Lebanon (MNN) — The pandemic continues to leave higher education in a state of disarray as colleges plot out the upcoming academic year. Arab Baptist Theological Seminary (ABTS) is no different, but president Elie Haddad says the school is making a more permanent change to its residency program.
It’s a big step, Haddad says, since the residency program has been foundational to ABTS since its founding 60 years ago. He explains how the current program works: “They come to Lebanon for three years, get trained, and go back home to serve their churches. We’ve been in a series of crises in Lebanon since last year. It started with the economic crisis, and then politically with the uprising and everything like that. Economically, Lebanon has not been doing well for the last year, and then the pandemic hit. That made a big difference as well. It’s like crisis upon crisis.”
With travel and financial restrictions, ABTS can no longer support this program. But the college leadership is thinking strategically about the future. Haddad says, “We came up with what we’re calling the modified residency program. Instead of bringing in full-time students, we want to reach out to people who are in full-time ministry, come alongside them, and make the program accessible to them. If they’re able to invest 15 hours a week plus annual residences in Lebanon, then we can work with these leaders so that they can get the training they need.”
Advantages and disadvantages of the new program
Students won’t have the same kind of fellowship with each other and faculty that they did before, as they will have only short stays at ABTS each year. But, the school will be able to work with more students under the new program, up from 40 now to 120.
Additionally, Haddad says, “What we will gain is that they get to train in their own ministry context, so they don’t have to wait three years before they go back and make a difference. As they grow in their own learning, they can invest right away in their ministry.”
ABTS still has a lot of unanswered questions about the new program. Pray that God will give wisdom to the staff as they continue to navigate this change. Pray also that God will bring healing to Lebanon as it struggles under several layers of crisis.
The header image shows beds in the ABTS guesthouse. (Photo courtesy of ABTS on Facebook)