The following is the cumulative report to the 2022 Annual Conference from the board and administration of Free Lutheran Bible College and Seminary. It is a bit lengthly, of course, but provides insight as to the mission, health, and future of FLBCS. Enjoy, and to God be the glory.
The Report of the Free Lutheran Bible College and Seminary to the 60th Annual Conference of the Association of Free Lutheran Congregations gathered at the Association Retreat Center rural Osceola, WI; Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. –Hebrews 11:6
This year’s theme is fitting as we reflect on 60 years of God’s blessings in and through the AFLC. God indeed rewards those who seek him. Hebrews 11:6 assures us that God is pleased with the faithful. All that we have—our faith itself, our soul’s reward, even God’s desire to be found when sought—are gifts to us from God’s gracious hand. Our faith is not in history or good ideas but childlike trust in Jesus Christ.
Even more so, we must remember what, or Whom, is our reward. Our reward is not prosperity, enlarged borders, or relationships unstained by sin. Our reward is Jesus. He is our soul’s reward. He is the one on whom we are called to fix our eyes. He is the one whom the seeker finds. He is the object to which our faith clings. He is the one who has dealt decisively with our sin on his cross.
This childlike faith in the finished work of Christ is the heritage and reward that FLBCS has enjoyed and proclaimed for almost sixty years. We continue to establish students in the eternal and inerrant Word of God for life and faith in Jesus Christ and faithful service in His Kingdom.
This mission is always before us. It informs all our decisions and motivates all our actions. Our mission is given motion by our institutional objectives and core values, all of which you can read at the end of this report. Thus carried out, the ministry of FLBCS directly impacts students who then impact congregations in and beyond the AFLC. We ask continually, “How do we best establish students in God’s Word?”
As we seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, the Board of Trustees (BOT) has begun a process of evaluating our board governance practices and quality. This year, thanks to a gift from a generous donor and a grant from the Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE), we have participated in direct training with ABHE to help us become a more effective board. Our goal is to better exercise our stewardship role in service to FLBCS, the Schools Corporation, and the congregations of the AFLC. We are learning to think strategically as we continue developing and executing our strategic plan. As we have learned we are reminded through it all that this is God’s Bible College and Seminary. At the time of this writing we are:
- Refreshing our Strategic Plan,
- Proactively preparing for future events or personnel transitions
- Improving reports to the BOT
- Being better prepared for meetings as a BOT
- Evaluating against our mission investments in new/ongoing programs and initiatives
- Strengthening interaction between the BOT and the Schools Corporation
This process has been good and has served to encourage as we continue to support and direct the administration, make policy decisions and improvement, and uphold every part of FLBCS in prayer. We encourage and evaluate both our leadership and our seminary graduates, stewarding both what God has given us and the mission with which he has tasked us.
The BOT is thankful for the history of FLBCS and those who established the School and have kept God’s Word as the solid foundation for life both on campus and beyond. We are thankful for the administration and staff and their unwavering and sacrificial commitment to the mission of FLBCS. We thank God for students coming to FLBC as they invest their time and talents to be taught and trained to serve in God’s kingdom, and for men who answer the call to FLS to be trained to serve as under shepherds of the Great Shepherd of the Sheep, Jesus Christ.
We are also thankful for the Student Life Center, and we rejoice in the way that it has augmented the ministry of FLBCS. We pray that it may be used to facilitate the mission of FLBCS for a growing number of students.
Free Lutheran Bible College
God’s faithfulness has been experienced and greatly appreciated on the FLBC campus during this past year. Despite the challenges and uncertainties afforded us by the current cultural and societal moment, we were blessed this year with 97 students whom we have trained in God’s Word.
Our theme this year was “Share the Light” which is based in 2 Corinthians 4:6: For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. This seems fitting for this generation of students that has seen a great deal of the darkness in recent events. Cultural and societal changes have brought great challenge to the faith of students in this generation. To have this many students committing time to study the Word of God demonstrates the Holy Spirit’s continued work in their hearts. Through their study at FLBC, the Light of the world, Jesus Christ, shines in their hearts through his Word so that they may “give that light” by proclaiming the knowledge of him to those lost in darkness.
