Online Experience: A Student’s Perspective

School Culture

Hello everyone! My name is Austin, and I am the new administrator and creative coordinator for the BSSM School Planting department! I am originally from Michigan, and am entering into my 3rd year at BSSM, under the amazing 2nd year pastor, Paul Kummer!

This last year I had the unique opportunity to spend part of my 2nd year at BSSM unexpectedly doing school online. There were some things I learned through that experience that I wanted to share with you all!

Now, I will be honest, I am not someone who is prone to thrive in an online environment. My comfort zone is being surrounded by people in a room, hearing a teaching from someone who is physically present in the room. So when our class transitioned fully online, I was skeptical that the online environment was going to be as impactful as the in person experience. But through the course of being online with BSSM, I found that in spite of it not being an environment that I generally thrive in, it yielded some life changing results.

One of the unique aspects of BSSM is how experiential the learning  is, as opposed to other academic schools. What draws so many people to the tiny city of Redding, and more specifically Bethel and BSSM, is the chance to experience something they may never have experienced before, being the presence of God in such a unique way. So when they announced to all of us that we were going to be transitioning online indefinitely, myself, and many of my peers didn’t really expect the experience to have the same effect. Make no mistake, the experience is very different, but there was so much beauty in that difference, and there were some key lessons I learned by doing it online that I wouldn’t have been able to learn in person.

One of the first lessons I learned was how to stay engaged in a format that was not naturally engaging for me. As I said before, the online environment is a format that is challenging to stay connected with.

But being forced online, with no apparent end in sight, taught me the importance of not allowing the format to dictate how engaged I was.

And because I made the choice to be engaged despite the format, I actually received a deeper level of revelation because of it.

One of the other main lessons I learned through last year was the importance of not reducing how the Lord can encounter you based on the format. While different, the online format provides such a unique way for the Lord to encounter you. I can remember several times that despite us being online, the presence of the Lord fell in my room as worship was happening, or someone was speaking, and if I limited in my mind what the Lord can do over a screen, I would have potentially missed out on those experience because of the limitations I placed on myself to receive.

These were just two of the lessons I learned in the midst of being online, but one final thing I want to leave you with is a revelation the Lord gave me at the end of the year.

For too long the enemy has ruled the internet, but the Lord is now taking back the online environment, and is using it as a weapon that has far greater reach than any other format.

It was through this revelation that I truly began to appreciate the reach and benefits online provides. So as you continue to lead your school, online and offline, I want to encourage you to never limit the Lord in your own mind to a specific format, because the ministry of Jesus clearly demonstrates the power of the Gospel in any format.

Austin Long is BSSM School Planting’s Administrator and Creative Coordinator. He comes from Kalamazoo, MI, and has a heart to see leaders filled up and equipped to be effective ministers and lovers of Jesus.

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