INTRODUCING SBS HUBS
A season of growth and change has arrived for the School of Biblical Studies! Since SBS began back in 1981, we have seen it grow from one school in Hawaii, USA to over 60 schools worldwide! In order to strengthen the SBS schools that already exist as well as coordinate efforts to see new schools pioneered, SBS Resource Hubs are being created in various locations around the world. These hubs will provide training, digital and curriculum resources, strategic planning, and relationship facilitation for each region of SBS schools.
6 Goals of Hubs
1. Strengthen SBS’s worldwide (through following)
2. Coordinate strategic prayer and planning for multiplication
3. Provide opportunities for training of SBS staff and leaders
4. Facilitate a greater sense of connectedness and regional/global conferences
5. Create and manage digital resources
6. To help with curriculum guidance and support.
In 1981, the School of Biblical Studies was birthed out of the call of God and a vision to multiply Biblical studies, teaching, and application around the world. Eight students and two staff gathered in that small house just up from McDonald’s on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Today, the School of Biblical Studies is now offered in 50 locations in over 40 different nations. Instead of eight students, now hundreds of students are completing a SBS every year. What began as a dream is now a reality.
According to studies, movements generally last 25 years and then enter into a critical phase. These movements, whether religious or otherwise, generally begin with a charismatic vision like the SBS, and are centered on a few key leaders, like Ron and Judy Smith. Near the end of the 25 years, one of three things generally happens. Some movements gradually become institutionalized and lose their original passion and momentum. No new charismatic leaders arise, and in their place, managers are placed into leadership roles. Gradually, the movement dies, either morphing into an organization with different goals or the movement simply ceases to exist all together. Some settle into a status quo with no significant changes and functions at a “plateau” level. The other outcome however is radically different and desirable. The movement undergoes change, but emerges from these changes reborn and reinvigorated. Often, this time of change can be viewed as chaotic and even “death like”, yet the end result is the continuation of the passion and ethos of the original movement. 1
This is where the School of Biblical Studies finds itself in these days. As stated before, SBS has passed this 25 year anniversary, and has seen exponential growth during that time. Ron and Judy Smith no longer run schools personally, but have stepped out to be a resource to all of the SBS internationally. Some of those who were part of the origins of SBS are still with the program, but many others have gone on to other ministries or callings. Though we see growth, we have also seen some older schools struggle and even have to shut down for a time. While the pattern of death and rebirth seems common in Youth With A Mission, we want to see all of our schools healthy and growing. We need to continue to release new leaders as the older generation either moves on to other ministries or move into a mentoring position.
With new growth comes a need to strategize and coordinate what we are doing in the SBS. We are constantly working toward pioneering new schools and at the same time, some existing schools at times end for various reasons. In the early days, the movement was small enough for all the leaders to know one another. Most did their schools together in Hawaii, and the relationship was organic. Ron and Judy could visit or maintain communication with all the schools fairly regularly. As we are now scattered across the globe, trying to help resource SBS internationally from one location doesn’t work. Often we find that we are unaware of what projects are being planned, sometimes not even being aware that a new school has actually started! Our size has exposed that we need a different structure or paradigm to change this. Multiplication seems to be happening mostly through relationship, which is organic, but not necessarily strategic. Two SBS schools could be targeting the same nation or location and not be coordinating their efforts. One school may be helping a project that is halfway around the globe, while schools closer to the pioneering project aren’t involved at all.
How do we move forward to meet all these wonderful challenges? This is the question that SBS International has been praying over, asking God for wisdom. Many of the veteran SBS leaders were consulted, brainstorming was employed, and the result was what we believe is a new paradigm for us from God. The vision that we received was the creation of SBS International Resource Hubs. As missionaries, most of us know and love flying around the world in the Gospel work. We become quite familiar with the airport hubs of the world: Seattle, New York, Paris, Tokyo, Johannesburg, etc… We sit there often for hours, waiting for flights, watching the thousands of people unload from one plane and then on to the next plane and location. Luggage is off loaded, sorted, and loaded again. Cargo planes go to and fro with mail, packages, and supplies. The hub feeds and coordinates movement from and to all the smaller airports in the entire region. Several in the prayer group we consulted in SBS received this specific picture and word of “hubs” being God’s strategy for our future. You can even apply this concept to the world of computers and networking. A “network hub” coordinates all traffic between many computers, printers, and servers in an office building. Without it, computers are isolated and cut off from valuable resources that the person at that desk needs.
The challenge of multiplication in Youth With A Mission is that we are a vision driven, charismatic led, semi-autonomous movement. While resources, training, and strategy are highly needed, rigid structure and dictatorial leadership will stifle the growth. As we pondered this, God led us to a seminal work that highly influenced our thoughts on this: the book “The Spider and the Starfish”, by Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom. In this book, the authors set out to study organizations, businesses, and movements in these postmodern times. What they discovered was two radically different paradigms for how these groups were organized (or disorganized!). The classic structure they called the “spider”, as these groups were centralized, top down, and highly structured. The new structure they called the “starfish”, as they were organized around a shared vision or ideology, decentralized, and almost “leaderless” in some ways. The spider structures are authority based, and if the top leadership is affected, the whole group suffers. The starfish group is able to be easily multiplied, and once multiplied can exist on its own without the “head” in operation or control. We saw many of the attributes of a “starfish” in how both the SBS and YWAM have developed. We in SBS have a strong shared vision and goal, and the individual SBS schools have not been controlled from the “top”, but allowed to lead the school as fit the nation and local base.
