About a year ago, I stumbled across Christian Leaders Institute (CLI, Christianleadersinstitute.org) while searching for something else online.  Free.  High quality?  Ministry training?  Was this too good to be true?  After all, I had searched for free ministry training before, and found nothing.  I wanted to study the Lord’s word, but I didn’t want to spend thousands of dollars or relocate.

So I enrolled immediately in the web-based school, and now my knowledge of the Bible, church history, and theology is much deeper and wider.  CLI was an answer to a divine prayer, but it was an answer that took asking myself tough questions, spending lots of time in the Word and even more time in front of computer screen.

Several of the things limiting effective training for pastors and lay leaders has been the cost, availability, and time commitment for learning.  Attending Bible college costs thousands of dollars,  it often requires relocation, and it is time intensive.

Christian Leaders Institute solves those problems.  It’s FREE, and the Internet-based classes means you can attend from anywhere and the classes are on your schedule.  Because foundations, corporations and donors fund the program, there is no cost to you.  The classes are taught through videos, articles and books that are provided for free.  All materials are provided online and without cost.

So far, the school has had more than 9,000 U.S. graduates, 700 from South Afica, and 600 from Nigeria.  Students in more than 160 countries have graduated from CLI. Classes are taught in French, Spanish, and Chinese, and-of course-English.

I have earned nearly 105 hours for a 120 Bachelor of Divinity and Ministry.  I was aided by the school’s policy of granting 60 hours of credit if you already have a bachelor’s degree.  For those starting from scratch, you’ll have to take basic courses like English, biology and math in addition to offering such as New and Old Testament surveys, Theology, and Ethics.

A high school diploma is not required to attend, but you must successfully complete two courses to continue for free.  Schools, including Calvin Theological Seminary, Western Theological Seminary, and Vision International University will accept CLI degrees for further study.  CLI is accredited by the Academic Council for Education.  A master’s degree program is in the works.  If you are not interested in a bachelor’s, shorter programs are available too.

According to CLI literature, the school seeks to meet the needs of the 90% of the world that does not have access to quality Christian leaders training.  The school founded in 2001.  Students graduate from CLI debt free, leaving them open for new opportunities.

How do you enroll at CLI?  Go to the school’s web site.  tell them your name, email, password, and the country you live in, and you’re enrolled.

When I say CLI is free, it’s true.  The only things I’ve paid for is $35 for a diploma (you can print unoffical diplomas for free, but there is a cost for official, embossed diplomas) and the $900 required donation.  The fee is required to process the paper work to prove you have a bachelor’s degree, if applicable.  There is a payment plan to make the cost more manageable.  With seminaries charging an average $400 a credit hour, I’m not complaining about the CLI costs.  According to the Association of Theological Schools, the average tuition for a full time seminary student (05-06 school year) was $11,039.

In addition, students are ASKED (not required) to give.  I give $25 a month to support the mission, because CLI needs the money.  Of course, some students give nothing.  With CLI’s tight budget, they occasionally ask students for special gifts.  This spring, for example, the school made a special appeal to students when some offices were flooded.  I donated $10.

If you’re searching for a place to study God’s Word in more detail and for FREE, I highly recommend CLI.  CLI has made the problems of cost, distance, and time a thing of the past, now its your turn to move ahead.

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