Spring closures were a stress test for FLBC mission and program
By Ruth Gunderson
Empty classrooms. Vacant hallways. Abandoned dorm rooms. You’d be forgiven if you assumed the setting was a post-apocalyptic young adult novel rather than spring semester on the campus of the Free Lutheran Bible College and Seminary. Like the rest of the world, FLBCS was forced to close its doors in March to its 120+ students, faculty, and staff in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
At first, the campus closure was temporary, though the college had to cancel its spring choir tour and Mexico mission trip planned for spring break, March 27-April 10. Students were sent home through spring break, where they continued their education via online classes. But as the novel coronavirus spread, states began extending their stay-at-home orders, keeping businesses, ministries, and educational institutions closed through mid-May. At FLBCS, this meant extending online learning through the end of the school year, canceling graduation plans, and—as a last shot to the student body—retracting ministry plans for summer teams.
“We could not promise the summer teams that they would have any ministry to do,” said Dr. Wade Mobley, president of FLBCS.
Despite the prevailingly fluid schedule, and the reality of an uncertain future, the administration is moving forward with plans for on-campus instruction for the fall semester.
“We are making contingency plans for something that might come up, but we are anticipating a regular semester,” said Mobley, noting, “Because we have low density of population there are things we can do to make it safe.”
However, he acknowledged, should the government keep campuses closed into the fall, the college will abide by Minnesota regulations.
Time, it turns out, is the best indicator for these decisions. As the world continues to learn more about COVID-19—how it spreads, the effect it has on people, and potential methods to fight the virus—Mobley said that FLBCS will continue to adapt its plans as necessary. In the meantime, the college is learning valuable lessons throughout the process, including how important discipleship ministry is to the program.
“It’s been a stress test on the quality of our education … on our philosophy of community life, why and how we do it,” said Mobley. “Our program is intentionally designed with the discipleship learning community—the student life aspect—as a compliment. It’s not just a place to live.”
This is the aspect of loss which students have most lamented. While they were able to complete the program via online resources, the biggest loss has been dorm life, classroom interaction, and keynote events to which they had looked forward for months, if not years. No long bus trips across the country to visit churches and share music ministry or VBS programming, no late-night conversations in the dorms, no walks across a stage to grasp a diploma while their families look on.
“Closure is going to be hard, especially thinking about the what-ifs,” said senior Brett Erickson, who missed out on spring events and summer team ministry.
The administration has been in contact with each returning student—expected to number near 50—as well as incoming students. Mobley stated each one of them have expressed a desire to be on campus this fall, with many pointing to the incarnational nature of Christian life and ministry. Like the virus, ministry to one another is necessarily contagious, he said.
Kinship is a magazine of the FLBCS. Stay up to date on the latest news, student stories, classroom highlights, and fun tidbits about life on the FLBC and FLS campus.
View the latest edition of Kinship here: Kinship Spring 2020 Edition