The challenge now, as we mentioned above, is that many desire to be more connected with other SBS schools around the world, as well as have some resources and training to increase the effectiveness of what we do. Many school leaders have expressed a desire for mutual accountability and interdependence within the SBS internationally. How do we accomplish this while at the same time avoiding the top down, spider structure? Toward the end of Brafman and Beckstrom’s book, they discuss a “hybrid” structure, where an organization or business uses both spider and starfish characteristics with great success. We believe that this same type of “hybrid” structure is possible within the SBS world as well. The hub paradigm would not be top down, or an attempt to install an authoritarian control over each region. The goals of the Resource Hub have nothing to do with creating a control “web”. Rather, its goal would be to help foster the mutual accountability and interdependence of schools. This is a movement that relies on peer relationships. The heart of this vision is simply to resource, support, and network what already exists, and what God is bringing to existence in the future for SBS. Those with experience could be brought more along side those who desire more mentoring/coaching.
There would be six main goals of these Resource Hubs: strengthen SBS’s worldwide, coordinate strategic prayer and planning for multiplication, provide opportunities for training of SBS staff and leaders, facilitate a greater sense of connectedness and regional/global conferences, create and manage digital resources, and to help with curriculum guidance and support. They are needed for each region of SBS schools, and would serve then as a resource hub for that area. The ideal location for a hub would be a YWAM base that has a mature SBS school, and is centrally or strategically located. A mature SBS is one with a consistent student base, adequate staff, and is already involved in multiplying schools and projects. Not all hubs will be able to fulfill all of these six goals initially. It will take time to start these hubs, recruit staff, and begin these projects. A more realistic scenario involves the hub committing to starting with several of these goals, then gradually working their way toward the others.
As these Resource Hubs are developed, there would be a need to provide manpower over and above the normal nine month school. This will take the commitment of the school and base to see this vision come to life. The hub can be staffed in different ways. One way would be to either recruit staff or transfer one from the nine month school to be full time in the resource center. Either one or two people could be involved in doing this ministry full time. They would be working closely with the school and under the leadership of the local base. A hub needs to be committed to not only building up the SBS’s in that region, but also helping the nine month school through training and teaching. Hub staff can have different “specialty” areas, such as training, digital resources, curriculum, or pastoral care. This is the ideal situation as far as staffing the hub goes. A second way of staffing the hub would be to have a team concept. Instead of having full time hub staff, the SBS school can separate tasks and give them to their nine month staff to work on. Staff could rotate in seasons, or have their one area that they complete in addition to their school work. Of course, this plan demands that a school have a large staff so the hub responsibilities don’t detract from the primary goal of running the school itself.
Even though the location that hosts the Resource Hub would provide some manpower, there has to be a concept of “hub” when it comes to how these resources will actually be created. This means that the hub is a coordinator and facilitator, and not the only resource itself. The Resource Hub will only be what it needs to be if ALL the schools in that region contribute to its existence. Remember, this is strength of the starfish paradigm, which means that it is peers working together around a common cause or vision. It is not a situation where the schools in the region only “take” from the hub, but they are also “giving” to the hub by helping with projects, training, and multiplication efforts. The team concept works on the regional level as well, where staff from various schools contribute through their special gifts, talents, and experience.
There would need to be communication and coordination between the hub staff internationally. The goal of being more connected and strategizing together will not happen unless the regional hub leaders communicate and coordinate their efforts on a regular basis. This can be done over the internet (Skype, Genesis) to keep costs at a minimum. New projects can be discussed and resources planned in assistance. Digital projects can be mapped out, and standards agreed on for what materials to include. Curriculum can be compared, and new ideas brainstormed and dialogued on. Especially in the early stages, the hub leaders will have to talk about if the whole paradigm is working, what goals are being attained, and what goals were either unrealistic or not possible at the current time.
A key mentioned earlier is the mutual support of the local bases as well as YWAM/ University of Nations as a whole to help us reach full effectiveness in the SBS. First, the hub would need to not only serve the goals of the SBS and the nine month school, but also seek to serve the local base in the areas of training, teaching, and staff development. A supportive environment from the base is critical in seeing the hub be successful. As well, the hubs and SBS must see its part in the whole of YWAM and the U of N. As a core course, degree program (Biblical Studies), and the largest Bible school in YWAM, the SBS serves the greater goals of YWAM internationally in the Great Commission.
Finally, the hope would be that in the creation of these Resource Hubs, staff around the world will feel more connected into the SBS in their region and internationally. Through conferences, emails, and even Skype calls, school leaders and staff can start and maintain relationships that will strengthen both morale and the spiritual health of our staff worldwide. Having school leaders who aren’t micro managed by a “spider” doesn’t mean that we don’t need each other to survive. Ministry will only be effective coming from a place of unity; the New Testament makes this point abundantly clear. As a body, we need each part to be honored and working to be all that Christ would have us to be.
It is clear that expectations need to be correct from the beginning with regards to the Resource Hubs. They will not solve all your staffing problems. They will not be able to send teachers or trainers every time you need them. They will not be able to call you daily and be there every time you have a crisis. Remember that ultimately, WE are the Resource Hub; all of us that staff SBS in that region. Even if the Resource Hub has full time staff, they are going to have limitations in what they can do personally. The Resource Hubs will be successful if we follow God’s vision for them, and all contribute to make them happen and work.