From Eurasia Regional News
Dinajpor, Bangladesh – One hundred and ninety-four graduates – including 30 women — received their diplomas in South Asia Nazarene Bible College’s (SANBC) graduation March 23 as part of the Bangladesh 17th District Assembly. The Bangladesh class was more than five times the size of last year’s class, which numbered 36.
The 3- to 5-year course of study meets all denominational requirements for each graduate to be ordained as a minister, giving the rapidly expanding Bangladesh church a powerful boost of trained leadership for its continuing church growth.
The exponential increase in graduates is the first fruits of a change in the school’s structure that began in 1998 when it decentralized to what now number as 85 education centers in five nations, said Academic Dean Simon Jothi.
“We had a campus-based Bible school in one language, and then because the nature of the church in South Asia is multiple languages and cultures,” the school began decentralizing, he said.
Students now study in 14 languages, in settings that vary from homes and church buildings to classes under a tree. The education centers allow students to proceed through the 25 courses while retaining jobs, taking care of their families and continuing in local church ministry.
The increased class size also reflects the rapid growth of the Church of the Nazarene in South Asia. For instance, more than 1,000 churches have been organized in the 17 years of the Bangladesh District’s existence.
“As Bangladesh is experiencing tremendous growth over the last few years, there was a great need of trained pastors,” said SANBC Principal Sunil Dandge. “Even these 194 graduates are meeting just a part of the need for pastors for the churches. It is a great step forward. They will be able to disciple the new believers effectively, and growth will continue.”
For each class, graduates must complete 120 hours of study, workshops and seminars.
In addition, SANBC also requires each student to plant a church before graduating.
Although the college’s 25-course program fulfills the denomination’s ordination requirements, the Bangladesh district has added five additional courses related to practical ministry, holistic transformation and community development. This ensures each pastor is educated in the district’s approach to ministry that integrates JESUS Film evangelism, disaster relief and compassionate ministries as well as discipleship and education.
“The course of study is designed to give missional passion. They share their lives and sharpen their mind and heart,” Dandge said.
A minimum of five students is required to start a new education center.
“This school is setting the pace for many of our institutions, and other Nazarene colleges, universities and seminaries will be looking to this model in the days to come,” said Dr. LeBron Fairbanks, education commissioner for the denomination’s International Board of Education. Fairbanks was keynote speaker of the graduation.
As new leaders continue to arise from the new churches springing up across the country, more teachers will be needed to train all those who are hearing God’s call to pastoral ministry, Jothi said.
“We are planning to pick up some of (the graduates) and train them as teachers.”
For the past three years, the Bangladesh students’ tuition was significantly funded by the Canada Church of the Nazarene at a total of $20,000 per year. The Canada churches have committed the same amount for enrolled students for the next three years, Fairbanks said.
South Asia Nazarene Bible College serves five nations in South Asia: India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The school is administrated from Bangalore, India. More than 1,800 students are enrolled, and this year a total of 258 will graduate. The college is accredited through Asia Theological Association. The Nazarene Theological College in Manchester, England, is closely involved with SANBC for faculty development.