Transition to an immersive Academy model—offering an accredited, baccalaureate, on-campus program rooted in innovative and relational methodologies—producing leaders that are prepared to fulfill the mission of the Church.

Building on our current Four Pillar Model, Highlands College is embarking on a game-changing transformation of our Ministry Leadership Development program to an Academy-style model that blends a number of elements, including a baccalaureate program, accreditation, an immersive on-campus experience in a church setting, and leading-edge teaching methods enabled by state-of-the-art facilities. Our objective is to provide holistic training that develops the whole person to prepare ministry leaders to fulfill the Great Commission.


Leadership is at the heart of Highlands College’s mission and vision. Leadership is needed for scaling—producing graduates who can accelerate and amplify the impact of teams that they recruit, train, and inspire to grow the Kingdom of God. The many elements of leadership are best exemplified in the military service academies, which produce many of America’s finest leaders. We wish to instill many of the same traits and virtues in our graduates, including: discipline; courage; integrity; professionalism; commitment; resilience; high standards; perseverance; selflessness; respectfulness; critical thinking; creative problem-solving; decisiveness; good oral and written communications; adaptability; self-motivation; interpersonal skills; world awareness and cultural competence; personal responsibility; lifelong learning skills; and pragmatism.

To inculcate these virtues and traits, we are adapting methods from the service academies’ holistic leadership training model that fit our mission, vision, culture, and values. These include: a rigorous, structured, and demanding environment; experiential and applied learning; practical and integrative training; a whole person focus; immersion; plentiful enrichment opportunities; physical education; strict accountability; and instruction in soft skills. However, we seek service Academy professionalism without the formalities, such as uniforms and rank. We will also ensure we maintain our focus on our current programs’ essential spirit-led/life-giving elements.


is important to achieving legitimacy, respect, and longevity for our College. Accreditation conveys to students, parents, employers, and other constituents that Highlands College is a serious institution of higher education. We are currently seeking accreditation through the Association of Biblical Higher Education (ABHE). In 2020, the ABHE granted the College candidate status. We plan to apply for initial accreditation in 2023. Once initially accredited, we will apply for state approval to be a degree-granting institution, with the objective to offer both associates and bachelor’s degrees. The ABHE has worked closely with Highlands College to show its support for the dynamic and paradigm-shifting elements of our educational model and to help us align our model to meet federal standards. Our objective is for accreditation to support and facilitate the initiatives we are undertaking and for our Strategic Plan to function as a dynamic and organizationally supported catalyst for accreditation. We view the ABHE as an important partner in helping us to develop a new model of biblical higher education.


gives us room to accomplish many of our objectives such as comprehensive training in practicums, more electives, deeper biblical and theological training, and off-site residencies for practical experience. A four-year program should attract more interest, which should translate to more applications—allowing us to attract higher quality students. Our bachelor’s degree, while focusing intensively on biblical, theological, and ministry skills and leadership, also has a core of foundational studies in general education, thereby enhancing the utility of a Highlands College degree. We are also upgrading the credentials of our faculty to include professors with terminal degrees for some courses.

Semester-long residencies will be a requirement of baccalaureate degrees. Initially, residencies will be at Church of the Highlands, then branch out to both ARC (Association of Related Churches) and other partner churches. We are building relationships with other churches to provide these residencies. We are also creating a financial model for the residency program and studying best practices. To advance our goal of debt-free graduation, our aim is for all residencies to be paid internships.


  • Deepening leadership training so that students are proficient at not just managing teams but also at identifying, training, inspiring, and pastoring team members. To this end, we will create leadership opportunities at Highlands College, Church of the Highlands, and beyond.
  • Fostering adaptability that prepares students to successfully modify learned methods to fit circumstances and environments, based on an understanding of the underlying rationale of the
  • Increasing focus on ministry responsibilities outside of Sunday services—those relational, grittier
    instances of ministry requiring pastoring (e.g., consoling, counseling) that build spiritual and
    emotional maturity and mold students into leaders.


provides the structure and intensity necessary for shaping students into strong leaders. By immersive, we mean that most of a student’s time is scheduled and strict policies around personal and academic conduct are enforced. We strongly guide our students’ lives. This immersive model will be enabled by our shift to a residential model that includes dining facilities, dormitories, and a wellness center. (Goal 6: Build a World-Class Training Ground for World-Changing Leaders addresses the new facilities that are being built). Our intent is for the vast majority of students to live on a campus that provides everything needed for them to work, learn, study, commune, and worship together.


We are studying innovative teaching and learning approaches and developing our training in an active learning model. Our learning studios are built for active learning that provides for creative learning strategies. Our active learning strategy trains students to be responsible for and engaged in their learning. It trains them to be life-long learners. Many of our approaches use and reinforce soft and life skills important to our holistic training. They also align with our focus on relational ministry and with achievement of our longer-term objective of one-on-one discipleship of students—perhaps employing alums, Church ministers, and selected Evening Program students to partner with students.