Faculty Reflections on City Vision University

Be Intentional Learners

At the time of writing Steven E. Brubaker served as Director of Residential Programs for the Water Street Rescue Mission in Lancaster, PA.  

He was professor of the City Vision University Course 305, “Human Resources.“

City Vision University is a good fit for me because I believe in its mission.  The content of the course work is excellent and is never far removed from practical application.  It is great to interact with students who are “in the trenches.”  What they learn in City Vision University is immediately helpful and relevant.  This fact keeps both the instructor and the student grounded and provides motivation for both in the learning process.

I encourage my students to think about the philosophy behind what they do — getting them to consider why they do what they do.  Our vision and philosophy of ministry provides the foundation so that the rest of what we do can flourish, can be intentional, and can move toward our ultimate purpose as a mission.  If we don’t know why we do what we do, we are relegated to accidental growth, uncertainty in our decision – making process, superficial commitment without depth, and frustration in our task.

I’m struck by the need to be increasingly competent in what we do.  The AGRM, its member missions, and workers need to be stretching, learning more, becoming more effective and making sure we are astute, capable, and professional in all we do.  I think our appropriate posture is one of a learner becoming more and more like Jesus.

Appropriate and Effective Training

Rev. James M. Harriger is Executive Director, Springfield Victory Mission, Springfield, Missouri. He is professor of the City Vision University Course 301, “History of Urban Missions“   As the first Director of Education for the International Union of Gospel Missions from 1987-1990, he developed the curriculum for the Leadership Training Program which served as the backbone of City Vision University’s Missions program.

I believe in education and rescue missions.  The opportunity to moderate a City Vision University class allows me to lead others into the ministry that has been my life’s work.

I am thrilled by some of the papers I have at the opportunity to read and grade. The histories that the students write are fascinating. They are the stories of God at work today.  One student in my last class had a story that I passed out to my staff because how had God lead in that city in that mission is amazing!

As the Rescue Mission movement, we have been cited in the past for not caring about serious training.  City Vision University busts all the criticisms to pieces in the way it is growing our future leaders.  Our university is named appropriately, “City Vision University.” There is no other place where you can go, online or in person, that will give you the education that relates specifically to us.  I encourage mission directors to get their staff members involved with taking classes through City Vision University.  Our classes produce a better staff with people who are improving their skills and their credentials.

Moderating the History class each year reminds me of where we have come from as Rescue Missions.  In this remembrance is the basic fact that we are as good as we are today because of innovation and change.  The pioneers in our movement didn’t take no for an answer, but figured a way around the obstacle. I believe this is still true today.

Rev. Perry Jones is Executive Director of the Capital City Rescue Mission in Albany, New York.   He was professor of the City Vision University Course 302, “Nonprofit Administration“  

The ministry of Rescue is growing and we need to be prepared to meet the greatest challenges we have ever faced.  These demands will be best met through a well educated and Spirit led leadership.  I believe City Vision University is one of the ways the Lord has led AGRM to prepare this new leadership.

Today’s Rescue leaders need a sharp edge to be meet the many and varied demands of rescue ministry.  City Vision University helps prepare rescue leaders for excellence in ministry. The training students receive in their classes in a short period of time would take them many years to gain on their own.

City Vision University is very important to the AGRM. It allows us to teach and mentor new leaders from the high platforms of academic excellence and best practice in rescue ministry.  I love to teach the concepts of rescue ministry to students who have a passion and vision for careers in rescue. I benefit greatly from teaching because I have become sharper in my own mission and ministry.  I strive to keep learning and growing.

The excitement of my students gives me great encouragement.  There is nothing like mentoring new rescue mission leaders.  In my own 25 year ministry I have had the blessing of mentoring new leaders including three who have gone on to be executive directors of rescue missions. There is nothing like watching leaders coming up through the ranks and City Vision University affords them the opportunity to really excel in this journey.   I have already had the great blessing of watching the success stories of City Vision University graduates in their new mission posts across the country.

