In an effort to make Christian education more affordable and accessible to everyone, Southeastern University (SEU) is expanding its extended education opportunities by offering undergraduate degree programs at local churches throughout South Florida. Christian Life Center opened its satellite campus in Fort Lauderdale four years ago, recently graduating its first class of students. In the fall, SEU will launch satellite sites at Potential Church in Cooper City and Christ Fellowship in Palm Beach Gardens. Miami Leadership Institute at Trinity Church is also an extension site of Southeastern University.
Regionally accredited through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), Southeastern University is an evangelical, multi-site university that has been training servant leaders since its founding in 1935. Based out of Lakeland, Florida, SEU partners with about 50 churches, providing credentialed degrees at locations as far away as northern California and Washington.
As one of the fastest growing Christian colleges in the nation, SEU’s student enrollment has increased by more than 50 percent in the past few years, and there are more than 70 academic programs offered at the Lakeland campus.
While the campus is growing, Andrew Miller, executive director of SEU’s extended education, said, “We began partnering with churches who share our missional impulse to train the next generation of pastors and ministers… and a big component is credit for practical experience at each site.”
The academic model
More than a traditional campus, students at the church satellites are mentored by experienced leaders and are immersed in the ministry and heart of a large multi-site church. As part of this ministry practicum, students are mentored by pastors in worship, production, small groups, outreach and evangelism; kids, youth and young adults; multi-site management, discipleship, pastoral care in addition to the traditional course work. Classes meet at the church where the college experience includes a hands-on internship every semester, extracurricular activities that merge faith with fun and a combination of face-to-face classroom teaching with cutting edge online strategies.
In sharing Christ Fellowship’s vision for partnering with Southeastern University, Pastor Todd Mullins, said, “We’re passionate about the next generation and believe college students will reach that potential when they’re able to reach their goals while being invested in by a healthy church family.”
While most satellite campuses offer a bachelor’s degree in ministerial leadership or associate’s degrees that may transfer to another institution, Christ Fellowship plans to also offer marketplace degrees in business, psychology and social services as well as education.
Making college affordable
Josef Suhonen, just completed his 4-year degree in ministerial leadership at Christian Life Center’s SEU site. He said, “The things that were the most attractive to me were the financial aspect and hands on experience.” Having visited the Lakeland campus with his parents, Suhonen said he was “excited about attending, but the price tag for the private Christian college tuition plus room and board seemed unattainable and unrealistic.” Tuition and expenses at a private Christian college typically cost about $30,000 per year or more, but the satellite program fees are approximately 50 to 60 percent less, plus scholarship and financial aid is also available.
“I came out with hands on experience, knowing what I’m getting into and CLC helped me out financially with scholarships so that I was able to graduate debt free,” said Suhonen.
With a heart for missions, Suhonen said he is taking a year to work and save money. He hopes to gain a position training disciples with Youth With A Mission (YWAM) in the future.”If you know you want to get into ministry and have a call on your life, the program at CLC is for you,” said Suhonen. But he said, “Be prepared to work hard; this is not for people just trying to get by. It was a challenging, stretching, awesome experience.”
Accommodating adult learners
At 42-years-old Shawn O’Neill seized the opportunity to earn his degree in ministerial leadership at Christian Life Center while working and raising a family. “The mentorship and ministry practicum are incredible. Every semester you work directly with a department pastor, giving you great exposure to the inner workings of a church. The caliber of the pastors teaching on-site courses brought an incredible wealth of diversity as pastors in the field, with theological depth and a well-rounded biblical perspective.”
As a married family man with three kids, O’Neill qualified for a Pell grant and spent only about $5,000 for his degree. “If I went to live on campus, you’re talking about $80,000 for a degree,” he said, adding, “This academic world has really opened up for me. I wasn’t looking for it, but for a person in ministry looking to get equipped, these extension campuses are perfect.”
Potential Church plans to offer two tracks to accommodate the traditional college-age student during the week and a non-traditional track that meets on Saturdays for adults who work full time.
Jamie Farver, a Potential College assistant, said, “The program was developed to meet the needs of those with an interest in ministry who want to serve and stay at Potential. It’s for those who have a passion for our heart and vision as a church and want to cultivate that deeper.”
To learn more about Southeastern University’s South Florida satellite campuses at the following churches, look them up online.
- Christian Life Center, Fort Lauderdale – seuftl.com
- Potential Church, Cooper City – potentialcollege.com
- Christ Fellowship, Palm Beach Gardens – cfseu.com
- Trinity Church, Miami – trinity-mli.com
To learn about Southeastern University’s main campus in Lakeland, visit www.seu.edu.
For more articles by Shelly Pond, please visit goodnewsfl.org/author/shelly/