FLBC is a unique institution. “Unique” means one of a kind, and I use that word to mean such. We know of no other denominationally connected, two-year institution of higher education that shares our mission or objectives. Our program can be challenging to explain, especially to those unfamiliar with FLBC. To help, members of our team developed a summary of our ministry using three simple headings:
- Scripture without Distraction
- Discipleship without Distance
- Ministry through the Congregation
Scripture without Distraction
The Word of God will always be the substance of our program. We exist to teach the Word of God, and “Bible and Ministry” is our only undergraduate program. During this past year we undertook a comprehensive review of our academic program to ensure that our courses fulfill the mission of establishing students in the eternal and inerrant Word of God for a life of faith in Jesus Christ and faithful service in his kingdom.
One goal of this review was to ensure that our program equips students for kingdom service. Convinced that the congregation is the right form of God’s kingdom on earth, our core (required) courses give an overview of God’s salvation history and demonstrate the New Testament model of God’s working through believers in the local congregation.
FLBC Dean Adam Osier led this review, which included discussion with current and past faculty, and collaboration with both Chief Academic Officer Dr. James Molstre and Institutional Effectiveness Director Sarah Bierle. Together, they determined where we have been, and how we could better meet our objectives.
We also surveyed current and past students to ascertain how our program prepared them to serve in the local congregation. Two surveys reflect solid congregational participation.
A 2021 survey asked graduates from five-year increments (2020, 2015, 2010, etc.) about their congregational involvement, reflecting a broad cross section of alumni. That survey found that 89% of respondents are currently very active in a congregation, with 70% of those serving in the AFLC.
A second survey in 2019 pursued answers from all alumni, which tends to generate responses from more recent graduates. Those respondents indicated that the vast majority (97%) of past students were serving in a congregation, with 74% of those still involved with AFLC congregations.
These alumni also provided valuable feedback about the parts of our program that most equipped them for their service, along with constructive insights for areas we could add or improve. Both our alumni and our current students find our emphasis on exegetical theology (in-depth interpretation and application of books of the Bible) to be most helpful to them, and nearly 60% of credits offered fall under this category.
The completed review resulted in rearranging when some classes were offered, restructuring where some vital content was offered, adding some classes, and changing whether courses were required or elective. The final product looks substantially like the program by which so many over the past 56 years have been blessed. Of the 44 credits students are required to take, 26 are in exegetical theology, ten cover systematic theology, five cover worldview/apologetic content, and three cover historical theology. Of note, counting both required elective courses, students who attend for 2 years will have the opportunity to study virtually every book of the Bible whether individually (e.g. John or Romans) or in a grouping (e.g. Pentateuch or Luke/Acts).
A couple of examples highlight how changes that were made to our exegetical classes intend to serve our mission and demonstrate the uniqueness of our institution. The book of Luke was previously taught in the required Synoptic Gospels course (with Matthew and Mark). The book of Acts was an elective course that was combined with Paul’s prison letters. In the new program, Luke and Acts are combined to portray comprehensive history of the life of Christ and the early church as told by Luke. The course description states:
BI 1203 is a three-credit course studying Luke’s writings regarding the life of Christ and the early Church with special emphasis on Jesus ushering in the kingdom of God with an invitation for all people and how that kingdom is physically manifested in the local congregation.
Similarly, Paul’s letters to the Corinthian church were previously offered as an elective course. However, those letters demonstrate a divine commentary and direction for congregations struggling with the ever-present burden of sin, the application to those seeking to serve in a congregation today are obvious. Its course description is as follows:
BI 3224 is a two-credit course which studies Paul’s Epistles to the Corinthians, focusing on the message of the cross as God’s powerful key to addressing problems within a struggling congregation. These letters provide timeless insights from Paul’s example in ministry which are vital for congregational life today.
