings and funerals and enjoy the financial windfall that comes from officiating at those rites. Furthermore, a lot of people looking to do weddings are getting into the biz just so they perform same-sex ceremonies.

But what if you’re looking for something that at least suggests it might have credibility?

Decades ago, there was a classified ad in Rolling Stone where, for $2.00, I could become ordained in something I think was called the “Mother Earth Church.” On Sunday night, I was ready to respond to that, or any other solicitation if it meant acceptance into the secret club.

Well, one secret club. We were talking about how recently certain people had gained admittance  into a generally closed meeting based on some past certification and credentialing.

I have an unfilled wish to be in vocational ministry. And I also have a wish not to be in pastoral ministry. In many respects I am in full-time ministry, albeit absent the paycheck. I should be content with that, right?

But it goes unrecognized. Even the church I lay-pastored for nearly two years was never officially sanctioned by the clergy establishment of that town. I don’t want to perform weddings. I don’t want a title. I just want to see people in lay-ministry recognized for what they do. Without having to learn the secret handshake.

So I spent an hour online researching various Evangelical Christian groups that recognize the work people are already doing. Originally out of frustration. Just to dream about this was the most energized hour of my entire week. There are some good organizations that aren’t looking to make a fast dollar, and want to see some kind of statement of faith and testimony before they ship you the certificate.

My calling from God?  It’s in the mail.

And then there was this one, which got me as far as starting to click on some online forms. For this one, you had to establish a login, create a password and… well it was the verification hint that got to me:

Online Ordination Form

…And here’s the thing: I’m pretty sure the right answer is squirrel.*


For those who don’t get the last line…

* One Sunday a pastor was using squirrels for an object lesson for the children. He started, “I’m going to describe something, and I want you to raise your hand when you know what it is.” The children nodded eagerly.

“This thing lives in trees (pause) and eats nuts (pause)…” No hands went up. “And it is gray (pause) and has a long bushy tail (pause)…” The children were looking at each other nervously, but still no hands raised. “It jumps from branch to branch (pause) and chatters and flips its tail when it’s excited (pause)…”

Finally one little boy tentatively raised his hand. The pastor quickly called on him. “Well,” said the boy, “I know the answer must be ‘Jesus’ … but it sure sounds like a squirrel!”

January 4, 2013

How a Community Goes About Helping

Think of this as a Part Two to yesterday’s post. It’s easy to curse the darkness, but requires slightly more skill to light a candle. How would a community go about helping one of the students mentioned here?

We live in a very small town.  I grew up in Toronto where resources are more abundant. Actually, we are two adjacent towns with a population of approx. 16,000 each, separated by about four miles (eight kilometres).  In the one town there are three evangelical churches and in the other there are five. I envision these eight churches being able to come together for a project of this nature, though as stated yesterday, the initial reaction I got to this proposal doesn’t bear out that possibility so far.

Twice this year, at one of the churches we took up a cash offering after the service to meet two very specific needs. Some churches call these “retiring offerings.” You don’t get a receipt for tax purposes in this type of giving. Some would call it a “loose change offering” even though you’re tossing in bills as well as coins; it’s money you won’t miss.

One offering was for a guy who needed help paying his rent that month. He isn’t a member of that church, and a very infrequent adherent. But he asked. He had a need. We helped him collect the $200 he  needed and had $100 left over.

The second was for a family that hit a somewhat sudden financial crisis that left their next mortgage payment in doubt, and this is a family that’s never been flush with money to begin with. They are not members of this church either, nor do I believe they have ever attended.

In both cases, I was the only one who knew both recipients and was responsible for delivering the cash to each. I’m not sure that even the pastor knew who the second family was. They trusted my judgement on this.

I thought it would be nice to do a third project like this before the year was over, but then I reconsidered. I don’t want people to think I’m running some kind of scheme here. (We decided it would be a bad time to buy a car!) Actually it would be nice if someone else came up with a third project.

Anyway, this church has an average Sunday morning attendance of around 90 people, and each time we raised around $300.  With some adjusting for the demographic makeup of the congregations, I’ve estimated a typical attendance for each of the three (given letters) in the one town and five (given numbers) in the other, with a suggested offering total.

