By Ralph Wilcox

I have served in various pastoral ministry positions for many years. In fact, for over 20 years now, I have served in roles as an elder, youth pastor, lay pastor and co-pastor of a church. All of these allowed me to serve in a bi-vocational role. Any of us who have served in a capacity like this, know the challenges it presents. It is a struggle to keep up with studying, praying, visitations of members and too many other responsibilities to list; in addition, most of us have family responsibilities as well. To say all of this is difficult is an understatement.


I know the challenges that exist, even with good intentions to pursue more biblical education. I thought being a full-time pastor would make it easier to pursue the education I desire. Almost three years ago, God opened the door for me to begin to serve full-time. I currently pastor Portage Missionary Baptist Church, way up in the Northwest Corner of Indiana. I have found that all of the same responsibilities still exist. My days are filled with all the various responsibilities of serving the church body, and the need to study and be in prayer are still great. As well, I still have the need and desire to be present with my family.


I have wanted to reach greater heights educationally, but online is not a good option for me personally. I have tried several leadership and biblical training programs, but none seemed like a good fit. Going away to a campus hours and hours away isn’t an option for me either at this point. So, what can I do? Well, I was introduced to, as many of you may have been as well, the Next Steps Certificate program. When I heard of how this all works, and the benefits it could provide, I almost immediately began to seek out more information. Let me just say, this program has been amazing and so very helpful to me. I have been challenged in many good ways. The training I am receiving has helped to change my perspective on some things as well, which has transferred to helping my congregation grow in the word as well.


The fact that we get real professors from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, coming to us, is amazing! These professors have delivered so much enriching knowledge to those of us in the classroom. We are receiving in a weekend, the amount of teaching that would take several weeks if not months, on campus to cover. Yet, it is taught in a way, that it is retainable and understandable.


I am so thankful for our SCBI partnering with NOBTS and bringing this amazing opportunity to us as pastors here in Indiana. The accommodations for the weekends of classes at Highland Lakes is fantastic as well! We have a great environment in which to learn and rest as well.


If you find the challenges of continuing your education to be real, as most of us do, I would highly encourage you to examine this program. You may find as I did, that this is a perfect fit to balance all of your responsibilities with your desire to continue to advance your education and spiritual growth in this area.