Cliff College: Fit for purpose
by Stephen Skuce
Like all Bible colleges, Cliff has to continually look to the future to ensure that the education and training we deliver is fit for purpose for God’s Kingdom today and tomorrow. This involves an ongoing revision of all that we do. I suppose it’s similar to ‘the church reformed is always reforming’. We might prefer a bit less reformation and for Cliff less frequent changes to our courses, but that isn’t where we are. A part of that development is the recent creation of 15 ensuite bedrooms - if you ever stayed on the old top floor of the college building you won’t recognise it because we knocked everything down, walls and all, and rebuilt 15 hotel standard rooms. This is the first stage in an ongoing process that will see more ensuite bedrooms and 2020 standard facilities.
While these are dramatic physical changes, it’s in the college programmes that changes are happening that increasingly make us the national (and, on one course, international) leader in mission education. In developing both academic and non-academic courses, we are seeking to make much of what we do as widely available as possible. Part of our challenge as a university accredited college is still to fulfil the core Cliff value of enabling all, irrespective of educational background, to be part of who we are and what we do. So, what are we actually doing?
On Monday evenings people from the surrounding area can now take a couple of our undergraduate courses alongside our BA Th students. In the 1st semester it’s Children’s ministry, and in the 2nd semester it’s Christian Spirituality. Next academic year these evening courses will be introductions to the Old and New Testaments; Cliff joining in with many others in promoting the themes of the excellent Biblefresh initiative. (See elsewhere in this issue! Ed.)
Christian mentoring is being viewed as increasingly important. As churches reassess how effective they are at nurturing discipleship, so this new course picks up these themes, will further equip those involved in mentoring and provide a way in to this form of ministry for many. We have taught a one week intensive unit open to anyone in November 2010 and will offer this annually; next year’s dates are 31st October – 4th November 2011. Because this is not a university validated course we are able to keep the cost much lower than some of our other programmes. We are also developing a MA stream in Christian mentoring to start in September 2011. For some the November unit will provide a stepping stone onto the MA course.
Mission to the Third Age
We all recognise that Britain has an aging population and that some denominations, in particular Methodism, have quite an elderly membership profile. What we haven’t been good at, until now, is creating specific programmes of ministry and evangelism towards and with those in their later years. In September 2011 we plan to introduce an undergraduate diploma course in Third Age Ministry and Mission. This will be delivered in three intensive teaching weeks in the first year and two in the second year and will be open to all who have a good academic background and some involvement in ministry and mission to and with those in their later years. No other college or institution in Britain offers such a programme. Cliff has been a national leader in providing mission training for those involved in children’s and youth ministry. This new planned development will help us address the other end of the age spectrum.
Europe’s First Professional Doctorate in Missiology
In recent years a new doctoral level qualification, known as a professional doctorate, has gradually become significant in British education. Designed for practitioners to reflect on their work, this award has been of interest to Cliff College for some time, given our history of education for the doing of mission and evangelism. Despite having a strong PhD programme, and a very strong MA course with over 100 students at present, very few of our MA students go on to do PhDs. This isn’t that surprising, as the MA students are generally interested in looking at the doing of mission, rather than on a more abstract search for knowledge.
In November 2009, during our very successful revalidation process, the university invited us to explore the possibilities with them again. And in June 2010 we received approval from the university for our new Professional Doctorate in Missiology (DMiss). We are the only college in Europe offering such a programme and look forward to this qualification becoming recognised as the leading missiological academic award.
Open to those with a Masters’ level qualification and at least 3 years experience of being involved in mission, perhaps our first DMiss students will be readers of METConnexion, or those who you might mention this to. Fuller DMiss details are found at www.cliffcollege.ac.uk/page/dmiss_programme, and at www.cliffcollege.ac.uk you will find details of the various other college courses, application forms, details of Festival etc.
Finally, one further area of expansion is in our relationship with other ministries and organisations. Since inception Cliff College has been in partnership with the Methodist Church and in recent years the college also has developed academic partnerships, first with the University of Sheffield and now with the University of Manchester. Our Children’s Evangelism and Nurture course has been in partnership with Scripture Union for a number of years, but recently we have entered into a number of new relationships. Today various courses are partnered with Scripture Union, Youth For Christ, the Salvation Army, the Child Theology Movement and the Church Pastoral Aid Society.
Cliff College is in very good heart at present with a record number of students and increasing recognition of the role we play, although we clearly have the difficulty of successfully running a college in an economic downturn with rising educational costs. Far from complacent, we recognise the challenges before us - to continue to develop what we do, better express who we are and constantly strive to be in the centre of God’s will.
Please pray for the success of these new programmes and that God will draw to us those who will benefit from such study and so be further equipped to spread the good news. Please pray for the ongoing physical changes to the college that we will continue to develop a campus that serves God’s purposes. And please pray that through all that we do we will continue to spread the message of ‘all for Christ and Christ for all’.
Rev Dr Stephen Skuce, an Irish Methodist minister and former mission partner in Sri Lanka, is Academic Dean at CLiff College and responsible for the college's academic programmes, introducing new programmes and the college's relationship with the University of Manchester.
METconnexion spring 2011 pp26&28