Benevolent Cash Offering From Eight Churches

Yes, that’s right; we live in a really, really, really small town; we have really, really, really small churches. The combined attendance from all eight churches (1,230) wouldn’t even fill one section in some mega-churches you’re familiar with.

And yet, possibly without even knowing who they are giving to, we’ve raised $4,000; a significant chunk of what R., N., and T., in yesterday’s example would need to kick-start a semester payment. Plus, I’m thoroughly convinced that knowing more details, people would give more generously. (The people in the two stories I mentioned were giving “blind” so to speak; even the nature of the need had to be somewhat veiled to protect the identity of the people concerned.)  I’m also convinced that people currently on the fringes — not presently attending a church — could hear about this via a newsletter — the very newsletter that gave birth to this blog five years ago — and add another $1,000.

And think about what a group of churches in your much larger community could do with a similar project and what a HUGE difference it could make to a student.

Spontaneous, New Testament-styled giving. Approval needed, yes; but no budget committee needs to meet on it, because it’s off-budget.

And yes, ultimately the money goes to some very large institution. I’m not content with that. (See yesterday’s comments.) But it’s the only way to a future these kids can foresee. And what a wonderful statement it makes about Christian community. And what a wonderful thing if those givers covenant to pray for that student throughout the semester. And what a wonderful thing if five years later, graduates are willing to give back something to help kick-start other students on their way to a decent education.

And why not do this not once, but two or three times in a year? And a couple extra times for a family with unexpected medical costs? Or a family where both wage earners are out of work? Or…

Well… why not?

January 3, 2013

Helping Youth Attain College Education

University LibraryThis fall our youngest son began attending a Christian university. In the process, we are quickly learning that higher education really means higher priced education. Dang, this is costly.

When were helping him transfer some funds in September, I really though he was paying for a full year, only to realize later that we had only covered the first semester.  Double dang.

But as hard as this probably was for some of our local acquaintances to believe, I didn’t have Kid Two in mind when I drafted a letter to some of our local clergy suggesting that university and college education is priced out of reach of many kids leaving high school, and where these students are a part of our local churches, if we are really family, we should rally together and offer to help.

By rally together, I’m forming a mental image of some ethnic groups where, when one family wants to buy a house, everybody contributes to help maximize the down payment. That sort of thing.

The actual students I had in mind are difficult to pin down here, since I have a handful of local readers  at a blog that is written with a worldwide audience in mind. So I’ll use initials:

  • R. wanted to attend an out-of-town two-year business program this fall. But in the process of getting housing he was, for lack of a better word, swindled out of much of the money he had set aside and is now working a lackluster job to try to gain enough from scratch to revisit the process next fall. R. has so much potential; I feel like he was simply born into the wrong family, and wish I could just hand him the life he wants.
  • N. has actually completed almost half of a four-year degree program at a Christian college. Her major is her passion and her giftedness in this area is renown among students her age. She would love to go back to this Christian college, but as the days tick by, it seems less and less likely.
  • T.’s story is the one I am least familiar with. Essentially, he was among the brightest and the best in his high school, but university remains just a dream, though I keep thinking that whatever he winds up doing, he’s going to excel; but right now probably feels a little lost with most of his cohort off to school while he works a low-paying job.

So on September 5th, I asked our local clergy if we couldn’t borrow a page from the ethnic house-buyers and have money pooled together to kick-start education (or return to school) for at least one student per year.

…This is a community that stands behind people in crisis.  Is there something we can do for kids in our local churches who need a ‘leg-up’ in the area of higher education?

Currently, a couple of churches offer a small scholarship for kids pursuing Christian education, but this is a drop in the bucket compared to what is needed in the three stories I described above.

I now know this first-hand. [However,] the program that I am envisioning would not be something [our two kids] would subscribe to; rather, I’ve tried to approach this with some objectivity and with a vision for students like the ones I described, two of which find it impossible to get started

Furthermore, I want to recognize that there are young men and women out there who desire to serve God with all their hearts, but have an education vision that does not necessarily involve [various Christian universities].  I also believe that if something were established long-term, there are recipients of this type of help who would be willing to give something back after they graduate.

Is there something more we can do as the body of Christ … to come together to support students in a significant way?

