Covenant Bible College

by Rebekah Eklund

“Think you know Bible college?” asks the Covenant Bible College (CBC) website. If you answered yes, and you’ve never heard of CBC, prepare to have your perceptions changed.

CBC is a unique one-year experience in discipleship unlike most other colleges. It occupies a place in Covenant education alongside North Park University and North Park Theological Seminary—lower in profile, perhaps, but with roots deep in the history of the Evangelical Covenant Church of Canada.

In its own words, CBC exists to “equip men and women to live as disciples of Jesus Christ.” This equipping takes shape in three main strands: spiritual formation (shaped by the love of God), biblical knowledge (mastered by the Word of God), and Christian ministry (partners in the work of God). Its mission is carried out on three campuses: CBC-Canada in Strathmore, Alberta; CBC-Midwest in Windsor, Colorado; and CBC-Ecuador in LaMerced, Ecuador. Three campuses, one school: one heart for training young people to love and serve God with everything they have.

This vision has its origins in Covenant Bible Institute (CBI), founded in 1941 by a group of Covenant churches in the Bethany Covenant Church in Norquay, Saskatchewan. Joel Peterson, the first president, called CBI a place both for spiritual nurture and a “training ground for more efficient service” in local churches and full-time service elsewhere.1 In 1944, CBI moved to Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, where it stayed (as CBC) until 1995, when it moved west to a larger campus in Strathmore. As enrollment maxed out and waiting lists grew, CBC-Midwest opened in 1998 to meet the demand for students, and CBC-Ecuador followed in 2000.

This year, 173 students attended CBC campuses. CBC is intentionally a small affair – Strathmore can accommodate 88 students, Windsor 44, and LaMerced about 46. The vision of CBC believes discipleship occurs best in a close-knit, intimate environment, a place where students and teachers live in community together.

And when they say “community,” they mean it—not just coffee-hour fellowship, but day-in day-out living in close quarters that can feel a bit monastic. I should know; I spent eight months living in the CBC community as a Dean of Students (one of four) at CBC-Canada. What is a Dean, you might ask? Well, as a Dean I was a dorm mom, an activities director, a van driver, a hot chocolate maker, a spotlight operator, a big sister (or, as my students would say, a not-so-big sister), a shoulder to cry on, and a friend. Every morning the campus gathered together for worship, followed by a day that could have been adapted from Bonhoeffer’s Life Together—class, play time, meals, studying, service projects, even dorm chores done together, as a community. In order to focus entirely on the study and experience of discipleship, students agree to forego alcohol and tobacco. The majority of students come to CBC directly after high school graduation, although a good percentage come after a year or two of college elsewhere, and a much smaller number attend after college graduation.

Prospective students often ask if each campus has a different focus – to which the emphatic answer from CBC is no. The “One College…Three Campuses” motto spells out their ethos that each campus is the same in spirit, curriculum, mission, and even schedule. If they are different, it is by virtue of geography. Each has easy access to a large city (Calgary, Denver, and Quito, respectively). CBC-Midwest hosts The Worship Center, which exists to equip and resource churches in the area of worship through an internship year, seminars, and mentoring. Each campus has its own service projects, kids’ programs, special Christmas productions, and faculty, who are passionate about nurturing disciples of Jesus Christ.

Visit their website to learn more at www.covenantbiblecollege.ab.ca. Pray for them and for their students. And, if you know a young person who would benefit from a year of intentional discipling, send her their way. It could change her life forever.

1. Bruce Guenther, “Training for Effective Christian Service: The Contribution of Covenant Bible Institute in the Life of the Evangelical Covenant Church in Western Canada” in The Covenant Quarterly (May 2003), pp. 2-26.