Rescue Mission leaders can benefit greatly by investing in staff training through City Vision University. Too often budget restraints cause us to fail to prepare our upcoming leaders. They are our greatest  resource. I have watched City Vision University students learn well, graduate, and take their places as new leaders in rescue ministry.  They are the future and  we need to give them all the help we can.

Rev. Mark Siegrist is Director of Education at the Denver Rescue Mission, Denver, CO.  He was professor of the City Vision Course 307, “Facilities Management“   He currently serves as Chair of AGRM’s Education and Employment Track.

City Vision University is a valuable way to encourage people on in the ministry of Rescue.  It is also a great way to encourage people who might be just getting started in the higher education process  – “getting their feet wet” as it were .

The classes provides a good foundation in the ministry of Rescue and gives new people connected with various leaders within the AGRM.  It has been exciting to have students in class and then meet them at the annual convention or other events as full-time rescue mission employees.

I see City Vision University as a growing value within the association.  I am particularly supportive of the additional curriculum in certified addictions training and other practical content for rescue mission employees. When do we stop learning? … Never … I hope!

Urban Ministry Training Opportunities for You and Your Staff

Barbara Clemenson, CPA, CFRE.
Barbara is a NASS Board Member, an AGRM Board Member, and was a City Vision University Professor and Member of its Advisory Council.

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.

We know that it is difficult to keep up with certification requirements, let alone find the time to pursue education in areas we are responsible for but for which we have never been trained.  And few of us, probably, planned to work in a street school. We may not have a good understanding of many of the issues our kids are facing; and we probably never dreamed of having responsibility for Board development, human resources, fundraising, finances, facility management, or food service. Yet God has called us to this ministry and wants us to perform it with excellence.

The History and Vision of the University

God has called us to serve “the least” – the at-risk kids that society has neglected or cast off as hopeless. However, although the world assesses our students with disdain, 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. The same is true with Rescue Missions. Our clients are priceless, even though outwardly they have been rejected.How can we serve them in a way worthy of God’s died-for creations?

We need knowledge and training. Very few of those serving in Rescue Missions planned to work there, although we’ve been around long enough to have second- (and third- and fourth- ) generation “Mission brats” in the ministry. (Just think: The same will likely happen with Street Schools as your children and grandchildren see your life’s ministry!)   In fact, many of those attracted to minister in Missions first came through the front doors as clients and, as their lives were transformed by the power of Jesus, wanted to give back and share their insights with others caught in the hopelessness of addiction, homelessness and shame.

So the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions (AGRM), a group of approximately 300 missions throughout the United States and Canada (there is probably one in your area!), first addressed this training need by developing correspondence courses focused on the various areas of responsibility involved in administering an urban ministry, partnering with Grace College of the Bible in Omaha, Nebraska which supervised the courses and provided accreditation and graduation upon completion with a Bachelor of Science in Bible.

Then, about ten years ago, 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 offering “Rescue College” in honor of our Rescue Mission identity. These changes provided both participants and instructors the advantages of more structured course time-frames, with five 10-week (later 8-week) semesters each year, which helped keep students on-track while still providing them with the weekly flexibility to study around their own schedules.   Even more importantly, this format enabled immediate interaction between instructors and students through online grading and feedback, class forums and chat rooms.

To ensure both the quality of the courses and to provide recognized achievement for our students, we hired an eminently qualified academic dean, Dr. Fletcher Tink, Executive Director of the Bresee Institute for Metro Ministries and Adjunct Professor of Urban/Compassionate Ministries at Nazarene Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri. Fletcher provided oversight and direction for the university and developed and taught the keystone course, History of Urban Ministries. We also developed an Advisory Council, composed of experts from the academic, ministry, and alumni worlds, to partner with university leadership as we are ever seeking to expand our offerings and make sure the university is meeting our students’ needs.

