The Bible is God's story to humanity, and through it He teaches us what it looks like to live a full life while being led by the Spirit to love God and people. We always start with the Bible, seeking to discover what God says.
As we work to understand and apply what the Bible teaches, we listen to leading thinkers, past and present, local and global, within our tradition and without. But we also have a high value on authenticity: working out what you believe and why. So we emphasize questions, interaction, discussion and creative thinking as part of our learning – rather than memorizing what others have said.
It is important to grasp the insights and ideas that have shaped our values and practices. But you, the emerging generation, need to respond to new challenges by shaping what a Jesus-centered life, mission and church will look like. So, we always evaluate what we are doing, and with open hands, ask God to give us vision for the future.
Knowledge by itself, does not transform and empower. So we are always asking, “so what?” We explore the difference the Bible and theology make to how we live as Jesus-followers, our attitudes, values, prayers, service and worship. As we develop a heart for God’s Kingdom mission, we want the Bible and our theology to inform how we build relationships, care for our community and world, and listen to God, to partner with Him in our calling.
To achieve real transformation, the things we learn with our head need to affect our heart deeply, and the process is completed when what we learn is executed in authentic action. This process begins by having our learning motivated by love for God and the things of His Kingdom. In the classroom, we are provoked to think and fill our head with ideas, and we make space to talk and pray about our heart. But our heart-learning is the focus of regular time with a mentor. Alongside classes and mentoring, every student serves as an intern in different areas of ministry and participates in a mission trip, learning to act on what they are studying. This trio of head, heart, and hands provides a holistic learning experience that brings lasting growth and transformation.
We expose you to leading thinkers and practitioners who will provoke you to think and feel deeply, and can share wisdom out of rich experience of life, mission, and ministry. We also want you to interact with a diverse range of teachers, and learn about a variety of perspectives.
Many of the classes are taught by the school faculty, with the stream classes often being led by the stream leaders. This puts you in regular contact with specialists who you can get to know well, and provides continuity through the year.
We make extensive use of visiting teachers. These are regional and global leaders who share the values and vision of the school, love Jesus, and are leading practitioners in theology, mission, the arts, and ministry. Some of these teachers bring a lifetime of experience to share, and some nearer the beginning of their journey and can share about the cutting edge of new work. You can see a list of some of our recent visiting teachers on the faculty page.
Throughout the year, we have regular space to unpack books of the Bible. These are times to listen to God, know Him better, and grow as a Jesus-follower. You also have opportunity to do some teaching and develop as a communicator. We examine the roots of important concepts in books like Luke, Acts, Romans, and Genesis. By the end of the year, you will have read through the entire Bible, with a discussion group.
Over the course of the Foundation Program we journey through some themes that help us tell the story of God and his mission. We begin by learning about the Bible and how we interpret it, and looking at creation and God’s blueprint for humanity. Next we consider the fall into sin, the law, and the good news of grace and redemption. We look at the Trinity and the Incarnation, considering the implications for our relationship with God. After this we look at Jesus in the gospels, examining His teaching, relationships, and methods. This takes us on to looking at the mission of God, and thinking about the Holy Spirit and church. Finally, we look at our contemporary culture, and consider some of the questions it raises, and the challenges of mission in our community.
As well as these core theological topics, we make space for focusing on spiritual growth. We want you to flourish in your relationship with God, learn to submit to God, fully committed to Him, and to grow more mature in your faith. We also look at leadership and character development, in the classroom, internships and other opportunities to serve.
All classes are two-hours long – which gives us the space we need for in depth discussion. Each week there are four core classes, where we learn all together, and two classes in our streams. The classes are a mixture of lectures, seminar discussions, and workshops. You have up to twelve hours per week of self-study. This can include reading and preparing for classes, researching for presentations and written work, as well as completing collaborative projects. You also keep up with the Bible reading plan, and meet in groups for discussion.
You spend eight hours each week (less for part-time students) as an intern in a variety of ministries. These will often be on Sunday, but can include weekday evenings if you are working with youth, homeless projects, or other ministries. If you are from a local church other than Westside, we will explore whether you can serve at your home church. Internships are an opportunity for you to explore your gifts, and to develop the character of kingdom-servant. Everybody keeps a reflective journal of what they are learning. You will also spend a small amount of time serving each other as we prepare meals and keep the school tidy.
We will help you find a mentor that you can meet with on a regular basis. You keep a reflective journal to help process your discussions. Beyond your mentor, you also have access to the church staff, internship supervisors and teachers.
To complete the program, the capstone project is to complete a practicum, a two-month mission trip to a new culture. This can be anything from working with a new church plant, to supporting ministry to orphans or refugees, and could be anywhere in the world. You will work alongside local leaders, and do some reflective writing about your experiences before returning to Portland to share and debrief together. (The practicum requirement can look a little different for some part-time students.)