Enhance our current ministry leadership program through a more engaging and culturally aware academic curriculum, increased geographically and contextually varied hands-on ministry opportunities, expanded character development activities, and richer spiritual growth environments, so that our graduates are fully prepared to reach a complex and diverse world with the love of Christ. Highlands College’s key differentiator is holistic, hands-on training that occurs in a church setting. Our whole-person ministry leadership program is organized into four pillars: Academic Instruction, Ministry Training, Character Formation, and Spiritual Development. Our four-pillar program is designed to achieve Highlands College’s Student Learning Objectives:
The graduates of Highlands College will be known for their commitment to:
We are raising academic standards, including revising our curriculum, in tandem with increasing admissions standards (discussed under Recruitment in Goal 3).
To accomplish this, we are adopting best practices from other colleges. With the help of technology, we are shifting from lecture-based learning to active learning, to include more debate and discussion and more collaboration/team-based learning; the addition of flipped classrooms, where appropriate; simulations; and service learning. We are also committed to making academic instruction more practical, with increasing emphasis on basic job and technology skills—e.g., spreadsheet use and budgeting basics. To verify that we are successfully raising academic standards, we audit student performance and gather student feedback.
Ministry Leadership teaches church principles, systems, and functions and how they all fit together. Improvements to our Ministry Training are currently focused on the College’s eight practicums, which provide 400 hours of hands-on training, allowing students to become specialized in a specific area of ministry. Students have 8 areas of study to choose from: Creative, Family Ministry, Conference and Events, Students, Pastoral Leadership, Worship Leadership, Technical Arts, and Outreach. Students learn and practice in classroom and lab settings and then apply these skills at live Sunday church services—also known as Sunday Serve. Our current emphasis is on revising our programs to better accommodate the needs of churches, based on focus groups with church leaders and feedback from students/alumni. A key objective is cultural competence, where we acclimate students to varied church and geographic cultures, so that they can effectively relate to and lead diverse team members.
We are creating more organized, specific, and substantive practicum plans, inclusive of assessments and grading rubrics. Our goal is to eliminate repetition and busy work, with the intent of creating a robust set of benchmarks that must be completed to earn credit. We are also working to provide more time and tools to help students choose a practicum; to provide more practicum cross-training; and to create more of a sense of community within practicums. As our College grows, we will need to increase practicum staffing to ensure instructors can accommodate new and expanded practicum requirements. Lastly, we are working to better define the roles of students vs. non-student church members on the Sunday Serve Dream Teams.
Throughout their time at Highlands College, students are challenged to grow in Christ-like character, in righteousness, love, wisdom, truth, and self-control. It is our goal that students graduate pursuing a Christ-centered life, including having a Godly character. To this end, Highlands College challenges students to the highest levels of academic integrity and requires participation in annual activities, such as Expedition and the Half Marathon, to develop perseverance towards achieving goals. Our holistic approach to student development incorporates athletics, both competitive and individual, and residential housing where students learn to live and love in community. We seek to develop students who are intellectually curious and honest, have discernment and integrity, and possess the courage, tenacity, and faithfulness to live a Christ-focused life. We are rounding out Character Formation with additional activities and events—many of which will be College-specific community service events and activities that provide ministering opportunities. Most importantly, we are ensuring character development is consciously incorporated into all aspects of the Highlands College experience.
Nevertheless, we are developing additional opportunities to further strengthen the students’ spiritual foundation, understanding that spiritual maturity is the most important success factor for new ministers. To further deepen our students’ spirituality, our future focus areas will be on prayer, biblical grounding, and deeper exploration of ministry’s spiritual conflicts and how they manifest. Our goal is to ensure students understand and internalize their ministry calling.
Faculty and staff involvement is the most important element keeping our four pillars strong. Our staff are energetic, enthusiastic, and dedicated because they are here for a higher cause—building the Kingdom of God. With growth comes changes, such as increasing specialization, that will challenge our culture. Accordingly, we are increasingly proactive and intentional in staff and faculty recruitment, support, development, rewards, recognition, and retention. We are casting a wider net in our recruiting, seeking more collegiate expertise and experience, while continuing a strong emphasis on cultural fit. We are also improving onboarding and more clearly delineating expectations and career progression. As we grow and specialize, we will continue to support our staff to ensure we retain our strong family spirit. This will involve additional and better professional development to improve skills and credentials, including tuition assistance and more coaching. We will ensure compensation is commensurate with schools of our size, mission, and stage of development, and that high achievement is incented. We will continue to celebrate and publicize the successes of our faculty and staff. Our expectation is that if we demonstrate excellence in these areas of recruitment, support, development, rewards, and recognition, then our staff will continue with us on our bold and exciting mission of creating great ministry leaders.