We also engaged in accreditation with the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) which examines every course before it is offered. This accreditation insures course quality and provides university recognition for our students’ work. Since many of you have, or are, proceeding through school accreditation yourself, you know this is not an inconsequential process!

Finally, our courses are taught by highly qualified instructors with real-world, as well as academic, experience.   In addition, each course includes a very strong practical application component in which students are required to “do” or “assess” what they are learning within an organization.  Most use the nonprofit in which they are already serving, providing the students with greater insight into their ministries and their organizations with expert, guided help in evaluating and improving their own operations.

From Rescue College to City Vision College

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

So in January 2008 the AGRM transferred Rescue College to TechMission, 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 ministries 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.

Advantages of City Vision University Training

Many of the advantages of engaging in this training have already been mentioned:

  • Structured (to keep you on-track), comprehensive (to provide a complete overview) and critical (with hands-on application) training in multiple areas of nonprofit ministry and operations, providing you with expertise and experience in areas in which you may have had little or no formal training.
  • The flexibility to manage your studies within your schedule, combined with the broad structure to insure completion.
  • Interaction with qualified instructors and colleagues also involved in ministry.
  • Recognized accreditation.

Other advantages are:

  • Many of our courses also qualify toward other certifications’ continuing education requirements
  • The costs are reasonable: only $250/credit hour, for a $750 total per 3 credit hour class.
  • And City Vision University is not standing still. We have added programs in Addiction Counseling, Christian Ministry, and Business, as well as an MBA. Other courses, I’m sure, will be part of the university’s future advancement.

Creative Ways to Employ this Opportunity in Your School and with Your Staff

Few of our organizations are flushed with funds and can afford high compensation and superb fringe benefits for our staff. We also struggle bringing in enough workers to provide the small student-teacher ratio that is critical to our students’ success. City Vision University can help you address both of these issues.

Training:  A Fantastic and Effective Fringe Benefit

Our people are working in our schools because of their passion for the kids. They want to serve with excellence. We want to equip them to serve in even greater capacities.   City Vision University meets both desires at a reasonable cost.

  • Consider paying for successful completion of City Vision University courses.  Each course requires approximately 15 hours a week of study – not an inconsequential commitment.  I have noticed that some people who sign up for the classes must surmise that, because the classes are online, they will be “easy” and they do not discipline themselves to accomplish the requirements. The courses are not easy. They are college level classes requiring time and commitment.  Therefore, I would suggest that you reimburse for successful completion rather than simply paying up-front for registration. Those who are truly committed 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. We’re minister to students who will be blessed by our examples of continuous learning. They need to realize that successful “education” is not finished with a high school, or even college diploma, but is a life-long process.

Training:  A Fantastic and Effective Staff Recruitment Benefit

Although the courses of City Vision University are appropriate for anyone involved in urban ministry, the courses as they are specifically designed at this time are geared towards providing students with college completion. That is, a student can enter City Vision University with 72 transferred college hours, complete a course of study through the university, and graduate with a degree from the university.

Michelle Porter, Executive Director of Souls Harbor Rescue Mission in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, and herself a Rescue College graduate, is the “queen” of effectively using the University as a recruiting and training opportunity for staff.  Michelle goes to 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 [took my] Basic Fundraising course, [and] wrote this statement in a recent homework assignment, which included taking 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.

Of course, you could also extend this training opportunity to volunteers and even 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!


As someone with a double-passion – Rescue Missions and Street Schools – and who is at essence a teacher, only God knows my joy to see an equipping vision started by one group developed and expanded to the degree that it can benefit both – and beyond.

Consider using this incredible resource for the further development of 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. My personal goal is that we (street schools) so powerfully reach out to at-risk kids that we put us (rescue missions) out of business!!!

[Edited April 2015 to update factual details; edited May 2015 to update the institution’s name; edited June 2020 to update factual details]