August 2020 Newsletter: The Beirut Explosion: Where is God?
August 14, 2020
A Dynamic Response to Modern Difficulties: MEC 2020
July 14, 2020

Developing the New Non-Formal Components:
The Curriculum Story Continues

Bassem Melki
August 12, 2020


At the end of last month’s article, Walid Zailaa mentioned that we had begun to craft the non-formal components of the modified residential program curriculum, which is the next step in the design. Such components have played a significant role in our residential students’ growth for years.

As the Leadership Team pursued a distance-learning program for ABTS, our challenge was whether we could create an environment for our students’ transformation through non-formal components. One might assume that online or distance learning lacks the element of formation. If we are not intentional about it, we can lose it. We are not willing to give that up, however, as ABTS’s main concern is forming leaders holistically. This is a non-negotiable. As Elie Haddad mentioned, “We want to preserve all the key features of what was successful in our residential program.”

At ABTS, we hope to prepare a whole leader through holistic transformation. We pray that we would be of one heart and one mind as we equip students to be effective leaders who are biblically rooted Christ-following thinkers, maturing disciple makers, contextual reflective practitioners, servant-steward leaders, and healthy relaters.

How can we empower leaders in addition to helping them cultivate skill, knowledge, critical thinking, and reflective practice? How can we empower them to become secure in their identity in Christ, demonstrating respect and grace for others, working harmoniously with them and resolving conflict in a healthy manner? One of our fears is that leaders who graduate from ABTS start ministering in their communities without having dealt with their blind spots, flaws, limitations, and weaknesses resulting in moral failure, burnout, and ultimately bringing shame to the name of Christ and His bride.

We are very intentional about holistic formation, and we are in the process of building and incorporating the non-formal elements into the modular curriculum and short residencies over the span of four years. During the yearly residency period of each cohort, we will capitalize on bonding between students and building solidarity in ministry and support groups. We will come alongside them, highlighting their personal and spiritual development. This will create the environment conducive for healthy, holistic transformation, seeking the intervention and work of the Holy Spirit.

Here are some areas of community-related formation where we would like our students to grow continually in a "modified residential" program:

  • Culture: Students will get introduced to new cultures through their annual visits to ABTS as they deal with academic and administrative bodies in Lebanon, and as they interact with students coming from different parts of the Arab world.

  • Discipline: Students will learn personal discipline by being held to academic responsibilities and commitments.

  • Spirituality: Students will receive spiritual formation through focused programs aimed at developing their spiritual growth and their awareness of God and themselves.

  • Ministry: By remaining in their home country and within their faith community, students will be able to apply acquired principles immediately to their context through a "problem-solving" framework.

  • Vision: Through purposeful curricula, students will discover God's purpose for their life, expanding their ministry unto greater dimensions.


  • Although we might lose several important elements by moving from a complete residential program to a mostly distant program, we gain several advantages that we can capitalize on. First, the sending church or organization can be quite involved in the student’s formation as ABTS partners with them. Second, real-time field training allows for a problem-solving framework. Third, student formation can indirectly impact the local church and its leadership. Fourth, the distance program does not disrupt the work of students who are deeply involved in serving their church or community.

    These opportunities provide the arena for student holistic transformation and the implementation of the non-formal elements. Holistic transformation is based on the principle that each person finds identity, meaning, and purpose in life through connections to their local community and to the natural world, discovering the call of the Divine. Another important experience for transformation and encountering God is brokenness. That is why it is important for the students to discover their weaknesses, flaws, and limitations, and find the tools to manage them according to Scripture. Having said that, we will work on four areas in students’ lives:

  • Character: Students develop integrity, humility and a servant spirit.

  • Healing: Students reconcile with their culture and find meaning in their past (healing from abuse and trauma).

  • Leadership: Students discover the dark side of leadership (control, insecurity, anger, perfectionism and so on).

  • Emotional and spiritual maturity: Students understand and sort their emotions as they grow in their love for God.


  • Every year, we choose an area and work on it with each cohort. Our faculty, who have been experienced in mentoring, will follow closely and journey with every student individually toward maturity.

    Our aim is to serve the Arab Church through preparing faithful leaders, men and women, to mobilize their church communities to engage their communities in relevant ways bringing glory to God. As we move to our new modified residential program, we cannot compromise holistic formation, which is at the heart of what we do. Pray for guidance as we continue to work on the non-formal components and the remaining pieces of the puzzle!

    *This is Part Three of a series of articles on our New Strategic Direction.