Besides required classes, we offer more electives to our students than in recent years. These electives include the same categories of theology as our required courses, but also include a variety of practical ministry training and opportunities fueled and informed by a study of God’s Word.
One elective emphasis is youth and family ministry, a track that is led by the AFLC’s Director of Youth Ministries, Dr. Jason Holt. We also offer a cross-cultural ministry class (and mission trip) in cooperation with AFLC World Missions and led by AFLC Journey Missions director (and part-time seminary student) Mr. Jon Nelson. Additionally, students benefit from lay-ministry training such as preaching and advanced biblical interpretation, as well as excellent music and worship ministry training provided by Mr. Andrew Hanson. Finally, our most recent development is an introduction to sports ministry class taught by Director of Athletic Ministry Dr. Brad Bierle.
Through the years we have offered a variety of elective courses, and as our college grows, we will be able to accommodate ministry emphases that will positively impact congregations. The first catalog of FLBC (then FLBS in 1964 and AFLBS in 1966) included four required general education classes: Public speaking, composition, literature, and typing. We do not currently offer general education courses, but many of our courses transfer as such to other colleges.
Our primary focus will always be the Word of God. FLBC requires more exegetical courses than most four-year Christian colleges offer. This is a differentiator: The Word of God is living and active and is effective to work faith in the sinner through the life-giving message of the gospel, equipping the believer for every good work. As such, we teach it and proclaim it without distraction.
Discipleship without Distance
In-person discipleship is central to our program, as believers belong together. It is possible to learn valuable biblical content online, but God’s Word declares the relational nature of God’s design of mankind. FLBC is not a congregation, but we are a place where young people come together both to encourage and to be encouraged; to grow in the faith, sharpen one another, and build lasting godly relationships that will serve them for a life of faith.
One FLBC alumnus sent an article about a recent local case of college hazing that left a young man unresponsive with significant brain damage. She noted how, by God’s grace, our program stands as light in contrast to the darkness of this scene so prevalent on other college campuses.
One of our current female students observes this contrast, too: “I love being part of these girls’ lives and making lasting friendships with them. Thursday night devotions are a time I look forward to every week because I get to spend it with the girls on my wing when we’re all together with no distractions. It’s a place where we can truly come together and hear about the accomplishments and challenges we’ve had throughout the week. During devotions, we spend time in God’s Word and in prayer for one another.”
“I love being part of these girls’ lives and making lasting friendships with them. Thursday night devotions are a time I look forward to every week because I get to spend it with the girls on my wing when we’re all together with no distractions. It’s a place where we can truly come together and hear about the accomplishments and challenges we’ve had throughout the week. During devotions, we spend time in God’s Word and in prayer for one another.”
Our discipleship ministry is centered in dorm life and is an intentional, focused opportunity to invest in the lives of our students. There are times of fun, hanging out, talking, debating, loud noises, general goofiness, and even disagreements. But more importantly, our student life director, dorm heads, and dorm assistants are cultivating an environment where students are pointed to God’s Word, both in Law and Gospel. Students see a caring presence and godly examples who will help them wrestle through their struggles, confront their sin, teach them to ask for and extend forgiveness, point them to the assurance of salvation, and pray for them.
For the last several years our Director of Student Life, Dr. Brad Bierle, has carried the torch for “discipleship without distance.” Brad has a passion for this age group and a wisdom garnered by his own life of faith. He has been a team builder and an equipper, carrying this ministry into a new generation, and literally hundreds of students have been impacted by his ministry. These gifts will now be used in a different role on campus, but his work has laid a solid groundwork on which the next Director of Student life can build this program. By the time the reader receives this report, that role will have been filled and announced.
Ministry through the Congregation
In conjunction with our in-person discipleship emphasis, we affirm the need for students to find their place in a local congregation. The probable ultimate outcome of our training will be faithful service to the Great Commission in and through a congregation. In recent years we have seen the benefit of congregational life and the harm caused by its neglect.