I hope you’ll pray about this; and I would hope that pastors receiving this would be willing to discuss this at the next … ministerial meeting.  While we are often ‘tapped out’ in our giving, and while it would be easy to say we don’t need one more ’cause,’ I believe that this is the kind of project that is worthy of our consideration and viable, but only if we work together.

So that’s what I wrote. And that’s what I believe. And I would love to be able to report that our community established a scholarship fund and this fall one or two students will be able to create a proposal and receive some significant help. And that we now have a structure in place that is going to be of benefit to students for the next decade and beyond.

But it never happened. The response was under-whelming. As in nil. Another email from Paul that got quickly deleted.

There is a saying that “if a man thinks he is casting a vision that nobody is actually catching, he is merely throwing a tennis ball against a brick wall.” 

Well, it should be a saying.

I’ve been tossing visions in our little corner of the world for years, but few have been caught. But maybe, just maybe, someone in some other part of the world is reading this and will adopt something similar that will brighten the corner where you are.

It may not help R. or N. or T., but it may change a student’s life, and that student may change the world.

March 16, 2012

Great Expectations

Filed under: education, family — Tags: — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:38 pm

Your son phones from college and announces that he’s changing his major to focus on scientific research in a cross-disciplinary environment involving both physics and chemistry.

You picture something like this:

But your son is thinking more in terms of something a little more free-form, experimental and unstructured; possibly involving the destruction of old cars, old buildings, or entire cities:

February 26, 2012

Real Estate: A Fully Renovated College Campus – $0.00

They bought it for: $100,000.

Spent on renovations: $5,000,000 (US).

Acreage: 217

Buildings on site: 43

School auditorium seating: 2,400

Your cost: $0.00

Jerry Patengale, who was hired by the Green family to help find a new owner of a college campus in Northfield, Mass., points out the stone chapel that has once slated for demolition. Religion News Service photo by G. Jeffrey MacDonald.

The family who own the U.S. retail chain Hobby Lobby are behind this generous gift to the right organization.  It’s not the first time they’ve contributed significantly to the cause of Christian higher education with significant contributions to Oral Roberts University, Liberty University and Zion Bible College. Ironically, they aren’t college graduates themselves.

This Massachusetts campus was built in 1879.  Fifteen organizations were selected for initial consideration, but after that the Oklahoma-based Green  family will consider possibly hundreds of other offers. Their particular concern is seeing a Christian college or university established in the more secularized northeast United States. 

Obviously, an organization has to be able to respond swiftly to take advantage of an offer of this nature, while also being able to prove financial stability over the long term. But look again at the initial cost price; this is a good news story that rarely comes around. I can’t wait to see how this develops; and as a parent with a teen about to embark on a private Christian college education in the fall, I hope the organization in question offers tuition that is priced commensurate with the price they paid to acquire the property!

Read the story at Religion News Service.

August 13, 2011

Trend Toward Part-Time Church Staff Raises Other Issues

With declining attendance figures, and a tight economy, many mid-sized and smaller churches are moving toward models involving part-time or bi-vocational staff.  But what does this trend mean in terms of the training that church staff committees look for in a candidate?  Normally, in any profession, one sees a full-time position as the payoff for a four year investment in college or university courses.  While one could argue that theological study is its own reward, certainly in economic terms, it doesn’t make sense to invest those years if the resultant job is only 20-30 hours per week.  And while Christian institutions of higher learning are increasingly offering specialized courses in urban ministry, student ministry, or worship ministry; these positions are most vulnerable to reduced hours or even elimination when money isn’t there.

If post-secondary education for ministry development is peaking, what happens to an entire Christian magazine industry that has budgeted vast amounts of income from advertising to Christian colleges, universities and seminaries?  I know that may seem cynical, but those adverts in those glossy periodicals are indicative of the vast amounts that have been historically spent on recruiting students.   Most Christian colleges have been in a growth mode for several decades as prosperity has allowed more people to pursue education beyond high school.  But if the economy slows and churches are cutting back available job hours, it means these institutions could see themselves facing years of decline.

Do you know anyone in ministry who has recently had their hours cut? Or lost their job completely due to the economy and/or church attendance issues?   Continue the discussion by looking at a Canadian study at ChristianWeek.org.

 

Photos: Cross Island Chapel in Oneida, New York has turned up on this blog before, but the one in Drumheller, Alberta was new to us!

 

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