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Urban Ministry Training Opportunities for You and Your Staff

by Barbara Clemenson, CPA, CFRE

Barbara Clemenson is a NASS Board Member, an AGRM Board Member, and a City Vision University Professor and Member of its Advisory Council. She graciously accepted NASS’ offer to write an article about a terrific educational opportunity for you and your staff.

Note that this article has been updated & edited for factual accuracy as of May 2015.

It is my profound joy to introduce you to City Vision University, an online accredited Christ-centered urban ministry training opportunity for you and your staff. I know that it is difficult to keep up with certification requirements, let alone pursue education in areas where we have no training, like board development, human resources, fundraising, finances, facility management, or food service. Yet God wants us to perform our calling with excellence.

God has called us to serve “the least” – the at-risk kids that society has neglected or cast off as hopeless. Even though the world assesses our students with distain, in God’s eyes each one is incredibly precious and we are called to serve them with the quality we would render to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords – because that is who we are serving. How can we serve them in a way worthy of God’s died-for creations? We need knowledge and training.

The Association of Gospel Rescue Missions (AGRM, www.agrm.org), a group of approximately 300 missions throughout the United States and Canada, first addressed this training need by developing correspondence courses focused on the various areas of responsibility involved in administering an urban ministry. AGRM partnered with Grace College of the Bible in Omaha, Nebraska which supervised the courses, provided accreditation, and a diploma upon completion with a Bachelor of Science in Bible.

Then, about 10 years ago, [at the time of writing,] the AGRM determined to harness the power of the emerging Internet to address this training need in an even more effective way through online courses, calling this program Rescue College in honor of the Rescue Mission identity.

They also engaged in accreditation with the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) which examines every [new program] before it is offered. This accreditation ensures [academic] quality and provides university recognition for our students’ work.

Within the past few years though, Rescue College came to realize that although they had developed a training treasure, they were only serving a fraction of the individuals needing this service because of the close affiliation with the Rescue Missions. At the same time, it became clear that developing a university was outside the core mission of the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions.

So in January 2008 the AGRM transferred Rescue College to TechMission (www.techmission.org), an urban ministry focused on “Transforming Communities through Innovation,” who broadened its name to City Vision College. [In May of 2015 City Vision College became City Vision University.] TechMission provides the university with the technical expertise necessary to maintain an online program, while also expanding the university’s ministry to all of its major urban ministry partners, still including Rescue Missions but also incorporating Christian Community Development Corporations, Urban Youth Workers Institute, Kingdomworks/ Compassionworks Conference, Community Technology Centers Network, the Salvation Army, World Vision, and others.

This transfer is a win-win for everyone, fulfilling the hopes of the visionaries within the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions who developed and supported this ministry during its infancy, and expanding it to equip even more individuals for excellence in urban ministries.

What advantages can City Vision University training offer you?

  • Structured, comprehensive, and critical training with hands-on application in multiple areas of nonprofit ministry and operations provide  you with expertise and experience in areas in which you may have had little or no formal training.
  • Flexibility to manage your studies within your own schedule and the broad structure ensure completion.
  • Interaction with qualified instructors and colleagues who are also involved in ministry.
  • Recognized accreditation for college acknowledgement of credits.
  • Many of the courses also qualify for other certifications’ continuing education requirements, including the Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE, www.cfre.org) and Christian Stewardship Professional (www.stewardship.org).
  • The costs are reasonable: only $200/credit hour for a $700 total per 3 credit hour class. Most public colleges charge approximately $500/credit hour (www2.aacc.nche.edu/research/index.htm)
  • City Vision University is still growing. Courses are now offered also in Addiction Recovery and [Nonprofit Management, including] Fundraising.
  • Creative ways to employ this opportunity within your school and with your staff: Few street schools are flush with funds to reward staff and they also struggle to bring in enough workers to maintain the small student-teacher ratio that is critical to the students' success. City Vision University can help address both of these issues.

Training: A Fantastic and Effective Fringe Benefit
 

Staff are working at your school because of their passion for the kids. They want to serve with excellence while you want to equip them to serve in even greater capacities. City Vision University meets both desires.

  • Consider paying for successful completion of City Vision University courses. Each course requires approximately 15 hours a week of study. Some assume that because classes are online they will be “easy,” and register but never finish; however, these are college level classes requiring time and commitment. Therefore, you may want to reimburse your staff for successful course completion so those who are committed to self-development will take advantage of these opportunities.
  • Consider encouraging staff study-groups. If several people at your school take the same courses at the same time, they can encourage each other.
  • Showcase continuing education completion. You minister to students who will be blessed by your examples of continuous learning. They need to realize that successful “education” is not finished with a high school or even a college diploma, but is a life-long process.

Training: A Fantastic and Effective Staff Recruitment Benefit
 

The university is also designed to provide students with college completion. A student can enter with [up to 90] transferred college hours, complete their studies, and graduate with a degree from the university. [Students may also enter as freshmen, taking general education classes through the university's partner, Straighterline.]

An example of how to recruit staff with using City Vision University as a benefit is Michelle Porter, Executive Director of Souls Harbor Rescue Mission in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. She is a Rescue College graduate herself and is “queen” of effectively using the university for recruitment. Michelle canvases Christian and Bible colleges and offers students hands-on ministry experience, a small salary, and completion of their last two years of education for coming to work at the Rescue Mission. As a result, she develops her staff and ministry at the same time with young people who are eager to serve.

One of Michelle’s staff in my Basic Fundraising Course recently [as of original writing] wrote this in a homework assignment, which included performing a development audit of their organization:

Much of the base Mission staff is made up of individuals who have come through Rescue College [now City Vision University]. This has made a significant effect on how the Mission is run and the collective understanding of how to run an operation like we do. I believe this has also strongly impacted the ways in which the office works and, in particular, the fundraising or resource development aspect of the ministry. I think this may be one of the reasons that the Mission scored so well or could answer “yes” or “working on it” to nearly all the questions. The staff is very aware of what an ideal situation would look like and are working toward that consistently.

You could also extend this training opportunity to volunteers and board members. What would it be like to have all participants in your ministry “very aware of what an ideal situation would look like” and to be “working toward that consistently”? Well worth the investment!

Please consider using this incredible resource to further develop your schools and staff so that we might all learn from each other, work more effectively and efficiently, and therefore be able to rescue more at-risk kids.