As part of the program review, we have restructured one legacy FLBC course, Principles of Congregational Life. The objectives for that course center on training students the biblical nature of the church (ecclesiology) with an emphasis on the application of that understanding. We express what a congregation is and how to actively and productively serve in one. Dr. Nathan Olson teaches this course, which has become an eye-opening and paradigm-shifting class for some of our students. He has also pointed students to practical opportunities to put into practice that which they are learning in many of our local AFLC congregations.
Additionally, our music, ministry, and athletic teams, have given students the opportunity to connect with many AFLC congregations near and far. This year 33 of our 97 students were members of a musical gospel team. They sang and offered testimonies in scores of congregations. Our choirs sang in 18 different congregations on three tours throughout the broader Midwest. Similarly, our athletic teams also fielded not just athletes, but a worship team, which helped to lead worship in a variety of congregations. Our prayerful intent is that students will see the beauty of the local congregation for a life of faithful service in it.
We thank the congregations of the AFLC for their faithful prayers and financial support of FLBC. Encourage your young people to invest in this opportunity to study God’s Word and strengthen their faith while being trained for service. Next year we plan to serve at least 107 FLBC students on a campus that can hold up to 160. We stand ready to serve students from the AFLC and beyond. We offer an unparalleled educational value, sharing transfer agreements with several colleges and almost any desired degree. Students start here, then go anywhere, grounded in God’s Word.
Free Lutheran Seminary
God has been and is faithful to His Word and He has been faithful to our Free Lutheran Seminary and Bible College. This year 13 students attended the Free Lutheran Seminary (FLS), with two graduated in May. In June, four men began internship under the supervision of experienced AFLC Pastors. We look forward to God’s provision for our incoming Junior class.
The strength of our seminary is that the program is centered around the in-depth study of God’s inerrant word. God’s Word is studied with application to congregational life and ministry.
The Free Lutheran Seminary, which offers a three-year Master of Divinity program, and a three-year certificate of Master of Divinity program, takes the training of pastors seriously. The Seminary recognizes that pastoral ministry is not getting easier as we progress further into the 21st century but rather is getting more difficult and nuanced. The questions we ask when considering our seminary program are, “Will this enhance our program by helping men prepare for ministry? Is this the most effective way to train men for a lifetime of service to the congregation and the kingdom?”
Almost half of the 90 credits required for graduation are comprised of exegetical study (Old and New Testament). About 30% of the program includes practical theology courses such as Christian education, Pastoral Counseling, Leadership and Discipleship, Apologetics and Evangelism, and Expository Preaching. The remaining credits cover Systematic Theology and History, all designed to prepare the men for ministry in their congregations and communities.
Our seminary is a close-knit group. We have devotions together every morning, pray for one another, laugh with one another, and mourn with one another as we grow in the grace of our Savior. After three years together, our faculty and students become friends and colleagues. Wives of seminarians enjoy times of fellowship and mentoring under the direction of Kristin Molstre and Michele Mobley.
We are excited about the men who will be going out into the congregation over the next several years. They have left family and jobs behind to prepare for ministry. There are no half measures here at the seminary. The students are “all in,” obedient to God’s call to prepare for a lifetime of service.
The seminary chapel is continually being updated thanks to generous donations. Most recently the WMF donated funds to help us remodel an old corner room into a beautiful nursery used by our seminary families and larger gatherings, concerts, and events. An old classroom space has also recently been renovated into a study library for our seminarians. Thank you to Rebecca Moan for her work imagining and designing the space.
We are also grateful for generous donors who have made the seminary experience so affordable. Last fall we were able to offer all our students a tuition-free semester. What a thrill and joy it was to be able to tell our students that their financial obligation had been taken care of for them. God has been so good to us and we praise and thank Him for His faithfulness. He has provided, and we believe He will continue to provide above what we can imagine.
