The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove is known for offering a peaceful mountain respite to believers who need a break from the bustle of life. Soon, it could also be known for helping graduate students earn college credit outside seminary walls.
June 24-28, an intensive Bible seminar at the Christian conference center in Asheville, N.C., will allow students to earn graduate credits for participating–a first for The Cove.
Dr. Mark Yarbrough is teaching the weeklong course called, The BIG Picture: Grasping the Master’s Plan from Genesis to Revelation.
Yarbrough is vice president for academic affairs, academic dean, and an assistant professor of Bible exposition at Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS). He says some changes are happening in the seminary world that are making places like The Cove desirable as host sites for graduate coursework.
“Number one, there’s a rapid pace in this culture,” said Yarbrough. “And because of that, I think when people are zeroing in on their education, they want to make sure they can slow down a little and focus on their studies.”
The Cove, with its lack of televisions and abundance of mountain views, already has a reputation for helping believers slow their pace and focus on God–an appealing idea for a busy seminary student.
Yarbrough says the global nature of today’s seminaries is another factor that makes a weeklong, intensive course an attractive option to a lot of students.
“Thirty years ago, almost all DTS students were residing in Dallas, Texas,” said Yarbrough. “That’s no longer the case. Now, 40 percent of our student population does not reside in Dallas. Our students are all around the nation and in 40 different countries. I have 200 students studying totally with us online.”
DTS isn’t alone. According to Yarbrough, most seminaries have students scattered throughout the world. They may not be able to live on campus full time, but they’re willing to spend a week away from home to earn a few credits.
“So they’re coming in for these intensive courses,” said Yarbrough. “When you start looking at it that way, you have to think about housing and facilities and food service and all those other things you get if you can live in community together.”
Because The Cove is equipped with two inns and a full-service dining hall, Yarbrough knew it could be an ideal place for his new, off-campus venture. It’s an idea he’s been discussing for the past two years with Will Graham, the executive director of the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove.
About 20 DTS students and a handful of seminary students from other institutions will attend Yarbrough’s seminar at the end of June. They’ll have the opportunity to earn three graduate credits after completing a series of assignments and taking a final exam.
Like most of the seminars offered at The Cove, Yarbrough’s course on the big picture of the Bible is not just open to seminary students and pastors. Anyone who wants to deepen their understanding of the Bible is welcome to sign up–no homework or final exam required.
“There are many, many folks who know bits and pieces of the Bible,” said Yarbrough. “The Bible is a big book, but to remember there is one consistent thread from Genesis to Revelation is an important thing for us to be able to get our arms around.”
Throughout the week, Yarbrough hopes to help students discover God’s overarching storyline running through the Bible.
“We have a problem, and He has a solution, and when you trace God’s solution all the way through His Word, you realize He was at work for us all along,” said Yarbrough. “And that’s the hope of the Gospel that all culminates in Christ.”
As seminar participants explore God’s master plan, they’ll also have a chance to explore the 1,200-acre retreat center and have fellowship with one another.
“Think of what we’re going to be able to accomplish,” said Yarbrough. “You share every meal together. You’re having coffee together before and after the class. You can have that interaction with students.”
At the end of the week, DTS students, who come from Ga., Fl., Va., Ar., and as far away as South Korea, will be one step closer to a seminary degree–and, chances are, spiritually recharged from their week in the mountains.
While Yarbrough will be the first to offer graduate credits at The Cove, he doubts he’ll be the last.
“Hopefully, it’s just the beginning.”