THE PATHWAY LEARNING STORY

by Steve Childers, Founding President

I remember the day I knew things had to change.

I’d planted two churches, pastored for fifteen years and spent almost twenty years as a seminary professor teaching and writing curriculum for church leaders. I’d traveled around the world, training thousands of church planters, pastors and missionaries.

But, that day, I realized there had to be a better way.

I was training a group of church leaders in Africa when the topic of widows and orphans in their community came up. I asked them how they were helping.

They weren’t.

The pastors had been taught that God always prospers and heals the obedient, and when bad things happened to people, they’d done something wrong to deserve it. Why would they give out of their own poverty to help these sinners who caused their own problems?

Something so essential to our faith, helping widows and orphans, and yet these well-meaning church leaders had been taught something to the contrary.

That day, I realized I was just another in a long line of trainers to come through their villages. While I taught them what the Scriptures say about caring for the poor, I realized that was just a band-aid to a much larger problem. What would the next teacher who came through tell them?

During the last fifty years, the global church has focused on the goal of personal conversion to the neglect of discipleship and societal transformation. As a result, the church is losing its transforming impact on the world.

At the same time, the global center of Christianity has shifted away from the West to the developing world.

With this shift, the next generation of aspiring church leaders now find themselves with no realistic option for obtaining a high-quality seminary education.

They have a critical need for the essential training and tools to develop strong churches that transform lives and communities. But they can’t afford to leave their families, churches and communities to learn in a new language and culture.

That’s the problem Pathway Learning wants to solve.

Thomas Friedman wrote, “Big breakthroughs happen when what is suddenly possible meets what is desperately necessary.”[1] 

We’ve seen what is desperately necessary. What is suddenly possible is a global revolution in learning. The emergence of open-source educational platforms, through organizations such as Coursera and edX, has enabled near universal access to some of the world’s best teachers and courses in the sciences, arts, and business.

Pathway Learning is applying this same breakthrough in learning to under-served church leaders around the world. With a platform that enables an innovative blend of online and onsite learning methods, our goal is to provide universal access to a practical, seminary-level education taught by world-class subject matter experts.

In partnership with leading seminaries and organizations, Pathway Learning opens a door never before available to under-served church leaders—the opportunity to receive the strong biblical and practical education they desperately need, while continuing to serve their congregations and communities where they live.

What makes Pathway Learning courses different from most online courses that have been available for church leaders for a long time?

  • Practical Focus: Our courses focus not only on biblical and theological education but also practical education that equips students for effective ministry and lifelong learning.

  • Proven Methods: Our courses are based on proving teaching methods so students learn better and faster with less passive listening to long lectures and more active learning.

  • Cultural Customization: Our courses are customizable to adapt the curriculum not only to the student’s language, but also to their unique culture where they live and serve.

  • Blended Learning: Our courses blend online and onsite learning in cohort groups, led by certified facilitators, using both formal and non-formal learning methods.

  • Measurable Competencies: Our courses measure not only a student's knowledge, but also the character and skills needed for success in ministry–verified by certificates.

During the last few years, almost 200 students have successfully completed our first 6 pilot courses in English–Evangelism, Discipleship, Church Planting, Church Renewal, Missions, and Church Leadership. This year more than 50 indigenous church leaders in Asia completed our first pilot course in Chinese.

We’re preparing now to launch new courses for under-served church leaders in Asia, North America, and West Africa in Mandarin, English and French. And we’re looking for partners to help us bring this solution to church leaders among all nations in this generation.

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[1] Friedman, Thomas L. “Come the Revolution.” New York Times, May 15:2012, Op-Ed