United Church of God

Why Isn’t ABC an Online Program?

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Why Isn’t ABC an Online Program?

The simple answer to both is “no,” but explaining exactly why is a bit harder to do.

Let me make a quick comparison teens in the Church should readily understand. Hundreds of young people attend our summer camps each year. For those who cannot, could we create an online summer camp? I don’t know if anyone has ever seriously proposed doing that, but it turns out much of the teaching that is done in the various Christian living classes could be shared through the Internet. So could the instruction for various camp activities.

It just wouldn’t be the same though, would it?

For camp, this is an easy point to make. No one believes playing sports or singing songs together can be done online. To go beyond those obvious points, we should consider that attending summer camp is a unique and special experience. To borrow a phrase from the tourism business, it is an authentic experience. No simulation can measure up to the real thing.

I believe the same is true for ABC. Attending is an authentic experience that cannot be simulated, nor can it be represented virtually. Let me go a step further and say that participating in the ABC program is meant to be a transformative experience.

The goal of ABC is to provide students an understanding of the Bible so the great truths it contains will never cease to prevail within the minds of God’s people. Graduates should not only know what the Bible teaches, but they should be able to explain it to others. Admittedly this is a very ambitious goal. In some cases we have been more successful than others, and we never claim to have perfectly accomplished it. I do strongly believe, however, we fulfill our mission much better as a residential program than we ever could online.

Surely you have heard or read advertisements from various universities promoting their online degree programs. The idea is that knowledge is knowledge, and the means by which it is conveyed does not matter. Compare it to picking up a gallon of milk at the grocery store instead of having it delivered to your house (which was how it was done only a few decades ago). This works well for commodities, and can work for knowledge, but it does not work so well when it comes to giving someone an experience—especially one that affects who and what that person is.

ABC is about more than gaining knowledge. The process by which the knowledge is gained is also important. Doing a thorough study of the entire Bible in nine months is challenging, and the process affects a person in a way that spreading it out over more time does not. The unity of the Bible and God’s direct inspiration become quite obvious. The intensity of the program helps students become more proficient at “putting line upon line and precept upon precept,” as Isaiah 28:10 tells us to do.

Of course that does not address the enormous impact of being part of a special group of people who are going through the experience together. Most students form strong and lasting friendships, and the group dynamic is a vital part of the ABC experience. I have joked that being an Ambassador student is special—there are only a few of them, but being an Ambassador graduate is no big deal—because there are lots of them! That is partly true. It is special to be an Ambassador student. It is something I wish every young person in God’s Church could experience. However, it is also pretty special to be a graduate. We are proud of those who have completed the program and are sustaining God’s Church and supporting His work.

If you would like to learn more about ABC and/or are interested in applying, please visit our website at abc.ucg.org, or call or e-mail our faculty.