To the Bible Study Fellowship Board of Directors and Director of New Start-Up Classes:
I am proposing starting an online BSF class strictly for those who are unable to attend a regular BSF class (disabled, elderly, can’t drive, rural communities, etc). This would follow the BSF four-part model: lecture, notes, discussion, personal study and questions but be available all online.
A BSF lecturer could videotape himself/herself (like at our class that is videotaped) and post it online. You listen to the lecture and then can download the notes and next week’s questions. Then in the forum you can discuss with others your findings. This forum could be restricted to being open only on the designated meeting day. Similarly with the notes.
I know this will challenge BSF’s paradigm and maybe financially but the I think the benefits will far-outweigh the costs.
With regards to the paradigm: Times change. Think of all the innovations since Jesus first walked the earth: we’ve gone from camel and horse travel to train travel to cars and planes. The printing press has allowed us to own a copy of God’s word. Improvements on the printing press have allowed the Bible to be the biggest best-seller ever. Now, you can even read the Bible on the Internet and on your phone!
Enrollment can be qualified. For those who live in remote communities; those who attending a BSF class would be an inconvenience (flying, hiking, snowmobiling, driving over a certain number of hours, etc); disabled or elderly; those with kids in different age groups who can’t attend because they have both school-age kids and preschool age kids; those who can’t afford to pay for the gas to get to the class; and other extenuating circumstances, etc.
My story: I had a very tiny blog. Not many hits and few subscribers. After my first day at BSF, I blogged about how much I loved it and was looking forward to it. BAM! 87 hits. So, I thought to myself I may be onto something. I started posting my answers and my blog has skyrocketed to beyond belief.
Obviously, there is a need of some kind out there.
I have people from all over the world follow my blog. One lady is going on a mission trip to Uganda. She “met” a lady who lives in Uganda who is enrolled in BSF who posted on my site and now they are going to meet in Uganda! How cool is that!
One lady who has severe health problems and is unable to attend classes at times uses my blog as her discussion time. She swap prayer requests even. She is just one among many who use my blog as such. The Internet never shuts down during inclement weather.
One member whose friend lives in Hawaii would have to fly to her nearest BSF class. When I move (our move has now been delayed), I would have to drive 6 hours to my nearest one. Think of Alaska: you’d have to snowmobile up there!
Funding: I believe BSF could solicit funds specifically for such a purpose. I for one am willing to donate to such a project. You could have a designation added to your online giving system fairly easily to facilitate donations. This money would go to help pay the initial start-up costs.
Someone can be trained to administer the program once it’s up and running. This could even be a volunteer willing to post the videos, etc.
Please read some of the comments on my site about how much being able to have a discussion group 24/7 facilitates learning and ultimately growing with God means to others. For some, it could be indescribable (I know it is for me!).
BSF Statement of Beliefs #14 (according to your website) says how BSF believes we are all called to study the Bible personally through the power of the Holy Spirit until each one is matured into God’s purpose for their life. How better to aid in this for those who for whatever reason cannot physically make it to BSF classes?
I am asking you to please pray about this as with everything in BSF. A pilot year could be set up to see if this idea works or not. Limit the number of attendees and see what happens. She what needs to be improved, changed, or scrapped all together. A year to work out the bugs, evaluate at the end if it accomplishes BSF’s vision, and go from there.
I can only imagine the number of people who can be reached through the Internet (another invention God gave to someone). His kingdom can grow by leaps and bounds through this measure.
Part of BSF is community. Well, I can attest to the fact you can have a community over the Internet. There are followers of my blog whom I consider some of my dearest friends. They regularly offer words of sage advice that I appreciate beyond belief. Even though I can’t see them and they can’t see me, this is vital to what my website has become. Without them, my blog is empty.
Facebook is the second-highest ranked site (according to Alexa) in the world–a website dedicated to facilitating connections–existing only in cyberspace as this BSF class would do.
Community is what you make of it. BSF is what you make of it. I think a BSF online could thrive. And grow. But still remain true to BSF’s and Ms. Johnson’s vision.
I have been praying about this ever since the idea popped in my head. I only ask you all do the same.
Thanks for listening, considering, and praying with regards to this proposal.