Accreditation, Assessment, and Affirmation
Along with Dr. Molstre’s role as seminary dean, he also serves Chief Academic Officer, overseeing faculty and the academic programs of the Bible College and Seminary. We are currently in the process of reaffirmation of accreditation which should be completed by the fall of 2023. This will mark five years since we were first accredited by the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS), a nationally recognized accreditation body with Christian convictions. Accreditation has been helpful to the schools. Accreditation demands a considered plan and excellence in carrying out the plan. Our plan is to establish students in the inerrant eternal Word of God. This must be done with care and excellence. The consequences are too significant to be otherwise.
Sarah Bierle, our Institutional Effectiveness Director (IED), is leading the important process of reaffirmation for accreditation. Mrs. Bierle focuses on data collection and analysis, assessments, and accreditation for the Free Lutheran Bible College and Seminary. Additionally, Dr. James Molstre and the IED collaborate extensively in areas of program review, faculty development, and accreditation excellence. FLBCS is in the midst of the self-study process to attain reaffirmation status through TRACS by April 2023. This study is a comprehensive effort involving all departments and is valuable to evaluate both current progress and future growth areas of FLBCS.
Over the past year, FLBCS has partnered with Alliance Defending Freedom to review and update pertinent statements and policies to bolster our core convictions pertaining to our current political and judicial moment. A new FLBCS Assessment Plan was developed and approved by the Board of Trustees in December 2021. This plan provides a framework to capture information regarding our mission and meeting our institutional objectives while focusing on best practices for our students, employees, and institution.
Funding the Mission
Inflation has been a problem for all of us, and ministries like ours bear the brunt of it. For one example, food costs for our cafeteria have risen 47% in the past two years, with a couple staples nearly doubling in price over the past year. Normally we make inflationary adjustments year to year, reacting to the year that has gone before. However, with inflation numbers as high as they have been, it is impossible to keep up without major adjustments, which are reflected in the paragraphs below.
Severe inflation has also helped to isolate one specific problem in our business model. Currently about half of all FLBC costs are covered by donors. Generous gifts have helped us charge far less than actual costs for decades. Without these generous, sacrificial gifts we just couldn’t do what we do. We charge less for room and board than every college we know of, and FAR less for tuition. This year FLBC charged only 58% of the lowest-priced in-state Minnesota public college tuition. Essentially, FLBC students receive an invisible 50% grant every year.
This is great, but also presents a problem: If we raise rates to keep pace with inflation, but only 50% of our revenue comes from student fees, then giving must keep pace with inflation to cover the other 50%. This just isn’t a reasonable expectation at this level of inflation. We understand that it probably won’t be like this forever, but earlier assessment of inflation as “transitory” have not been found to be accurate.
Further, FLBCS has seen a shift in giving from general receiving to designated gifts, especially those gifts going to scholarships. Those gifts are helpful, necessary, and appreciated, but help students pay already-discounted bills (rather than the invisible 50% grant). Students now make $15-18/hour and receive larger than ever scholarship amounts from their home congregations and other sources, too. Stated differently, it has never been easier for a student to pay off their accounts, but it is increasingly difficult to provide an excellent education for the dramatically low prices we continue to offer.
We are considering adjustments to our business model to better fund excellent ministry, but please know that FLBC will continue to be the best value in higher education. At the same time we will continue pursuing the noblest of all missions: Establishing students in the Word of God for life in Jesus Christ.
Giving and Donor Relations
In 2021, 403 individuals and 149 congregations gave a total of nearly $3.2M to FLBCS. That is an amazing sum, and we thank God for it. Donors have provided scholarships, new and updated facilities, beautification and maintenance of landscaping, and new furnishings and technology. Most notably, the Student Life Center has moved from “impossible dream” to “it has always been here.” By God’s grace we built it just in time to avoid double-digit inflation and to lock in a historically low interest rate.
The SLC has changed our campus dramatically and for the better. Scores of families visited our campus for the first time this year due to this facility. This summer a large homeschool organization will use our campus for a regional training event, as will the AALC for their annual conference. Increasingly, people know we are here. We underestimated the intangible benefit of gathering space in and around the SLC. And game day… it’s just amazing. It feels like a college campus. The neighbors notice, too, and most of them are even in favor.
