Back row: Adam Swift, John F. Smith, Bethany Hirschy and Charles Hirschy. Front row: Caleb Brussel. Not Pictured: Joshua Brussel.
Grace Church at Willow Valley is situated just outside of Lancaster City in Pennsylvania. It’s a mid-sized congregation that holds two types of services (traditional and blended), houses a thriving preschool, a growing youth ministry program and offers many ways for their members to engage in service. From the outside, it looks like many of the other churches in the area. But one thing makes it unique: it has a surprising amount of connections to Lancaster Bible College | Capital Seminary & Graduate School.
Many former students, current students, alumni and even faculty members of LBC claim Grace as their home church and even employer. Recently, we talked with them to ask them just what makes this church and its ministries so important to them – and how LBC had a part in shaping their work and faith.
LBC: What do you love about your church?
Adam Swift (’15) – Alumnus & Associate Pastor: I love my church because they have faithfully discipled me. When I came to Grace Church I was eleven years old and a nominal Christian. Through the gospel ministry of Grace God brought me to salvation! The church then gave me meaningful opportunities to serve and practice leadership. Today I am a pastor in the church I grew up in! It’s a picture of what I believe every church should do with their young people. Grace Church really is a part of my family.
Caleb Brussel (’19) – Intern at Grace & Current Student: I love Grace Church because it is a place where love for God, His Word, and love for others is very evident in the singing, preaching, and times of fellowship. It feels like a family!
Charles Hirschy (’16) – Alumnus & Student Ministry and Community Outreach: Family and opportunity. Grace Church is my family and I love them dearly. They have welcomed my wife in open arms and they encourage us and support in so many ways. This church gave me the opportunity to learn about life and ministry. They have discipled me well and encouraged my gifts. I would not be who I am today without opportunities and that Grace Church gave while I was at LBC and now as I serve on the staff.
LBC: How did your education at LBC influence your ministry?
Adam Swift: Lancaster Bible College did a great job at unfolding some key ministry models and ideas that helped me process aspects of my ministry today.
Bethany Hirschy – Former Student & Director of Children’s Ministry at Grace: God used the classes that I took at LBC to reveal to me a passion for ministry that I didn’t know I had. I left my ministry classes more motivated and passionate to make a change in people lives. I typically have a page for notes and a page full of practical ideas of how I could apply what I learned in a ministry setting.
Caleb Brussel: I’m very thankful for the internship at Grace Church that allows me to put what I am learning in my classes at LBC into practice. The pastoral and Bible classes have been insightful and helpful in forming practical theology and diving into the Word so that I might grow spiritually and know more about the God of the Bible. Yet, I’ve learned that ministry is not always stereotypical, according to the books. I’m grateful for the combination of in-class learning and hands-on learning that LBC provides so that I might be best equipped to serve Christ in the Church.
Joshua Brussel (’18) – Intern at Grace & Current Student: I believe that the blessing of being able to combine a ministry with biblical education has benefited both settings. Not only am I able to put into practice what I have been learning, serving at Grace has also added a deeper dimension to my education. A good example of this were the homiletics classes where I was able to take what learned and done in a classroom setting and put it into practice in the youth group. Lastly, many time throughout my time at LBC I was reminded that to serve the local church you must love the local church. God has used Grace to give me a passion to serve his people in the setting of the local church.
LBC: What was the most impactful part of your education at LBC?
Adam Swift : The most important aspect of my education at Lancaster Bible College today is the relationships I made while on campus, both with students and professors. These are relationships I still profit from today in ministry partnership.
Bethany Hirschy: The most impactful part of my education at LBC was how much to teachers cared about me as an individual. Even though they may have several hundred students, they were always willing to meet with me if I needed help or advice.
Charlie Hirschy : The professors. It was amazing to get to know many of my professors and have them pour into to me and share with me their own experiences in ministry and life. It was great learn from them. Another important aspect for me was being a part of resident life. Being a CA and RA taught me so much about how to disciple people and deal with conflict in healthy ways.
LBC: How do you see the missions of LBC and Grace working together?
John F. Smith, Grace Lead Pastor & Adjunct Faculty Member at LBC: LBC is all about helping students to adopt a biblical world view. We do much the same here at Grace Church. One of our four core values is The Bible, Our Authority. All that to say we (LBC and Grace Church) are on the same page. Over the years a number of LBC students have served here in internships, etc. We see this as a win-win. It’s a win for the students in giving them ministry opportunities, and a win for the church in being able to mentor them and help them become better equipped for present and future ministry.
LBC: Why do you think biblical education is still important?
John F. Smith: If we believe what we say about the Bible (that it is indeed God’s word – then getting grounded in it could not be more important or relevant. After all, it is God who has made both us and the world in which we live. His word must be our Polaris – the ultimate point of reference- as we seek to navigate through the moral confusion of our day.