By Jennifer Johnson
Three years ago, North Boulevard Church of Christ (Murfreesboro, TN) embarked on a “20/20 Vision” initiative to accomplish several goals, including paying off the loan on their current building, devoting themselves to prayer, growing in diversity among their church body, planting more churches—and developing a School of Christian Thought to help people think critically and with a Christian worldview.
“The leadership team voted unanimously to pursue this vision, and we began praying about raising the funds and casting the vision for our church,” says Renée Sproles, director of the school. “We needed $1.6 million to accomplish it all.” But the church far exceeded that goal, raising $6.1 million on Easter Sunday 2013.
Today, the School of Christian Thought is thriving, with a number of programs designed for church leaders, students, and even homeschoolers. The School of Discipleship offers in-depth, full-time, and part-time “mentorships” for people who want to grow in their ministry and leadership potential; the three, six, and twelve-month options include readings, guest lectures, intensive prayer, daily acts of service, and concentrated time to work on personal projects. Students as young as high school and as old as 75 have participated in the program, with some students coming from as far away as Washington, DC, and New York. The church rents a house for these students, and a couple from North Boulevard serves as “houseparents.”
The school’s SALT classes, a partnership with Hope International University (Fullerton, CA), offer both undergraduate and graduate-level coursework in biblical studies, theology, leadership, and more. Students may attend classes at the Murfreesboro campus with “live” teachers or participate in the online classes.
“Hope is ahead of their time in designing initiatives like this that equip the local church,” Sproles says. “The 12 classes are fully accredited and transferable to other schools, and they’re a bargain at just $399 for three credit hours. Some people participate for personal growth, some high schoolers get a jump-start on college work, and others use them as part of their master’s program. So again, we get a variety of ages and denominational backgrounds, which makes it a rich experience.”
The school is also launching a “Discipleship Tutorial” designed to provide college-prep-level homeschool instruction in a variety of subjects for 6th- through 12th-graders. The classes meet one day a week and are designed to augment a home school program with experienced tutors in advanced subjects.
Sproles continues to dream about additional programs, expanded course offerings, and even a campus for the growing school. Why not? North Boulevard is a church with vision.