The development and fundraising efforts of FLBCS are all sifted through the mission of establishing students in the Word of God for life in Jesus Christ. Your donation dollars invested in any part of the ministry serve to enrich the culture of learning and preparation of individuals for faithful service in God’s Kingdom. FLBCS values every dollar God provides through the generosity of our donors. Likewise, every donor is held in high regard, and we praise God for all who support FLBCS financially, through prayers, or with friendly encouragement. The generosity of donors is essential for the purposeful advancement of Christian higher education through the teaching of God’s inerrant Word at both the Bible College and Seminary.
Please stop by our conference booth and/or contact Sherry Mork, Director of Donor Relations, for more information about congregational gifts, individual gifts, and planned gifts. We promise to make the most of every dollar invested and every minute spent.
The proposed FLBCS budget for the 2022-2023 fiscal year is $3,721,972. This includes a Seminary tuition increase of $700 per year. It also includes a $250 increase in annual tuition, a $325 increase in room charges, and a $675 increase in meal plan charges per year for the Bible College. Based on these projected budgets, the Board of Trustees request the Annual Conference to approve a subsidy for the 2023 calendar year of $286,371 for the Seminary ($37,697.00 less than 2021 subsidy receipts) and $470,867 (the same amount as the 2021 subsidy receipts) for the Bible College.
As of December 31, 2021, the FLBCS has approximately $1.6 million in scholarship and endowment Funds that are used to provide financial assistance to Seminary and Bible College students. During the ’21-’22 school year, $124,735 was disbursed for FLS Scholarships and $104,250 was disbursed for FLBC Scholarships.
We would like to say a special thank you to those who have generously contributed to the Student Life Center Capital Campaign. Since the new building opened, we have had the opportunity to host the 2021 AFLC Annual Conference, the 2022 NIAC Basketball Tournament (FLBC Basketball Conference), 2021 Alumni Basketball Tournament as well as many other Campus Events. The students thoroughly enjoy using the facility for intramural sports and as a quiet place to study and grab a drink at the new Campus coffee shop– The Full Court Press.
We would also like to extend a big thank you to the WMF. Over the last several years their generous financial support has allowed us to purchase new desks, chairs, dressers, bookcases, and bunk beds for our students to enjoy in the men’s and women’s dorms.
The AFLC Schools are committed to continue using our financial resources to train servant leaders, increase enrollment at both Schools, and pursue academic excellence. Additional information about the FLBCS financials is available in the 2022 Annual Report and by request.
Every single person named below bears a significant role in the mission of Free Lutheran Bible College and Seminary. We thank God for them, and we thank God for you. God is writing a beautiful story on the hearts of our students, for the benefit of individual souls, families, congregations, communities, and society. Thank you, Jesus, for Your work. And thank you, each one of you, for your support.
In Christ’s Service,
Mr. Larry Myhrer (VP of Operations)
Rev. Dr. James Molstre (Chief Academic Officer, FLS Dean)
Rev. Adam Osier (FLBC Dean)
Rev. Todd Erickson (Board of Trustees Chair)
Rev. Dr. Wade Mobley (President)
Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. –Ephesians 3:20-21
Thank you to the 2021-2022 faculty, staff, and administration at FLBCS
Board of Trustees:
Rev. Alan Arneson
Mr. Donald Balmer
Mr. Gary Erickson
Rev. Todd Erickson
Mr. Philip Johnson
Mr. Dean Nelson
Rev. Jason Gudim
Full and Part-time Faculty:
Dr. Brad Bierle
Dr. Oliver Blosser
Rev. Brett Boe
Mr. Andrew Hanson
Dr. Jason Holt
Dr. Jerry Moan
Dr. Wade Mobley
Dr. James Molstre
Rev. Stephen Mundfrom
Dr. Brent Olson
Dr. Nathan Olson
Rev. Adam Osier
Dr. Phil Haugen (Emeritus)
Rev. Robert Lee (Emeritus)
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