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Latin America Resource
and Training Center

Educational Leaders “Dialogue South”
By Rod and Sherry Boyd

Dialogue SouthFifteen educational leaders from four of the southern cone countries of South America—Chile, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay—gathered in Santiago, Chile in March for two intense days to focus on ways to improve ministerial education in their countries. We’ve been hosting dialogues in Panama in the “odd” years since 2001. Because of the cost of travel, we’ve had little participation from these southern cone countries. The Educational Leaders Dialogue is an important part of our strategy to assist our Bible schools throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.

Dialogue SouthWe typically invite the national Christian education director or national Bible school director from each country, as well as key ministry leaders and select missionary representatives. Because this was the first “Dialogue South,” we also invited the superintendents from the six countries. We were pleased to have two superintendents and national leaders and missionaries from four of these countries.

Each country presented a report on the state of ministerial education on a national level. These reports included statistical information and program features and challenges. As hosts representing the Resource and Advisory Center for Bible Schools, we also presented a report on what we’ve observed and heard. Each country was able to nominate one or more areas of need. After all reports had been given, the various nominations were consolidated into a list of 8 areas of greatest need. The group then voted on the top three concerns.

Dialogue SouthWe were not surprised to see some of the same concerns raised by these leaders. The top three needs are as follows in the order of need:

1. Improve the relationship between the Bible school and the local church. Of special concern was a new focus on the call to ministry, the need for a solid training program in the local church to prepare them for their Bible school education and the importance of keeping the Bible school curriculum relevant to the ongoing needs of the local church.

2. Strengthen the national vision for the Bible school. National leaders must be involved in the Bible school, which in turn must reflect the emphasis of the national church. Of special concern was the need to open new churches.

3. Establish clear criteria for the basic Bible school teaching plan. This plan must be updated based upon current needs and expectations. New text books must be discovered or written.

Dialogue SouthSmall groups worked on each of these areas of concern, offering practical ideas for addressing each of the needs. Of course, much of the follow up work falls to the Resource and Advisory Center. And as part of our overall strategy, we host two Bible School Leaders Summits in the “even” years—the southern version targeting the southern cone countries and the northern version for the other 14 Spanish-speaking countries. We just concluded the Summit North that took place April 14-17 in Guatemala City. The Summit South will take place August 26-29 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Dialogue SouthWe have been challenged to engage these countries because of a general lack of national leader over Bible schools. But we have been so encouraged by two testimonies from these countries… one during the Dialogue and the other about three weeks after.

The superintendent of Paraguay shared that after the ten leaders returned from the 2006 Summit in Buenos Aires, the presbytery became more involved in the Bible schools. He said that they began almost immediately to introduce a number of changes that have turned around the Bible school ministry in the whole country.

During the Dialogue, a fellow missionary in Chile shared about the difficulties with the Bible schools in Chile.  Three weeks later he shared that one of the men from Chile who attended the Dialogue was voted in as the new national superintendent and that they had met about ways to begin to make improvements in the national Bible school program.

Dialogue SouthPlease pray for the Bible school ministries in the six southern cone countries. All of the leaders present at the Dialogue recognized the historic nature of the meeting. Please pray that God will help us continue the efforts started at the 2008 Dialogue South.