Life disruptions prove positive for Gateway

Mar 29, 2021

By Francine Biere

While necessity may be the mother of invention, God knows the need before it appears. And He will use any circumstances to reach others with His truth, as He did for Gateway Seminary. When COVID-19 burst on the scene, Gateway already had a system in place to offer remote distance learning.

“Gateway is providing three modes of delivery: face-to-face, online and remote access, which is online in real-time with a live class where students can interact with the teacher and the students,” says Dallas Bivins, director of the Arizona Campus and professor of ministry leadership. “Now, 75 to 80% of classes are offered with remote access.”

Gateway Seminary’s distance learning is also meeting the needs of students who are faced with challenges beyond the pandemic. Whether it’s health issues, travel challenges or sudden moves out of state, remote access classes are providing learning opportunities around the state and across the country.

Jim Green, a student and pastor of Morristown Christian Fellowship near Wickenburg, appreciates Gateway’s distance learning.

“They were really quick to get it going,” he says. “They didn’t hesitate to adjust to the circumstances. Because they were proactive and opened opportunities for people to do this, more students were able to take advantage of the program.”

For Green, it was the convenience of being able to stay home due to health issues and distance to campus.

“In some ways, distance learning is beneficial: there are fewer distractions, and I can focus on the professor and what he is saying,” he says.

He tapes the class and, if he needs to review or stop because of physical limitations, he can do so.

“I would’ve been behind if I couldn’t have done this,” he says. “It’s been a real life-saver for me.”

Conversely, there are challenges.

“I miss the interaction and chatting with students about the lecture during breaks and after class,” he says. “I can ask the professor questions and interact with him, but I can’t walk up to him and discuss things I might be struggling with.”

Melanie Daniels was attending class in Phoenix until she moved to South Carolina. The remote access allowed her to remain a student early during the pandemic and after she moved.

“I could continue to attend classes safely during the pandemic,” she says. “I don’t have to leave home, which means I did not have to arrange for childcare.”

But she still feels connected with the students and teachers.

“The professors are good about talking directly to the screen and including me in the conversation,” she says. “It is also possible for the professor to put online students into breakout sessions. That helps me feel included and interactive.

“This is a great tool to be able to attend class no matter your situation,” she says. “If you have internet and a phone, computer or laptop, you can attend class from anywhere.”

Daniels is attending class as an Arizona student.

“I had to move to South Carolina due to a life event, to be close to family,” she says. “Without distance learning, I would not have the ability to keep my status as an Arizona Campus student, which changes eligibility for scholarships. Also, after being with the same professors and staff for years, it was important to me to continue with them.”

Gateway Seminary is using remote access to ensure the family culture the seminary has built through in-person classes continues.

“God uses disruptions in our lives to get our attention,” Bivins says. “We aren’t going to try and get back to where we were. We want to move forward and be more effective and relevant in providing education to Arizona.”

Francine Biere, a freelance writer living in Sierra Vista, is a member of Village Meadows Baptist Church, Sierra Vista.

Next Steps

—Southern Baptists support Gateway Seminary through the Cooperative Program, whose purpose is to fund Southern Baptist Convention ministries by securing, coordinating and apportioning financial offerings from multiple churches. Find information about the Cooperative Program that you can share with your church at azsbc.org/the-cooperative-program/.

— Gateway’s Arizona Campus offers these degrees: Master of Divinity, Master of Theological Studies, Master of Theological Essentials, Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) and Diploma in Theology. The Arizona Campus also offers certificates in Bible teaching, children’s ministry, church revitalization, missions studies, and pastoral care.

–Learn more about Gateway’s Arizona Campus at gs.edu/about/locations/arizona-campus/.

–For those who feel God is calling them to seminary, contact Bivins at DallasBivins@gs.edu.

–Pray for the administration and faculty as they continue to meet the challenges of using innovative ways to teach God’s Word.

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