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More Than Work: How Practical Training is Raising Up Leaders at BGU


Written by McKenna Von Gunten

Work for your tuition? It’s too good to be true. That was my first impression of practical training when I saw an ad scroll by on Facebook while in Thailand on the World Race. I knew I was called to missions, but going to college to be trained as a missionary had never crossed my mind–mainly because I was never interested in going for an education, and it seemed unnecessary to sit in a classroom when I could already be out on the field sharing God’s love with others. Plus, going to college was way too expensive, and raising support for missions is already difficult. Why would I want to put myself through that? Yet, something about Bethany’s tuition paid model caught my attention. I clicked on the ad, and after doing some research, I learned that part of the tuition paid model was a program called practical training, a scholarship that covers more than half of the student’s annual tuition costs. Whereas most college students are charged over $31,000 for tuition fees, BGU wants to equip their students with the skills of becoming a missionary and send them out to the field as soon and with as little debt as possible. That means that tuition costs an average of $12,770, which is paid through a compilation of scholarships, grants, and practical training. Practical training (PT) is made up of multiple departments led by full-time BGU staff who have had years of experience in their line of work, and are passionate about glorifying God in everything they do. Students will work 15-20 hours per week and are assigned different jobs within a specific department on campus based on personal interviews, past experience, preference, and the needs of the organization to help pay for their tuition. These departments include:
  • I.T.
  • Media
  • Marketing
  • Admissions Office
  • Recruitment Office
  • Kitchen
  • Finance
  • Administration
  • Services–Cleaning, Paint Crew, Maintainance
  • Publish4All
Without PT, Bethany Global University wouldn’t be able to effectively fulfill its purpose in sending the Church to where it is not and helping others do the same. Staff and students play a huge role in bringing about the Great Commission through their daily jobs on campus, and because of their hard work and effort, the mission field is flourishing with leaders who are being sent out all over the world. Now, two years later, I find myself a part of the work God is doing in raising up a new generation of leaders at BGU through working in the Marketing department as a content specialist. In this post, I’m going to walk you through what this year looked like for me in PT and how my calling and the leadership skills I’m gaining effects how I write blogs.

What has PT Looked Like for You this Year?

The majority of my time in PT is spent writing, rewriting, and editing my blog posts from 8 am to 11 am, five days a week. On Tuesdays, we have PT development for an hour, where our supervisors train us in developing leadership skills. My supervisor will also sit down with me once a week and ask how I’m doing while casting the vision for the next blog post I write. Some days, when I’m struggling with the direction that my post is going or words aren’t flowing as easily from my mind to the page, I’ll pull up a couple videos that my supervisor gave me on marketing and journalism, or read a chapter from a book about copywriting. These small assignments have helped shape my writing and the quality of my posts while giving me ideas of how to better my skills as a writer. One of the things I have enjoyed immensely this year is doing research for my blogs. This could be anything from searching on google for an article, looking through my own notes on the subject, or meeting up with Bethany faculty staff and getting their input. I jokingly call my research my “extra-education,” since I’ve been able to gain knowledge in so many different subjects and build relationships that college often doesn’t allow time for. I love my job, and I am very grateful I have an opportunity to improve on something I’m good at while getting to glorifying God through my work.

How has PT Grown You During Your First Year of College?

PT has grown my understanding of what it means to have God integrated into every area of the workplace. Not only have I grown in time management, work ethic, and improving as a writer, but I’ve learned how to build trust with my teammates and listen to what’s going on in their lives so that they have a safe place to share their fears, worries, and frustrations. This experience has grown a deep love in my heart for people, taught me how to prioritize others before myself, and value relationships while also managing my time wisely in the office so that I am able to complete my tasks for the day. Something I have also been able to grow in through PT is relying on the Lord to sustain me through prayer. Many times when I don’t have the right words to write, or I’m just plain exhausted from working on homework the night before, I stop and ask the Lord to help me and give me the words to write. Each blog I have written over this past year have been poured over, re-edited, and written to the best of my ability so that He may be glorified in every aspect of the writing process. I also pray not only over my blogs but over you–and that God would speak to your heart through my words. I want to use the gift He’s given me to communicate His heart for the nations as a way of serving out of love and delighting in the Lord.

How is PT Preparing You for Where You Want to Go in the Future?

For as long as I can remember, people’s life stories have always intrigued me. From a young age, I threw myself into missionary biographies–usually finishing their stories within a day–and I always enjoyed looking through the Voice of the Martyr’s magazines and reading about the persecuted Church in restricted countries. I am inspired by those who have given a voice to the voiceless and to the rejects of society while sharing the stories that have yet to be told. My dream is to one day be a writer on the mission field and compile the stories I’ve gathered during my experience. By the end of this semester, I will have 460 hours of blogging experience for my freshman year–not to mention two certificates in marketing as a content specialist and over 800 hours of written homework assignments. Not only is PT equipping me with effective leadership and training for a possible professional job in the future, but it is providing me with an experience of how to better communicate with others about the vision that God has laid on my heart.
“God has given me a gift to bring people together through storytelling to spread His Kingdom in multiple different parts of the world by writing about the threads that make up the beautiful woven tapestry in the main story that He’s created and redeemed.”

– McKenna

What are you looking forward to next semester?

Next semester, I am looking forward to new growth and new positions. Several students and I will be stepping into a student manager’s role where we will be helping our teammates with their tasks and casting the vision for the year as we also work on our own projects and reach our set goals for the next semester. I believe that this new role will continue to help me grow both in leadership and improve my skills as a content specialist. I am also hoping to produce more blogs than I have in this past year and to increase the level of quality that I put out. These are the blogs I have written in my PT during this past year at BGU: That’s a small glimpse of what my freshman year in PT has looked like. This PT brings so much joy to my time here at college because I know God is fulfilling His purpose for my life through the mundane day to day tasks. I am so in awe of where God has led me up to today, and I am so thankful for His wise counsel and leadership in my life. I love my job, and I can’t wait to see how God is going to grow me and what He has planned during my time at BGU. Have a wonderful summer!

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